Stanley Spencer: Heaven in a Hell of WarStanley Spencer: Heaven in a Hell of War


Film - the Sandham Memorial chapel

Built by John Louis and Mary Behrend to commemorate the life of Mary's brother, Henry Willoughby Sandham, who died in 1919 from an illness contracted during the Macedonian Campaign of the First World War. The Chapel, designed by Lionel Pearson, was consecrated by the Bishop of Guildford in 1927. The Chapel interior was decorated with canvases by Stanley Spencer, whose arrangement was modelled on Giotto's Arena Chapel in Padua.

The Behrends had met Stanley Spencer through their friend, the artist Henry Lamb, but he could not be convinced to start work on the chapel until the fabric of the building had been completed. Spencer's canvases draw on his experiences on active service in the Royal Berkshire Regiment. He spent the entire war in the ranks, first as a medical orderly at the Beaufort War Hospital, near Bristol, then later assigned to the 68th Field Ambulances in Macedonia. In the vignettes, the service and routine of hospital or army life resonate with that of the spiritual life and portray an intensely personal experience of war, which he presents as domestic rather than combative.

This film is taken from the BBC's "British Masters" series.