Architecture, Horticulture and Commemoration

Architecture Horticulture and Commemoration
One hundred years ago today, Captain Arthur Hill delivered a lecture to the Royal Horticultural Society about the horticultural work that was being carried out as well as that which had already been done during WWI in the War Grave Cemeteries, in France in particular.

In 2011 and 2018 I visited many War Grave Cemeteries across northern France while retracing the footsteps that my husband’s grandfather had taken as a soldier in and around The Somme during The First World War. The cemeteries we visited varied in style, terrain and size, some being vast. Each site had its own history and presence, which in some was palpable. The combination of horticulture and architecture as a means of commemorating the fallen struck me at the time and prompted me to research the approach, thought and effort put into them when constructed.

A hundred years ago, Arthur Hill was Assistant Director of Kew Gardens and Botanical Adviser to the Imperial War Graves Commission. He spoke of the difficulties of selecting and growing appropriate plants to represent all nations involved, the care needed along with a “definite scheme for beautifying our cemeteries in France … to the architects and horticulturalists is entrusted the proper designing and planting of the cemeteries, so that they may serve as worthy and permanent memorials for all time to those who so gallantly laid down their lives.”

A separate report by Lieut. Colonel Sir Frederick Kenyon – Director of the British Museum – had been submitted on 22nd November 1918. It addressed a range of issues and difficulties in choosing the style and treatment of the architecture and gravestones. It too referred to the work within each cemetery needing to ” strike the note not only of the cemetery itself, but of the whole of its commemoration to the fallen…”

The remaining text and photographs on this post are being restored.