One may think that Bletchingley is a fine upstanding village but obviously some others thought otherwise.
The village received a regular visit from the Church Army.
RELIGION: We are just starting to add information about life in Bletchingley
Check back here soon for more information.
Bletchingley Parish has often had multiple instances of “things”: pubs, hospitals - we even have more than one motorway!
Churches are no exception. There have been at least seven, possibly eight if you include missionary societies. There is even a bit of Bletchingley built into a church building much further afield.
This page doesn’t only cover churches but other places and institutuions that have a religious feel to them. It includes the old Pendell Cross and the training institutions at South Park (different religions, same site).
Mention is also made about a church tower that never has been a church and a time when missionaries were sent to the parish.
This is literally the centre of the village – geographically and for many people spiritually. The parish is part of the Diocese of Southwark. It is always nice to recognise the name “Bletchingley” as one of the first you see when entering the cathedral corridor where all the parish names are engraved on the floor.
As mentioned elsewhere, there is somewhat limited information on this website as St Mary’s has its own internet site and we don’t want to duplicate information here. For some additional information covering subjects such as the building of the Church in 1090, Roger the Hermit and his Squint, The Reredos and the Clayton Monument please see our Places and our Timeline pages.
Like many villages with old churches the life in the parish must have been very turbulent at times. When the church was newly built the established church was the Roman Catholic Church with the Pope as the Head – not the English monarch. The Reformation during the sixteenth century changed things entirely and now the established church is the (Protestant) Church of England with the monarch as the Head.
The Historic Society had a talk from the currect rector on this subject – see the “Church and Politics” document showing the direct impact on the local church services.
The complete list of the men (and two women) who have held the position of Rector since 1293 can be found near the entrance to the Tower inside the Church.
Three members of the clergy who warrant particular attention are:
Nathaniel Harris who caused such upset during the election of 1624 – see here for more information:
Uvedale Lambert’s book has some incredibly detailed research on the churchwarden accounts which have been in continuous use since 1673.
He also has background information on a number of the Bletchingley rectors.
Not the Robert Clayton memorial which has aroused controversy since it was put in place – partly because of the size of the sculpture, partly the self aggrandisement it portrays but much more recently because of the role Robert Clayton had in the East India Company and its role in the slave trade.
There really is an elephant in the room –near the organ in a small niche on the wall north of the Clayton memorial.
At first, it is hard to see why a memorial should be in Bletchingley to Sir William Bensley and his wife, Dame Mary Bensley. He too was a Director of the East India Company but his family came from Norfolk – nothing to do with Bletchingley.
He died in 1809, when this memorial was made by John Bacon RA.
However, Dame Mary was the sister of Joseph Seymour Briscoe who for a time owned Pendell House. The Briscoe family hailed from Derbyshire; Joseph moved to Bletchingley in 1798 but it is not known whether sister Mary ever actually lived in the parish (the small plaque on the memorial only shows she was “of this parish”). Joseph died in 1835, five years after Mary. She is buried in London where she lived most of her life.
The elephant is quite an attractive animal and was placed there to help characterise “India” (he has little ears). The ship was probably to denote Bensley’s time in the Navy (and the sailing ship, the Sir William Bensley) but the major reference to the East India Company (and its self-proclaimed benevolence to the sub-continent) is of course the weeping Indian woman mourning the loss of one of the company’s directors. Some may dispute this view of history.
The Elephant in the Room....
Under the Revd Brownrigg's tenure (1960 -74) at St Mary's there was greater collaboration with other Christian ministries. For many years the Roman Catholics had a Mass in St Mary's Church at 9am every Sunday. The frequency reduced to once a month when there were fewer clergy available, and then had to stop altogether.
There were also some occasions when joint communion services were held, with the relevant part run in parallel by the different clergy, but this was stopped by the Roman Catholic hierarchy at sometime in the 1990s.
Roman Catholic services are now catered for at Redhill
Not just a modern phenomenon.
In certain lights and standing at the right type of angle, one can see that the inside church walls are not so pristine as one may first think.
It can be seen that certain Bletchingley residents have spent time over the centuries carving their own graffiti into the church walls; a specialised survey was conducted more recently and a report produced. The church office should be contacted for detail.
Unfortunately(?) no sign of a de Clare witticism from the 13th century but fortunately(?) mostly more interesting than “XX loves YY”.
For many years the Village Fire Engine was housed in the Church Porch
Thomas Herring who became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1747 (see here for more information on his controversial views regarding the Jacobite Revolution)
Desmond Tutu who has played a pivotal role in both the history of South Africa and global “reconciliation” politics.
