War Memorial in the churchyard

The war memorial in the churchyard

The location of the war memorial was important. It was felt that it should be in public view. It was to in a “position by the oak-tree at the angle [of Hambledon Road/Brighton Road – The Drive not existing for another forty years]… The tree, now unbeautiful in itself – double trunked – and becoming choked with creeper – shuts out the view of the Church… Day by day children from all parts of the parish in coming to school will grow up with the Memorial before them.” Parish Magazine Nov 1919


Design controversy

There was some controversy over a suggestion that a Crucifix should be incorporated into the war memorial. It is likely that this was seen as a Catholic symbol and not quite in keeping with the evangelical perspective of some in the church. It seems that the proposal to include this image reawakened “religious or ecclesiastical” diagreement which had failed to be resolved in the church over “controversies two or three generations ago over the erection of a plain cross.” Parish Magazine, May 1921

During a special meeting, which due to the number attending was held in the school, everyone supported the roll of honour, the memorial window and the principle of the war memorial. There was though disquiet at a “bronze gilt crucifix”, to be placed on the side of the war memorial facing towards the church. This led to explanation of the reasons for this by the war memorial committee members. They explained that the crucifix reflected those seen in Flanders, that veterans found this of comfort, and that this was the only design submitted by Sir Edward Lutyens [sic] A.R.A. which his “mastery of proportion and his genius for detail readily and rightly warrant complete acceptance.”

The church voted on the matter of the inclusion of a Crucifix with the vote demonstrating a clear difference of opinion; but the split vote was for a majority to proceed with this so this was the proposal which was initially acted upon. Parish Magazine January 1921

Over the next few months the matter became quite heated as “The design by Sir Edwin Lutyens, R.A,. for the Memorial Cross with Crucifix was submitted to the Diocesan Advisory Committee, who criticized it adversely… unsuited to bear a Crucifix…” It appears that a group of 78 people, on hearing that a design with Crucifix had been submitted, wrote to the Chancellor asking that the Crucifix be declined. In response a group of Ex-Servicemen held a meeting in the March of that year to “deprecate the action adopted by those people who are responsible for petitioning the Chancellor.”Parish Magazine April 1921

Such intrigues of the past may leave us somewhat perplexed; the theology of the depiction of Christ on the cross is now less of an issue in churches than it was in the past. The war memorial committee took a pragmatic view and it was one which undoubtedly helped calm the situation. They “rightly do not intend to provoke or to be drawn into any controversy on a subject so sacred as a Memorial to Fallen Comrades… to find a solution to a difficult problem, the essence of which is a spirit of mutual agreement… ” Parish Magazine, April 1921. 

The compromise was to leave the Crucifix off the overall design and, at a later date, invite several architects to submit different Crucifix designs while at the same time asking Sir Edwin Lutyens R.A to alter his Crucifix drawing to re-submit this as a design for a plain cross “without a Figure of Christ upon it.” Parish Magazine, April 1921

Unfortunately, the issue rumbled on with some feeling that they needed to offer their explanations for a Crucifix in the parish magazine. The war memorial committee found itself having to confirm that it had made the initial request to Sir Edwin Lutyens R.A for the design include a Crucifix. One donor to the overall scheme declined to have their funds associated with the war memorial. In the end the parish held a new vote at a packed meeting in April 1921.


Final decision: April 1921

The meeting was clearly difficult because the parish magazine of April 1921 mentions that the chair nearly resigned mid-meeting due to “introduction of a controversial element”. The entire  war memorial project was almost rejected but for the intervention of at least three people speaking in favour of the war memorial. Gertrude Jekyll called the overall design “fine art”. The Mayor of Godalming and former churchwarden Herbert Fitton Adams offered his support. The barrister Sir Charles Cook K.C.B [photograph], who had been instrumental in the war effort and for whom Sir Edwin Lutyens R.A had some years previously designed Sullingstead house, was noted as speaking in favour for the first time. The report from the meeting indicates the strength of division between people, referencing Sir Cook’s intervention in terms of his “not before identified… with us in any way”.

The resulting final vote was twofold in its outcome and its direct result is the war memorial which stands in the churchyard today. The parish rejected any form of Crucifix but endorsed Sir Edwin Lutyens R.A’s Portland stone scheme and setting for the war memorial.


The unveiling

The new war memorial cross was unveiled by General Sir Charles Monro, Bart, G.C.B, G.C.S.I, G.C.M.G, Col. Queen’s Royal Regiment at 6pm on Sunday July 23rd 1922. The Rector, Rev Captain Henry Larner, officiated.

Gertrude Jekyll created posies of fresh flowers for the families of those who had died to place at the foot of the new memorial. In a touching personal gesture Miss Jekyll asked families to give their names to her and to let her know if they would like the posies to be a made bunch by herself or whether families might like to take “a loose bunch” of foliage home themselves for personal involvement.

Special thanks was given to Mr Baverstock who owned Holloway Hill Quarry for his donation of the foundation stone for the memorial. Parish Magazine July 1922.

The photograph shows three military buglers at the back by the church. General Monro is the figure nearest to the memorial.The Union flag is still used at the annual Remembrance Day service.

The Parish Magazine of August 1922 described the resulting memorial: inscribed with an adaptation from Acts 20:24; the design of the stone lines of the base are “those of the National Cenotaph in London”; the shaft is “a refinement in a curvature on a radius of 900 feet”; “the head with short arms and the tall shaft… wrought from a single stone”, “the Cross, standing on three steps, is hexagonal in plan, a form which, by tradition, implies victory.”; “The work was carried out by Messrs Holland & Hannen & Cubitts”.  The firm worked closely with the architect in the building of the Cenotaph and went on to build much of the D-Day Mulberry Harbour in World War II.