Munnings studio, Dedham

7th Oct 2015

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If you think about it, it is very unusual to see a horse in a church; something which the villagers of Mells were apparently not too enthusiastic about when Frances Horner proposed the idea of the part equestrian memorial for her much loved, and last remaining, son. Last week we travelled across the country to the Munnings Art Museum, Dedham, once home of A.J. Munnings, the artist responsible for this commission, to find out more.

Munnings was predominantly a painter; the Horner memorial is one of only three sculptures he was responsible for, all equestrian.

We are on the elusive trail of how and why Munnings was commissioned by the Horners (through Edwin Lutyens), but through Bill Teatheredge at the Munnings Art Museum we also learnt the fascinating story of Patrick; the horse who was the model.

Munnings tried to enlist in Hampshire in 1914, offering both himself and two of his horses to serve at the Front. Although blind in one eye, he was rejected not for this but due to age (this was prior to conscription), but soon after was astounded to hear via telegram that his two horses, then stabled down in Cornwall at Lamorna, had been requisitioned without his knowledge or permission, by the army.

Munnings sped across the country by train, via an overnight stay at the Chelsea Art Club, and found his horses held at the Union Hotel, Penzance awaiting transport to France. He pleaded successfully for their release, saying that as he had not been accepted for military service the horses were essential for his livelihood as a painter (primarilly of horses and riders).

He rode the horses back across the fields to Lamorna, where they spent the rest of the war years peacefully, until they crossed the country to a new home at Castle House in Essex, now the museum, which Munnings purchased in 1919.

Munnings’ first commission at Castle House was the Edward Horner memorial “a young hussar on his horse”, for which Patrick, one of the rescued horses, was the model, standing patiently day after day in the artist’s studio.

So Patrick, saved from almost certain death at the front as a ‘war horse’, and living his life instead in peace at home, has been immortalised in the Edward Horner memorial as the mount of a fallen hero.

We are looking forward to working closely with Bill and the team at the Munnings Museum over the next year as we search out more information about the Mells memorials and the people connected to them.

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