First World War memorial, 1921, by Sir Edwin Lutyens with later additions for the Second World War.
Reasons for Designation
Mells War Memorial is listed at Grade II* for the following principle reasons:
* Historic interest: as an eloquent witness to the tragic impacts of world events on this community, and the sacrifices it made in the conflicts of the C20;
* Architect: by the nationally renowned architect Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens (1869-1944), who designed extant 58 memorials at home and abroad including the Cenotaph in Whitehall;
* Historic association: one of a number of structures and memorials by Lutyens in Mells commissioned through his associated with the Horner and Asquith families;
* Design: a column topped with a figure of St George in a wider architectural setting of walls and benches, and its inscription was carved by Eric Gill, the notable sculptor, typeface designer, stonecutter and printmaker;
* Group value: with the Grade II*-listed Village Hall, a former tithe barn.
Lutyens was commissioned to design Mells’ memorial through his connection with the Horners of Mells Manor House, where he had undertaken work in the years after 1901. Sir John Horner’s wife, Frances was the sister of Agnes, the wife of Herbert Jekyll – the brother of Lutyens’ collaborator, Gertrud. In a letter to his wife, Lady Emily, dated 4 August 1919 Lutyens relates how he and Katherine Asquith (Sir John and Lady Frances’s daughter) walked around Mells and ‘found a perfect site in the middle of the village, which no-one else found, or thought of, and with a little tact and patience it was carried by the villagers with acclaim.’
The memorial was unveiled on 26 June 1921 by Brigadier-General Arthur Asquith DSO, whose brother Raymond (the husband of Katherine) is commemorated both on the memorial and on a simple memorial within the church also designed by Lutyens. The lettering on the war memorial as well as that on the Asquith memorial was carved by Eric Gill. Also in the church is Lutyens memorial to the Horner’s son Edward; this incorporates a mounted statue of the subject by Sir Alfred Munnings.
Sir Edwin Lutyens OM RA (1869-1944) was the leading English architect of his generation. Before the First World War his reputation rested on his country houses and his work at New Delhi, but during and after the war he became the pre-eminent architect for war memorials in England, France and the British Empire. While the Cenotaph in Whitehall (London) had the most influence on other war memorials, the Thiepval Arch was the most influential on other forms of architecture. He designed the Stone of Remembrance which was placed in all Imperial War Graves Commission cemeteries and in some cemeteries in England, including some with which he was not otherwise associated.
The memorial consists of a Purbeck marble Tuscan column surmounted by a figure of St George slaying the dragon. The column rises from a tall, narrow, square pedestal of Portland stone which carries the inscription THE GREAT WAR 1914-18/ WE DIED IN/ A STRANGE LAND/ FACING/ THE DARK CLOUD/ OF WAR/ AND THIS STONE/ IS RAISED TO US/ IN THE HOME/ OF OUR DELIGHT/ MCMXIV & MCMXIX. Above is a cross.
Inscribed on panels to either side, also of Portland stone, are the names of the fallen. Extending outwards from either side are curved flanking walls of coursed and squared Doulting rubble, stepped back at each end. Above these rises a formal yew hedge. A plain stone bench on a solid bellied plinth stands against the wall to either side of the central recess for the placement of wreaths. Above each bench are circular memorial plaques of 1945 inscribed MCMXXXIX/ MCMXLV with the names of the fallen beneath. The benches stand on a shallow ashlar platform with two steps which extends across the front the memorial.
This List entry has been amended to add sources for War Memorials Online and the War Memorials Register. These sources were not used in the compilation of this List entry but are added here as a guide for further reading, 14 December 2016.