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Lychgate and flank walls, West Dean Cemetery

A Grade II Listed Building in West Dean, West Sussex

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Coordinates

Latitude: 50.906 / 50°54'21"N

Longitude: -0.7794 / 0°46'45"W

OS Eastings: 485921

OS Northings: 112548

OS Grid: SU859125

Mapcode National: GBR DG0.1ST

Mapcode Global: FRA 968Q.071

Entry Name: Lychgate and flank walls, West Dean Cemetery

Listing Date: 13 March 2014

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1412860

Location: West Dean, Chichester, West Sussex, PO18

County: West Sussex

District: Chichester

Civil Parish: West Dean

Traditional County: Sussex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): West Sussex

Church of England Parish: East Dean, Singleton and West Dean

Church of England Diocese: Chichester

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West Dean

Summary

Memorial in the form of a lychgate, screen walls and seats and sculpted commemorative panel, designed by the architect Walter H Godfrey and erected by members of the James family c1931 in memory of their mother Evelyn James, the sculpted panel reminiscent of the work of Eric Gill.

Description

Memorial in the form of a lychgate, screen wall, seats and sculpted commemorative panel, erected c1931 in memory of Evelyn James, who died, 13th May 1929. Designed by the architect Walter H Godfrey.

DESCRIPTION: braced oak frame beneath a half-hipped roof structure, clad in plain tiles. Set on a shallow stone plinth, installed 2011-12, within a flagged stone threshold. The frame is inscribed:

MILLICENT ALEXANDRA SILVIA AUDREY AND EDWARD CHILDREN OF / EVELYN JAMES HAVE BUILT THIS RESTING PLACE IN HER MEMORY

Pair of oak gates with diagonally set slats and iron fixtures and fittings.

To each side are stone splay walls with integral stone seats. Set into the western, cemetery, face of the northern splay is a carved commemorative stone panel bearing the inscription:

MILLICENT. ALEXANDRA. SILVIA / AUDREY & EDWARD. CHILDREN OF / EVELYN JAMES. HAVE BUILT THIS / RESTING PLACE IN HER MEMORY

This is flanked at each end by a bas-relief, inward-facing, winged figure in draped clothing, each with one hand raised. The artist is not known.

History

The lychgate forms the entrance to the parish burial ground that was set up on land donated to the parish council by the James family at West Dean in the 1920s when the graveyard at the parish church of St Andrew was closed to new burials. The lychgate was dedicated in memory of Evelyn James who died in May 1929; her son Edward James assumed control of the estate in 1932. The James family were prominent patrons of the arts, Edward James having a particular interest in Surrealist art. Through West Dean College, the Edward James Foundation, established by James in 1964, continues to promote the arts, and in particular the training of skilled craftsmen, in its programme of courses in Conservation, Visual Arts and Making. The lychgate was restored and re-dedicated in 2012.

Correspondence between the architectural practice Wratten and Godfrey and the estate in 1930 and subsequent drawings dated 1931 reveal Walter H Godfrey as architect of the memorial gate. An undated and unsigned architect's drawing and an estate site plan dated 10.11.1930 depict a grander scheme than was realised, of an imposing lychgate flanked by screen walls terminating in piers caped by urn finials and into which a memorial plaque tablet is set. More befitting a formal entrance or public memorial than a village burial ground or family memorial, it appears that this scheme was replaced by the simpler, smaller-scale lychgate, designed by Godfrey. The lychgate closely resembles Godfrey's drawings but the flanking stone walls and built-in seats appear lower and more simply moulded than depicted. The drawings do not include the stone, carved relief panel and inscription as the walls were originally intended to be backed by hedges, and it remains unattributed. Stylistically it is of its time and reminiscent of the work of the sculptor and engraver Eric Gill, who lived and worked in the area, although the craftsmanship of the figures and serif lettering of the inscription suggests that it is unlikely to be by his hand.

Walter H Godfrey (1881-1961) was born in Hackney, E London, and trained at the Central School of Arts and Crafts before being articled to James Williams who had inherited George Devey's architectural practice. He joined the LCC architects department in 1900 and the following year was appointed to the Committee for the Survey of London where he contributed to or edited many volumes, covering Chelsea, Lambeth and St Pancras. In 1903 he returned to Williams' practice, now under Edmund Wratten, with whom he formed a partnership until the latter's death in 1925. His designs for the lychgate suggest that thereafter his practice kept the name Wratten and Godfrey. He divided his time between writing and practice, notably at that time as architect for the reconstruction of Crosby Hall. In 1930 he retired to Lewes, where his knowledge of English traditional architecture and antiquarian writing gained him many commissions for restoration projects and as a garden designer. Significantly, he was appointed architect for the restoration of Herstmonceux Castle, and restored the house and designed gardens at Charleston Manor.

Following the destruction of buildings in the Blitz, his commitment to recording and preserving the nation's heritage continued, as founding Director of the National Buildings Record, later the National Monuments Record, and notably as architect for the restoration of Temple Church. He was a member of the Royal Commission for Historic Monuments and the advisory committee on buildings of special architectural and historic interest at the Ministry of Housing and Local Government in the formative years of statutory listing.

His books included Gardens in the Making (1914), and contemporary with the lychgate, The Story of Architecture in England, published in two Volumes in 1928 and 1931. He expressed a particular interest in commemorative monuments, in 1916 writing the preface to English Mural Monuments and Tombstones by Herbert Batsford. This was followed in 1919 by a series of articles published in the Architectural Review entitled 'War Memorials: Suggestions from the Past', which looked not only to wall tablets and tombs but also to almshouses, market crosses and halls as models.

Reasons for Listing

Memorial in the form of a lychgate, screen walls and seats and sculpted commemorative panel, designed by the architect Walter H Godfrey and erected by members of the James family c1931 in memory of their mother Evelyn James, the sculpted panel reminiscent of the work of Eric Gill, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Design interest: unusual inter-war memorial in the form of a lychgate and flanking walls, with a commemorative sculpted panel reminiscent of the work of Eric Gill, and appropriate to its position in the village;
* Architect: Godfrey, an antiquary and architect who specialised in the English tradition of building, had a particular interest in funerary monuments and memorials;
* Historic interest: association with the James family, Edward James having a strong interest in contemporary art and a patron of traditional craft skills.

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