CWGC 100 Years

CWGC Artisan Garden at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017

The CWGC celebrated a century of gardening excellence with an award-winning Artisan Garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017.

The CWGC Centenary Garden was funded by private donations and designed in collaboration with horticulturist David Domoney. It celebrated this unique organisation and paid tribute to the 1.7 million Commonwealth servicemen and women killed in the world wars.

An intimate, calm and reflective space, the garden expressed the essential part horticulture plays in the CWGC’s commemoration of the war dead, and showcased the traditional skills still employed by our staff around the globe.

Read about CWGC's success at Chelsea

Key Features

Many of the garden’s features were symbolic of the Commission’s past, present and future. The garden used plant species from sites in the CWGC global estate and elements and materials crafted by hand by the CWGC’s own artisans. Here are some of the key features:


Centenary seat

The central seat, made of Portland stone, was fittingly topped with 100-year-old oak, marking a century of commemoration. In the centre was a stone circle inscribed with the distinctive Commission badge – a torch burning with an eternal flame.


Hand-forged railings and leaves

Hand-forged railings and leaves

The forged iron railings were hand-crafted by our blacksmiths in France. The design had striking horticultural elements. The railings incorporated a tree motif designed to mirror the Pleached Limes we use at many of our sites where they give a sense of enclosure. The 154 leaves on their branches represented the 154 countries in which we care for war graves. Each leaf was numbered and stamped.

 Archway copied from centenary wreath

The imposing entrance arch was constructed at the CWGC artisan workshop in Ieper, Belgium, and was topped with a silver crown, referencing the Commission’s historical links with empire. The design was based on a bronze wreath at the largest CWGC war cemetery in the world – Tyne Cot in Belgium. The leaves of the arch represented the laurel wreath that also forms the CWGC’s crest.

Statues from CWGC Portsmouth Naval Memorial

The garden had two stunning figures of Royal Naval personnel, one on each side. The statues were designed after the Second World War by Sir Charles Wheeler. After many years faithful service at the Portsmouth Naval Memorial, the elements had taken their toll and they were replaced. It is pleasing that we could reuse them here – a human reminder (albeit in stone) of the people we commemorate. 

Steps made from reclaimed headstones

Portland stone remains one of the most striking features of our war cemeteries. It is a noble material used to make headstones that mark the majority of graves. The stone used for the garden steps had been recycled from headstones and structures that had fulfilled their original purpose. They were mostly First World War headstones from Belgium, France and the UK, recut by CWGC stonemasons. 

A place for quiet reflection

A convex mirror within the hedge at the rear of the garden was designed so that visitors could see themselves within the space – reflecting practically and metaphorically on the symbolism and meaning of this beautiful garden and perhaps remembering a loved one the CWGC cares for in some corner of a foreign field.

Noble material, hand-crafted bricks

The handmade bricks used between the entrance steps and forming the garden border had been taken from stock that was used in 2016 to restore the largest CWGC war memorial in the world – at Thiepval on the Somme. They were based on distinctive red Boom bricks, made in the Belgian town of Boom, famous for its bricks.



Watch the video below to find out more about this special garden

CWGC Director of Horticulture, David Richardson, and garden designer and horticulturist David Domoney speak further about the CWGC Centenary Garden. As part of the CWGC's centenary in 2017 the Commonwealth War Graves Commission is sponsoring an Artisan Garden at the RHS - Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show.

Meet the team

David Richardson

“The CWGC Centenary Garden is an opportunity to share and celebrate 100 years of great horticulture.”

David is the CWGC’s Director of Horticulture. He’s worked for us for more than 30 years and was a driving force behind the creation of this garden. David has worked in most of the geographies in which the Commission works, from France to Fiji, Iceland to Indonesia.

David Domoney

“It is a great and rewarding challenge to be designing a garden for the Commonwealth War Graves centenary – interpreting and echoing some of the marvellous horticulture and design work that is displayed at their sites around the world.”

David’s background (he is a winner of 29 RHS Medals) and enthusiasm made him the perfect person to design the CWGC garden. David’s grandfather was badly injured in the First World War and that personal connection shined through in his design.

Click here to read David's blog on constructing the CWGC's Centenary Garden.

Jean Michel Ledhé

“Working on the RHS Chelsea Flower show is a great way to celebrate our centenary.”

Jean is a skilled stonemason at the CWGC’s workshops in France. From engraving the names of war dead on headstones, to carving intricate reliefs for some of the CWGC’s most iconic memorials, Jean is proud of the work he does to honour the war dead. For Chelsea, Jean was responsible for engraving the CWGC crest that formed the centrepiece of the garden.

Danny and Yves Delplace

“We are proud to work for the CWGC as it allows us to express our artistic skills for a good cause.”

Danny works as a blacksmith and handles all of the metal work for cemeteries in Belgium, Holland, Germany and part of France. He often works alongside his brother Yves – a painter and sign maker in our office in Belgium. The two brothers worked on the commemorative arch that formed the entrance to the CWGC garden. The arch was made from polyester resin on a wood and metal frame and was hand painted to resemble aged metal.

Samuel Gambiez

“The Chelsea Flower Show allows us to show our craft to a worldwide audience.”

Samuel has worked as a craftsman carpenter with the CWGC since 2006. His work ranges from repairing and recreating the most beautiful wooden features in cemeteries in France to the wooden seat in the garden’s centrepiece.

Kurt Talloen

“I loved working on the entrance feature for the CWGC garden at the Chelsea Flower Show.”

Having trained as a carpenter Kurt also studied art and sculpture and he worked on creating the structure of the entrance arch.

Christian Cousin

“It is incredible to think that millions of people will see my work.”

For almost 30 years Christian has honed his blacksmithing skills with the CWGC – restoring and conserving much of the ironwork found at war cemeteries across Europe. Christian hand-crafted the railings and the leaves within them.  Each leaf took thirty minutes to shape by hand.


“These noble statues are such a powerful reminder of the people we commemorate.”

With more than 100 years of stonemasonry experience between them, Simon, Steve and Ian make up part of the CWGC’s United Kingdom and Northern Area works team – responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of all our memorials in the UK, Ireland and Scandinavia. The three stone masons readied the statues for the show – enabling them to “stand guard” over the garden.

Robert Fontana

“I started work for the CWGC in July 1978 and I am still as proud to work for our organisation as I was on that first day.”

Robert supervised all the work on the garden. He’s proud of his team and was excited by the opportunity to show their skills and dedication to a world-wide audience.