Our People Page has a brief history of his time in Bletchingley but this website is not the place for his later career (and he is not yet “historical”!)
Archbishop Desmond Tutu - one time curate at Bletchingley
St Marys Church from Court Lodge Farm
Copyright c/o BCHS
Did you know that if you are looking for a Court Lodge Farm address nearly anywhere in the country you should just head to the local Church and that the farm will be nearby?
1641 Parish Accounts showing payments to local individuals for repairs of roads
Roman Catholic Farm Training School
During the 1930s a Farm Training School was set up in South Park.
See here for more information
A slightly confusing area as regards the history of religious buildings.
The Redhill Congregational Church was responsible for a number of mission churches in outlying areas and Warwick Wold was one such one. In 1874 Mr Veals, the Evangelist at Bletchingley, conducted open air services at Warwick Wold. This led to the opening of "a cottage" for regular worship.
In 1905 Mr John Barber was appointed as the Evangelist for both Bletchingley and Warwick Wold which led to the closure of the latter soon after.
It is thought that the shed in the picture here was used as the “iron room” erected in Warwick Wold in 1881 - it was a congregational chapel and still in place in 1908. Confusingly this picture was actually taken in 1974 – in the garden of a house in Castle Street. Was it moved - complete? But whether this was the same building as "a cottage" mentioned above is not clear.
Said to be the Congregational Mission building - Warwick Wold.
But...this photograph was taken in the garden of a house in Castle Street.
Copyright c/o BCHS
Intriguingly, it is known that in 1912 "a cottage" in Warwick Wold was turned into an Anglican mission house known as St Andrew’s Church; the first service there being recorded on 6 October 1912. Whether this was the same site referred to as the previous congregational “cottage” is not known.
It was known as a Chapel of Ease – a building within the parish where people could go if they couldn’t easily get to the main parish church. The chapel was served by a lay reader with support from the parish church.
The November 1916 Parish Magazine had a small announcement
“We have been presented with some really nice hangings for the east end of our little church by Mr Cadge of Loddon, Norfolk and a friend has had two nice brass plates made for the alter rails and pulpit.”
These plates showed that the alter rails were made and presented by HE Gardner and WH Philpott and the pulpit by WH Philpott and Miss Bevan.
The St Andrews building was sold as a private residence in 1975 and survives as a domestic dwelling; it can be identified in Oakwood Road under the name Chapel Cottage – if this is not a hint enough, there is still a small cross on one roof end to identify the building.
St Andrew's Church - Warwick Wold
Copyright: c/o BCHS
Interior of St Andrew's Church - Warwick Wold
Copyright: c/o BCHS
There is some uncertanty as to these people’s relationship with the parish; there is evidence that a Mr Edward Cadge, a prosperous solicitor of Loddon married a Miss Caroline Emma Bevan of Plumpton Hall near Bury St Edmunds. Two of their sons were killed within months of each other in 1915. Caroline’s sister, Miss Emmeline Mary Bevan (originally from Suffolk), is buried at St Mary’s Bletchingley. She died in 1939.
Their brother, the Revd. William Henry Rawlinson Bevan, had been a missionary with the Church of England working in Bechuanaland and South Africa (from 1869 to 1919). A small book written after his death (in 1919) records his final moments:
"...he went to his sister at Pendell Court, Bletchingly. There on October 11, he slipped on the dark polished staircase and broke his right thigh. Next day he was taken to a private hospital near by. After a day or two his mind began to wander, and he took little notice of his surroundings. all the following Sunday and Monday he lay with outstretched arms and prayed unceasingly in Secoana [an African language] for his release...
Then on October 20, he went home. They vested him in his cassock, surplice and red stole. His face was full of peace and joy. They carried him to a little Church in a wood by Pendell Court and had a Requiem for him on the day of the funeral. Some who understood, and who loved him, sent two palm branches tied with red ribbon to be laid on his grave."
One has to assume that the “little Church” must be the one at Warwick Wold – unless there is another one. At the time Pendell Court was owned by the Bell family – perhaps William’s sister was visiting or held some position at the house.
Today Dorland Cottage in Church Lane (near the cross-roads) seems an unlikely setting as a tin tabernacle but for a number of years one was in constant use at the rear of the property.
There were at least three Iron Rooms in Bletchingley: Warwick Wold, Castle Street (by Overdale) and Dorlands Cottage none of which are still in use in their original form.
