History of the Petworth War Memorial
This is a reprint of an article written by Juliet Fynes and published in Petworth Pages in July 2014. The accompanying photographs were taken by Chris Fynes. We thank them for giving us permission to reproduce the article and photographs here.
Sometime early in 1919 a War Memorial Committee, under the chairmanship of Lord Leconfield, was formed to consider how best to commemorate those fallen in the Great War.
There must have been more than one site considered for the memorial as in May of that year the Leconfield Estate Agent, J B Watson, wrote to Chichester Diocesan Architect, H P Burke-Downing FRIBA, with a diagram of land attached to the churchyard described as ‘one of the sites’ proposed for the war memorial. This must have been the site that was eventually chosen. They met in London in February 1920 and in March Burke-Downing was paid £52.10s in settlement of ‘professional services to the Petworth War Memorial Committee’.
The February Parish Magazine records details of a meeting of the Committee which agreed to three proposals:
“A cross about 18 feet in height, to be erected on the space opposite Mr Beachcroft’s house, in commemoration of all those who have served overseas;
A stained glass window in the south aisle;
A tablet in the Church in commemoration of those who have fallen, together with a vellum book containing the names of same, to be kept within the precinct of the building”.
The wording of these proposals explains why, unlike many war memorials, Petworth’s does not record the names of the dead. The inscription reads ‘In Proud and Perpetual Remembrance of the Men of Petworth who Fought in the Great War 1914-1918 Lest We Forget’.
About £450 was raised by public subscription and the architect Herbert Bryant was appointed to oversee the erection of the memorial. In July 1920 he wrote suggesting the steps up from the pavement should be of Purbeck stone, as being cheaper and equally as suitable as York stone, with the steps of the monument itself to be of Portland stone. He also sent a rough sketch of the platform area with a cross-shaped paving of York stone and large L-shaped cobbled areas in each corner, presumably also as a cost-cutting measure. However the final working drawings show a more extensive area of paving with a square set either side for grass or flower beds. In the event these areas were, and still are, filled with cobbles.
By August the cross and the stained glass window had been ordered and it was noted in the Parish Magazine that Lord Leconfield would make good the deficit between the £450 subscribed and the total cost. This must have been very considerable as one contractor alone, Sidney Vincent, received payments totalling £1164.8s.6d and there were a number of others employed on the work as well as the architect Herbert Bryant. It is recorded in the Parish Magazine of December 1920 that the cross of Portland stone was paid for by public subscription and that all other costs were met by Lord Leconfield.
A contemporary photo shows iron railings on top of the low walls to either side of the memorial steps. They were level with the cap on the right hand pillar but finished partway up the left hand one. After a visit in October 1920, to check on progress, Bryant wrote to the agent suggesting that if the railings were “ramped up” to meet the pillar on the left hand side at the same level as on the right “a more pleasing effect would be obtained”. He included a sketch to illustrate his point but this was not done. In any case time was getting short for the unveiling due to take place on Sunday 14 November.
On the appointed day the memorial, draped in a Union Flag, was unveiled by Lord Leconfield in the presence of a huge crowd. The previous Rector, the Rev John Penrose, performed the service of dedication in the presence of the Rector, the Rev Valentine Powell, other local clergy and dignitaries.
It was some months later, in July 1921, that the War Memorial Window and the Tablet commemorating the fallen were unveiled in the South Transept, by Lord Leconfield, following the Evening Service. The marble tablet with a crucifix, set in in the wooden niche, was designed by Herbert Bryant and alongside the illuminated Roll of Honour. The stained glass window was supplied by Westlake and Company.
In his brief report in the Parish Magazine of the unveiling of the Memorial, the Rector asked people to remember all those who fought in the war each year on Armistice Day. He also urged the people of Petworth to ‘prevent this monument and its surroundings from becoming a general playground‘. I think it is fair to say that this has been heeded. Due to the ravages of time part of the wall has collapsed and the monument (which was cleaned some years ago) had become marked again by pollution. The Town Council has been able to secure a grant for cleaning and repair, so the memorial will again look its best for the service in August 2014.
Juliet Fynes 2014
Petworth has a separate memorial in Horsham Road Cemetery in memory of the headmaster, teacher and boys who lost their lives when Petworth Boys’ School was bombed on 29 September 1942.