Letter from Edwin Lutyens to his wife, 1919 (RIBA archives)

15th March 2016

I recently paid a visit to the RIBA archives at the Victoria and Albert Museum to take a look at the material they hold on Edwin Lutyens, the pre-eminent architect who was a friend of the Horner family. Lutyens designed both the memorial to Edward Horner that stands in Mells Church, and the memorial dedicated to all the men of the village who died.

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As one of the most sought after architects of his day, Lutyens spent most of his life travelling to view projects or oversee them and he would write to his wife Emily at least twice a day. This correspondence alone amounts to 2,500 letters, and these can be found in the RIBA archive; the majority of which were transcribed by his daughter Ursula.

One letter in particular is of great interest to our project as it was written by Lutyens on August 4th 1919, on his return from Mells. It’s a real gem, written on a train (perhaps from Frome station) describing his visit, which was in part to deliver Edward Horner’s memorial tablet – which can be seen on the wall in the church next to memorial itself – and also to decide the position for the village war memorial. From it comes a very telling and moving quote: ‘my weekend was as a Spring day, fun and tears. All their young men are killed’, he writes after spending the evening re-painting Eric Gill’s inscription for Raymond Asquith.

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Taken as a whole one gets a bigger picture of Lutyens visit and the village is brought to life. The students at History Club really enjoyed working this out and we were rewarded with Lutyens’ description of being able to avoid a Shakespeare play in the vicarage garden that ‘would have burst me suppressing giggles’. It shows that despite the inevitable sadness of the occasion life did resume some normality in those years following the end of the war.

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Written by Sue Bucklow

Home of our Delight curator