A PLINTH marking a well-known artist's work on a war memorial has sparked outrage among villagers due to his history as a paedophile.

The Portland stone structure was put up to recognise the work of sculptor Eric Gill, who designed Ditchling's memorial to those who perished in the First World War.

But it has enraged locals who know of Gill's dark past as a paedophile who abused his daughters, their maid, had sex with his sisters and even his dog.

And they want the block removed before Remembrance Sunday.

Herbie Flowers of High Street, Ditchling, told The Argus he lost relatives in the war and was disgusted by the plinth.

The 79-year-old said: "To the village it's unacceptable. I find it an insult to the bravery of those who died.

"I'm a proud Ditchling man but I'm not proud of that. I'm disgusted with it - it's such a shame."

Others made their thoughts known on a retrospective planning application. Oliver Craven said: "As a former member of the Armed Forces, I am sickened that this plinth has been erected in a place reserved for those who have given their life.

"I am also sickened by Eric Gill as a person and his celebration. He wrote in his memoirs that he abused his daughters sexually and was very fond of bestiality with his dog."

The plinth was devised by the Ditchling branch of the Royal British Legion (RBL), which applied to the local parish council for permission to put it in front of the memorial plot in Lodge Hill Lane.

As well as Gill, who designed the war memorial, the plinth, installed in July, also hails carver Joseph Cribb.

Michelle Warner, clerk of Ditchling Parish Council, said: "There has been a lot of local feeling and objection about it.

"Gill is an important historical figure. There are lots of historical figures with not very nice private lives. It's a difficult one, really, and I'm surprised that it's been brought up. Obviously people feel strongly about it.

"People have said they didn't know anything about [the plinth being installed] but it was all shown in the council minutes."

Ditchling Museum advised the RBL on the plinth inscription

Nathaniel Hepburn, director, said: "The war memorial is an important monument to village men who died at war but also an internationally important piece of design by one of Britain's leading sculptors."

He said the museum would work with others to help re-site the plinth if needs be.

The RBL branch said it had not intended to offend anyone and was reconsidering the future of the plinth.

Full retrospective planning permission for the plinth went through the South Downs National Park (SDNP). A spokeswoman said the fate of the plinth would be decided in due course.


ERIC GILL was born in Steyning, grew up in Preston Park, Brighton, and lived in Ditchling.

His sculptures adorn Westminster Cathedral, the BBC’s Broadcasting House and the European HQ of the UN in Geneva.

He is also known as the man who devised Gill Sans, a sleek, simple typeface that is used in Penguin books and by the BBC.

Gill made Ditchling his home before the First World War, became an ardent Catholic, set up a lay religious order in the village and inspired many artists to move there. He died in 1940.

Ditchling owes its reputation for artistic endeavour to Gill. A plaque adorns the house in the main street that was his home.

But it was not until 1989 that revelations about his private life came out.

He was also a paedophile who abused his daughters, their maid, had sex with his sisters and even his dog. A sexual deviancy that, in a recent column by our editor, was described as of “monumental scale”.

Gill’s biographer Fiona McCarthy revealed all in 1989, while his two daughters were still alive.

The revelations have since split fans of Gill, a gap that has intensified following the news stories about once-respected figures such as Jimmy Savile.

Many argue now that the life and the art of Gill should be kept separate.