15th June 2015

During our initial online research for Home of our Delight, we discovered the intriguing, and unfinished, Rothenstein murals. Created in 1916 by artist William Rothenstein, the work was intended as a memorial to members of the British Universities serving in the Great War, and is closely linked to our project with some of those it depicts.

The Poet Laureate, Robert Bridges, whose words including our project title ‘home of our delight’ were chosen as the inscription on the Mells War Memorial is featured, along with Raymond Asquith, son of the First World War Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith. Raymond was the much loved husband of Katherine Horner of Mells.

The murals were exhibited as a work in progress (presumably hoping for commission) in the Autumn of 1916, only a month after Raymond Asquith’s death at the Somme on the 15th September. They were never finished.

On the 6th May, project co-ordinator, Jo Plimmer and I enjoyed a fascinating visit to Taplow Court, Buckinghamshire to view the mural. Now the headquarters for the UK branch of Soka Gakkai International, a socially engaged Buddhist movement, Taplow was formerly the home of Lord and Lady Desborough. Ettie Desborough is a frequent correspondent to Mells during the First World War and beyond, and two of her sons, Julian and Gerald Grenfell, also lost in the war, are prominent in the mural.

The two panels shown are on long term loan to Taplow Court from Southampton University because of this connection. The central panel remains at the university.

The figures are only slightly smaller than life-size, and the unfinished nature of the work adds to its poignancy. It brings vividly to life some of the names which we are already finding referred to in the archives.

Left to right: Raymond Asquith, Julian Grenfell, Billy Grenfell, Patrick Shaw Stewart all feature in correspondence in the Mells / Asquith archives.

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Written by Sue Bucklow

Home of our Delight curator