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Ditchling War Memorial

A Grade II* Listed Building in Ditchling, East Sussex

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Coordinates

Latitude: 50.9215 / 50°55'17"N

Longitude: -0.1172 / 0°7'1"W

OS Eastings: 532435

OS Northings: 115250

OS Grid: TQ324152

Mapcode National: GBR KPB.17F

Mapcode Global: FRA B6NN.S6Y

Entry Name: Ditchling War Memorial

Listing Date: 12 October 2016

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1438295

Location: Ditchling, Lewes, East Sussex, BN6

County: East Sussex

District: Lewes

Civil Parish: Ditchling

Built-Up Area: Ditchling

Traditional County: Sussex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): East Sussex

Church of England Parish: Ditchling, Streat and Westmeston

Church of England Diocese: Chichester

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Summary

First World War memorial, 1919, designed by Eric Gill.

Description

MATERIALS: Portland stone.

DESCRIPTION: the memorial comprises a tall pillar, 2.6m high and c 0.5m square in section, tapering slightly towards the top. It stands upon a plinth c 0.5m high and 1m square. This in turn stands upon a base c 0.3m high by 1.9m square, with moulded edges.

At the top of the east face of the pillar is a simple carved cross with a centrally-justified serif-based inscription carved underneath. It reads: REMEMBER/ (NAMES)/ 1914 – 1918. The south face also has the same simple carved cross and inscription which reads: REMEMBER/ (NAMES)/ 1939 – 1945.

Around the plinth (beginning on the south face) the inscription reads: GREATER LOVE HATH NO/ MAN THAN THIS THAT A/ MAN LAY DOWN HIS LIFE/ FOR HIS FRIENDS.


This List entry has been amended to add the source for War Memorials Online. This source was not used in the compilation of this List entry but is added here as a guide for further reading, 2 December 2016.

History

The aftermath of the First World War saw the biggest single wave of public commemoration ever with tens of thousands of memorials erected across England, both as a result of the huge impact the loss of three quarters of a million British lives had on communities and the official policy of not repatriating the dead, which meant that the memorials provided the main focus of the grief felt at this great loss.

It was decided at a Parish Council meeting to hold a public meeting about a war memorial for Ditchling on 8 May 1919. Various suggestions were made and various locations suggested. The war memorial was commissioned by the village, which determined to use members of the thriving local arts and crafts scene, eventually opting to ask Eric Gill to oversee the whole project.

Eric Gill (1882-1940) was one of the most celebrated lettercutters, engravers, typographers and sculptors of his time. Gill had moved to Ditchling in 1907 and built his reputation on his work as a lettercutter and engraver, but began to sculpt in 1909, preferring the unconventional direct carving style of practice. After the First World War he was commissioned to design war memorials including those at Bisham, Briantspuddle, Chirk, Leeds University, South Harting and Trumpington. His work later included large architectural sculptures, including figures for the exterior of Broadcasting House and a large relief entitled The Creation of Adam at the League of Nations Palace, Geneva.

Gill’s first apprentice was Joseph Cribb (1892 – 1967) a sculptor and letter carver, who came to Ditchling with Gill in 1907. He was one of the first members of the experimental Roman Catholic body of craftsmen, the Guild of St Joseph and St Dominic, when it was set up by Gill and others at Ditchling in 1921. He remained in Ditchling after Gill left in 1924, and worked from Ditchling Common until his death. He joined the Territorial Army at the beginning of the First World War, then enlisted in the Royal Sussex Regiment. He was wounded on the Somme. Sent home to recover, he rejoined fighting around Ypres in early 1917. In 1918, while in the Royal Engineers, he was involved in surveying and laying out some of the Somme cemeteries. He carved many war memorials after the war.

In 1919 a fundraising pamphlet was printed by St Dominic’s Press entitled The Ditchling War Memorial, which laid out the plans for the memorial column, its location, size and estimated cost (£100). It stated that Eric Gill was overseeing its production, and that the lettering would be done by his assistant Joseph Cribb. The pamphlet also included a roll of honour that the village's war memorial committee requested the community check and correct. A revision of the list of names was printed in the local parish news, The Beacon.

By mid-July 1919, Joseph Cribb appears to have been very dedicated to the project, sculpting the column and carving the names, for which he was paid £70. Local people helped to level the site. Residents also gifted grey 'wethers', sandstones arranged around the edges of the green; about ten survive. The committee wanted to make the setting of the memorial ‘simple, natural and homely’ and they hoped that children would be free to play on the green, and wanderers be free to sit on the memorial seat around the base.

There are 20 First World War names on the memorial, although newspaper accounts of the Peace Celebrations at Ditchling refer to 23 men from the village having lost their lives. Six of their names were put onto other local war memorials, but three more local names were added, resulting in the 20 names that appear.

The unveiling took place on 21 August 1919. Colonel Attree (who had lost his only son in the war and commissioned a memorial to him from Eric Gill to go into the parish church) unveiled the memorial and the dedication was carried out by Canon J J Mallaby of Keymer, Treasurer of Chichester Cathedral.

A wooden gate and low wooden posts carrying chain railings were installed c 1920-3. These may have been designed by Gill, Cribb, or the Ditchling guild carpenter, George Maxwell.

After the Second World War, 13 names from that conflict were added to the memorial. Joseph Cribb again carried out the work. In c 1937-48, the posts and gate around the memorial were replaced, replicating the original design fairly closely. It is possible that Cribb created the replica, but only the replica gate remains; the posts are more recent.

In 2014 the local branch of the Royal British Legion affixed an interpretation plaque to the side of the memorial.

Reasons for Listing

Ditchling War Memorial, situated at junction of West Street and Lodge Hill Lane, is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:

* Historic interest: as an eloquent witness to the tragic impact of world events on this community, and the sacrifices it made in the conflicts of the C20;
* Design: designed by the nationally renowned sculptor, Eric Gill, and executed by his principal assistant, Joseph Cribb;
* Architectural interest: Eric Gill conceived using a single large block of with a plinth designed to be used as a seat;
* Sculptural interest: the well-proportioned, centrally-justified serif-based inscription exemplifies high quality lettering. The development of typography being one of Gill’s most celebrated contributions, makes the example on the Ditchling memorial all the more important;
* Historic association: the war memorial was commissioned by the village, who determined to use members of the thriving local arts and crafts scene, eventually opting to ask Eric Gill to oversee the whole project. Gill had moved to Ditchling in 1907 with his original apprentice Joseph Cribb, where Gill and others later set up the famous Guild of St Joseph and St Dominic;
* Group value: with Cotterlings (Grade II*) and an C18 barn (Grade II).

Selected Sources

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