The one at Dorlands Cottage was a Quaker Meeting House built in 1896 by an Arthur Dann.
Arthur’s family had farmed in Nutfield at Werks Farm for six generations – born in 1857 he was the seventh child (of nine) of Thomas and Maria Dann. He married a Mary Horniman of Bletchingley and settled into farmimg nearby at Court Lodge Farm opposite the church in Church Lane.
He was already a member of the Religious Society of Friends and had converted the stables on his farm into a Mission Room. Previously he had held meetings in the open-air in the farm-yard where the exuberance of the orators persuaded local publicans to hire the bell-ringers to ring their loudest to drown out those speaking.
... the exuberance of the orators persuaded local publicans to hire the bell-ringers to ring their loudest to drown out those speaking.
In 1884, the Dann family met John Trompour Dorland, a Canadian, who travelled extensively on behalf of the Friends Society including at Reigate. Arthur was so impressed that not only did he name his son John Dorland Dann but built the Iron Room at the house now known as Dorland Cottage. It remained a Mission Hall until after the death of Arthur in 1931.
The remains of the Hall were eventually incorporated into an extension to the house in 1982.
Tin Tabernacles or Iron Rooms are now interchangeable names for small places of worship built cheaply and quickly, usually of corrugated iron, but which were not exclusive to any one religion. Because the base material was not particualrly resilient to the weather large numbers of them deteriorated to the point of destruction.
A small chapel was built in the oldest part of the cemetery in Godstone Road. Made of the fairly soft Reigate Stone (good for styling but not for strength or longevity) it unfortunately did not last long and it was eventually demolished.
Its position was close to the road (at the western end) near to the house next door on a slightly raised piece of ground.
A popular choice for some early photographers of Bletchingley but no more.
The church was situated on the main road towards the top of the High Street near the cross-roads for Stychen Lane where the flower bank is now, next door to the house called The Manse.
Congregationalism arose in England in the late 16th and 17th centuries. It emphasizes the right and responsibility of each properly organized congregation to determine its own affairs; each individual church is regarded as independent and autonomous.
The early mission work in Bletchingley was apparently not very encouraging: in the 1823 report the Minister stated that it seemed like ploughing upon a rock.
The Bletchingley chapel, built in 1826 by a Mr Charles Thomas Smith of Reigate, had local links with the nearby town of Redhill as part of the Surrey Congregational Union. It was quite small in size, so much so that people supposedly stood outside and looked through the window in order to take part in the services. Initially these were taken by Mr Smith and his son but after 1848 a Mr W Potter, tailor and draper from Godstone took over as preacher.
Upon his death in 1869 Mr Smith Snr passed ownership of the building to his son; Charles Jnr arranged for the introduction of gas lighting and the construction of a new porch which must have made life easier for the congregation.
His subsequent death in 1894 led to the executors selling the building to a William Figg of Reigate for £250. The two cottages next door were made into one (now The Manse) with a physical connection to the chapel.
1n 1897 the premises were licensed for the solemnization of marriages, but by the 1930s the chapel had closed. Change of use included an infant’s school, accommodation for troops during WW2, the WRVS, an antiques centre and a builder’s yard.
In 1950 Hubert French (of Brewer Street Farm) and other leading Roman Catholics tried to acquire the Chapel as a place of worship, but Surrey County Council already had other plans for the junction.
Widening of the road at the cross-roads in 1968 meant the end for the little chapel when it was demolished
Methodist Church decorated for Harvest Festival
Taken from painting by Dick Young
Copyright c/o BCHS
Congregational Church on right.
Junction improved in 1968 and house (behind car) demolished
Copyright c/o BCHS
The building was originally a brick built cart house with an adjacent harness room dating from about 1650. In 1909 it was converted to a chapel by removing the internal ceiling and utilizing some of the more modern building directly behind it. The alter rail is roughly where the mangers used to be. A new west door of Tudor origin was inserted which had been brought over from Hever Castle (Lord Astor had decided it was surplus to requirements when he was carrying out a major restoration of the castle).
The floor of the new sanctuary was laid with Surrey (or sometimes known as Sussex) marble quarried from an area close to the original main entrance to the Park. This type of stone (actually a limestone with a grey-blue hue) is known to outcrop all over the centre part of the Weald but never in large quantities – though it has been used in a number of places such as York Minster and Westminster Abbey. Most of the timber was re-purposed from other buildings on the estate.
