How a Horsham artist has helped to preserve the memory of a WWI hero

Artist Hannah Stewart with a clay model of the sculpture of Captain Wilfred 'Billie' Nevill
Artist Hannah Stewart with a clay model of the sculpture of Captain Wilfred 'Billie' Nevill

A lasting memorial to a World War One hero has been created by a renowned Horsham sculptor.

Artist Hannah Stewart was commissioned to make a bronze of Captain Wilfred ‘Billie’ Nevill who earned a place in history after devising a unique way to inspire his men and quell their fear during an attack at the Battle of the Somme.

Sculptor Hannah Stewart with Kingslea School teacher Darrell Mothee who stepped in to act as a model for the bronze of Captain Nevill. Pic Steve Robards SR1830103 SUS-181211-172948001

Sculptor Hannah Stewart with Kingslea School teacher Darrell Mothee who stepped in to act as a model for the bronze of Captain Nevill. Pic Steve Robards SR1830103 SUS-181211-172948001

Brave Captain Nevill was one of 57,470 British men killed on the first day of the battle, just two weeks short of his 22nd birthday. He led his men of the East Surrey Regiment from the trenches with a remarkable morale booster - by kicking footballs onto enemy lines.

Hannah Stewart’s poignant work depicting Captain Nevill - with a football at his feet and a revolver in his hand - was unveiled at Dover College, his former school, at a special ceremony on Remembrance Sunday.

It was the culmination of months of work for Hannah - who used teacher Darrell Mothee from Horsham’s Kingslea Primary School as a ‘body model’ for the bronze. Hannah used photographs to help her replicate Captain Nevill’s face. “But I needed someone in his 20s who was about 6ft or so in height.”

Darrell stepped forward to help and donned a specially-commissioned First World War uniform to help Hannah create an authentic look to the monument. “I’ve tried to capture in the sculpture that Captain Nevill really cared about his men and the awful situation they found themselves in.”

The finished bronze on display at Dover College

The finished bronze on display at Dover College

Mum-of-two Hannah, whose eight-year-old son is a pupil at Kingslea - where the ‘Captain Nevill uniform’ is now helping pupils in lessons about the Great War - has two major permanent public works on show in the Horsham area. They are the St Leonard’s Forest dragon in Horsham Park and a huge bronze and brick iguanodon in Southwater village centre.

Hannah says she ‘has always loved sculpture’ and studied at the City & Guilds of London Art School. She has been commissioned to create many major artworks for parish and district councils, along with major retailers such as Tesco, Christ’s Hospital and Queen Mary College, University of London - among others.

Hannah’s husband Dr Simon Stewart, a lecturer at the University of Portsmouth, will be delivering a talk as part of Horsham District Year of Culture - ‘Culture and Taste in the 21st Century’ - at Horsham’s Capitol Theatre on Friday January 18 at 7pm.