Stoneham War Shrine     Discovering the Park

An original design sketch for the Shrines, showing Eric Gill's stone crucifix, and some other details that were not realised.

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Making the Stoneham & Havenstreet Shrines

The Shrines which I have had the honour and privilege of building, one in Stoneham Park and one in the Isle of Wight, will, I hope, be to us a memorial of those who have gone on ahead. The two little rooms at each end are intended for prayer, and in them I hope many a soul will find consolation and help in the future.   John E A Willis Fleming, December 1917

The two Shrines were similarly positioned, within levelled enclosures on the brows of low hills. The Binstead & Havenstreet War Shrine was built on farmland overlooking Havenstreet village. The Stoneham War Shrine, on Cricketers Hill within North Stoneham Park, and was enclosed by iron railings, with a beech hedge planted on three sides. Local newspapers described the Shrines: 'The building, which is built of stone from the Fleming quarries, consists of three compartments. In the centre is an altar and crucifix on either side of which have been temporarily fixed the names of those who have so nobly and heroically made the supreme sacrifice. The compartments on either side are intended for prayer, and are enclosed with oak doors, while the centre gate consists of handsome iron scroll work.' 'The shrine is divided into three distinct divisions, the central and largest containing an oak altar and crucifix with vases of flowers, and two smaller ones to ensure privacy, having a pre-dieu and an aperture, through which the altar is visible.'

The shrine was not built hastily. The best craftsmen of the day were called in, and the stone was carved from the old Binstead quarry. A point of interest is that the shrine was the last building to be constructed of Binstead stone and two imported masons from Portland commented favourably on its quality.   1962

The creation of the Shrines was collaborative, undertaken against the backdrop of the still-raging war. The original design sketch is attributed to the architect and social reformer Christopher Hatton Turnor (1873-1940). The overall plan, with the three compartments, was John Willis Fleming's own. Some decorative work has been ascribed to Eric Gill (1882-1940). And in December 1917, John Willis Fleming wrote, 'the present representation of "Christ upon the Cross" in the Shrine is of carved wood. This is to be replaced later by one in stone, now being prepared by Mr. Eric Gill, one of our greatest English sculptors.' But this project must have foundered by June 1918: 'we have not been able to find any design for such ... we have decided to make no change.'

The Havenstreet Shrine was dedicated on Sunday 30 June 1918. The Stoneham Shrine was dedicated one month later on 28 July 1918, at a service conducted also by the Bishop of Southampton, with the choirs of North Stoneham and Bassett present. Having dedicated the 'singularly beautiful' memorial, the Bishop prayed that it might be a source of consolation to the bereaved. He explained the important part it was hoped it might play in the life of North Stoneham. Furthermore: 'the memorial should be an inspiration to survivors to do their own part towards the victory that remained to be won.'

After the war, the temporary rolls of honour were replaced with cast lead panels, making the Shrines permanent war memorials. The panels, headed evocatively 'pray for the souls of these gallant men', were added in 1920-1 at a cost of #261. Although attributed to Gill, the estate accounts show these were executed by the renowned 'carver' Laurence A Turner (1864-1957). During the war, Turner had been a leading member of the Art Workers Guild, and was the Guild's Master in 1922. Turner was closely connected with George Jack; he carved William Morris's gravestone to Jack's design, and later taught Jack to carve.

For decades, fresh flowers continued to be placed in the Shrines, and an annual Easter Day service was held at the Stoneham Shrine. In 1962, the Havenstreet Shrine was 'in a bad state, time and vandals having played their parts', and was restored by Richard Willis Fleming's brother, John. The Stoneham Shrine continued to be tended by the bereaved, including Jimmy Knott, whose brother Arthur had died in 1917. Later, the Stoneham Shrine was vandalised, and by 1986, it was unroofed and derelict.

Aerial photograph showing the Stoneham War Shrine, taken before the Second World War.