A life-size resin casting of a West Sussex soldier will stand in the Cloisters café garden at Chichester Cathedral until the end of March – a little taste perhaps of a permanent memorial in bronze which might one day find a home in or near the city.
The piece has been created by Chichester sculptor Vincent Gray, initially as part of the Art in Action element of the recent Priory Park 100 celebrations and then finished in time for the centenary of the armistice on November 11.
It shows Maurice Patten who died of injuries on the battle front in Northern France in 1916, aged 24, the son of William and Sarah Patten from Eartham. But Vincent stresses its wider significance: the sculpture represents all the fallen in the Great War and in particular the 350 men of Chichester who gave their lives.
The depiction of Maurice is particularly poignant as he stands at reverse arms which is the recognised mourning stance, head bowed and muzzle of the rifle on the left toe. The Royal Sussex Regiment cap badge reads ‘Honi soit qui mal y pense’, a French maxim used as the motto of the British chivalric Order of the Garter. It is translated as ‘Evil be to him that evil thinks.’ Arranged around his feet are his personal effects which his mother received following his death and comprise of tobacco pouch, silver watch and chain, a bible and four family photographs.
What happens next in a sense is down to other people, but Vincent would love to think the piece might one day be cast in bronze: “There has been a colossal amount of interest in it, and it would be wonderful if it could be financed to be cast in bronze, but that is something that I cannot manage. If he could be cast in bronze and found a permanent home, that would be brilliant, but it would be for someone else to take on.
“There has been interest from various people and various bodies in Chichester, and I was invited to show the sculpture in Eartham village hall in front of 20 of Maurice’s family members, and there was a lot of interest from that quarter too. It was as though Maurice was coming home. It would be fitting if he was installed somewhere permanently in Eartham. But he is recorded on the memorial boards in Chichester Cathedral so the cathedral too would be entirely appropriate. That’s to say there could be two castings.
“But I have not projected my role to go beyond the casting in resin to show the result of my work for Art in Action. But I have had incredible feedback. (Chichester MP) Gillian Keegan mentioned him in parliament. She was talking about the armistice and she mentioned the sculpture and she mentioned me – twice! It has had an awful lot of exposure.”
Vincent estimates that £35,000 would cover the cost of casting in bronze and a stone plinth. Anyone interested in supporting the project should get in touch with Vincent at email@example.com.
Maurice was born in Somerset and the family moved to Chichester where he enlisted.