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Trouville Hospitals


Gazetteer No. G0574

Date 1917

Address , France


This unrealized design for an enormous cemetery with thousands of graves was intended for a hospital. The much smaller cemetery that was realized, with almost 300 graves, lies in Tourgéville just outside Trouville, and was designed by Reginald Blomfield. Lutyens’ design was planned at the same location. It is not clear why this cemetery was not realized. It is possible that there was a preference for a concentration of graves in Étaples, which lay closer to the front.

The design is the first known design by Lutyens for a cemetery for the IWGC, and dates from September 1917. War was still raging. That summer, Lutyens was behind the front line for the first time to see the ravage of the battlefield and to view the hastily constructed graveyards with a view to issuing advice on the future construction of cemeteries. The first sketch that Lutyens is known to have made, after his return from the battlefields, is for this enormous cemetery in the neighbourhood of Trouville, where a concentration of hospitals was planned. In size, the cemetery is similar to the cemetery in Étaples, which lies to the north on the coast.

In this sketch, it is clear that Lutyens was thinking of a green cathedral in the open air. The ground plan is derived from the great cathedrals, such as St Paul’s in London and the cathedral of Amiens. The trees have been placed at the position of the pillars. On the east side, Lutyens envisioned the War Stone instead of an altar. In 1917, the Cross of Sacrifice is not yet a fixed element for Lutyens.

The main entrance lies on the road on the north side. Three buildings have been drawn on the other three sides, of which the west one is a gateway building. The buildings display great similarity to the gateway buildings and shelters that would later be realized at countless other cemeteries. The visitor enters the cemetery via a broad staircase that lies between two plant beds with yew-like plants. The ground descends toward the south. The floor of the ‘tree cathedral’ consists of a large rectangular terrace that is partly elevated and is partly sunken in relation to the slope. In the terrace a sunken space has been cut out in the form of the main nave, the transept and the choir of a cathedral, with rows of headstones. On the higher terrace, lime trees are situated where pillars would normally be. To create the cruciform layout of the cathedral, Lutyens envisioned extra space in the corners for two rectangular fields with graves surrounded by trees, and, on the east side, two semicircular areas with graves next to the War Stone. A greenery plan by Gertrude Jekyll is known, stored in her archives at the Reef Point Gardens Collection of Designs in Berkeley. The greenery consists of various plants climbing up the walls around the sunken central section. There are a few pillar- formed trees around the War Stone, groups of roses between the headstones, and broad borders with flowers and shrubs along the main path.

Three years later, Lutyens again proposes a tree cathedral, for a memorial in a park in Leicester this time. He describes the idea as follows: ’The planting of avenues of lime in the plan of a Cathedral Church, consisting of a nave, aisles and transepts with an apse at the east end. At the west end looking east will be the Cenotaph […]. At the crossing, in a circle of stone walling on which will be inscribed the names of those brave men who gave their lives will be the Great War Stone, a monolith Altar, similar to those in our military cemeteries abroad […]. Paved paths will accentuate the plan and lead to the monuments and trees will provide dignity and give the atmosphere that should per- vade a building devoted to sacred purpose, and this without offence to any of the many creeds within the Empire for which the men of Leicester fought.’185 Unfortunately, this proposal for the Leicester memorial was rejected for financial reasons. (Geurst, 2010, pp.420-421)


Geurst, J. (2010) Cemeteries of the Great War by Sir Edwin Lutyens. Rotterdam: 010 Publishers.

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