The Grave Stones
Here you will find a number of beautiful memorials relating to this period: Siegfried Sassoon, one of the most powerful voices of the First World War, is buried here, close to Monsignor Ronald Knox, another First World War survivor, who like Frances Horner and Katharine Asquith, converted to Catholicism after the First World War, and translated the Vulgate version of the Bible in the nearby manor.
Also buried nearby, alongside members of the Horner and Asquith families, are Lady Violet Bonham Carter, Raymond Asquith's sister (and grandmother of the actress Helena Bonham Carter) and Reginald McKenna, a cabinet minister in the Asquith government.
Several of these graves are beautiful in their own right, designed by artists / designers of the time including Edwin Lutyens, Eric Gill and Laurence Whistler.
The next chapters are best read inside the church but there is an optional extension which will take you up the hill behind the village.
Follow the avenue of yews at the rear of the church, at the end of which is a gate passing into the field.
Walk diagonally to the left and halfway up the hill.
Looking back towards the church, manor and village; the view remains unchanged from a century ago.
However you will no longer see the village colliery walkers trudging across the fields to the Mells Colliery to your right. Mells Colliery was located near the crossroads to the neighbouring villages of Vobster and Newbury.
A big local employer at the time; the colliery compensated the families of Colliery workers who were serving soldiers.
Now journey into the church.
St Andrews Church
On the left of the door as you enter, you will see an embroidery which is unmistakably the design of Pre-Raphaelite artist Burne Jones, another close friend of Frances Horner. Frances was a skilled embroiderer and was frequently commissioned by Burne
Jones to bring his designs to life.
According to family records, although the design and a partial embroidering dates back to the 1870s, this work was completed by Frances and her daughter Katharine in the years during and immediately after the First World War, as part of their own process of grieving, and also as a tribute to the village in memory of all those lost. The banner is inscribed with the last lines from the Divine Comedy by the Italian poet Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) and translates as: “The love that moves the sun and other stars”.
Perhaps the most evocative of the memorials is the Edward Horner memorial which brings the unusual element of a horse and rider into the church; something the villagers in 1919 were not entirely sure about, when the memorial was initially proposed to be located centrally under the tower.
The memorial was designed by Lutyens, and the plinth clearly echoes the form of the Cenotaph in Whitelhall. Lutyens commissioned the bronze of horse and rider from a fellow Royal Academician, Sir Alfred Munnings, then on a new artistic ascent due to his role as a war artist recording the Canadian Cavalry Brigade. Primarily an equestrian painter, the Horner memorial is one of only two sculptures created by Munnings; his groom Garrett, dressed in cavalry uniform, sat as the model for the rider, and ‘Patrick', one of Munnings' horses, as model for the horse. The face was modelled with reference to a photograph of Edward Horner.
At the foot of the church tower there is also a powerful memorial to Raymond Asquith. Carved directly into the masonry of the walls by Eric Gill, the Latin inscription would have originally been under-lined by Asquith's sword, now safely stored elsewhere.
The wreath is by Lutyens.
Walk out of the church, back down New Street, and turn right past The Talbot Inn.