Unfortunately just over two years after the dedication there was a fire which destroyed the roof. More happily it was all rebuilt quite quickly only to be partly damaged again in 1944 by an exploding flying bomb nearby (see our wartime Bletchingley for a little more information on this event).
The chapel is still used on a regular basis following its second re-opening in 1946.
St Mark's Chapel at South Park
Copyright c/o BCHS
Now a simply styled chapel which is part of the Southwark Diocesan Training Centre (Church of England) which is housed at Wychcroft (situated within the South Park area).
The house (including a racquet court) was built by a Warren Smith in about 1870 and was originally called Underhills. It passed to a Thomas Stokes in 1907 who enlarged the house to accommodate his large family. By 1933 it was on the market again.
The Catholic Training Facility
In the mid-1930s the Southwark Catholic Rescue Society helped children from broken homes, slums or other situations where they might otherwise end up on the streets.
Local farmer, Hubert French (from Brewer Street) was approached by the Catholic Bishop of Southwark and asked to help set up a facility for boys aged 16 to 18 to come out to the country and experience agriculture and horticulture. The farm operated at newly named Wychcroft from 1935 until the end of the 1950s.
The farm was sold in 1960 to Uvedale and Melanie Lambert, and became part of the South Park estate.
See here for more information on the Training Farm.
The Church of England Diocesan Training Centre
A chance conversation between Bishop Mervyn Stockwood and the new owner of Wychcroft, Uvedale HH Lambert, led to the opening of a Church of England Training Centre at Wychcroft for the clergy of the Diocese of Southwark – a place to prepare for the “Southwark Ordination Course”.
A nearby building which in a former life had been a squash court was converted into a light and airy Chapel. The artist, John Hayward (who lived next door to the chapel) was asked to design a bright and modern “liturigal scheme”. The most striking feature on entering the chapel is his painting, “Christ the Worker”. The furnishings of the chapel were provided by Uvedale and Melanie Lambert.
Dedication of the building took place in February 1962.
More information and pictures can be found on Wychcroft’s own website.
The Wesleyan Methodists from Redhill established a Sunday School in Bletchingley in 1868, the year after Redhill’s chapel was opened, and in 1873 the foundation stone of the Methodist Church was laid. There are no records of the early years, but 10 years later it is recorded as having four "class meetings" - more than at Dorking and Reigate.
The house associated with the church was initially occupied by the minister, but soon became the home of the caretaker, Mr Hawkins. When he left in 1893 the post of “chapel-keeper” was advertised at a salary of 5/- per week, plus free coal and gas, with £15 p.a. rent for the cottage and garden. The Holman family was much involved with the church, Benjamin being caretaker for about 40 years, until he and his wife died as a result of a gas light being left on but unlit during the night.
By the 1940s the church building, which was of Reigate stone, was suffering major structural problems. In 1948 it was decided to build a hall for Sunday School, Youth Club and weeknight activities. It was built of brick, and opened in 1950. In 1960 it was decided that the church building was no longer safe, and the hall was used for worship as well as the existing activities. After some alterations to provide the hall with a vestry and toilets the church and house were demolished. The Sunday School, numbering nearly 50, provided for the whole village, ignoring denominational roots, and was supported by the parish church.
Taken from a letter written by former Bletchingley resident, Peggy James in 2000 (then aged 98):
“I was about ten years old at the time at the beginning and just after the war [WW1].
The [Wesleyan] Chapel was a rather dismal place and at the back was a cottage occupied by a Mr Holman. He had a small trap and horse – like a small open bus with seats for about six people. He used to take customers to Redhill especially to the station with luggage. The buses were not very often and did not take luggage.
He was very popular and no doubt helped to pay for the chapel upkeep.
It had a garden at the back where Mr Holman grew vegetables. My mother often bought from him as our garden was small.
The monkey puzzle trees were well grown and when bits blew off the boys would chase the girls and give them a swipe with it so we used to run indoors when they were on the war-path”.
Built on what is now the corner of Overdale and the main A25
Methodist Church - drawing
Copyright Dick Young c/o BCHS
Edwardian congregation outside the Bletchingley Methodist Chapel
Copyright c/o BCHS
In 1992, due to its dwindling congregation, Methodist services were transferred to the new Methodist Church in Redhill. The Hall was used by Smarties nursery for a number of years, before the site was sold in 2003, and three houses built, now called Castle Corner.
At the top of White Hill (close to the Harrow pub) a large church tower can be seen in the corner of a field.
This is not what it seems as this tower has never belonged to a church. It was built in 1862 for a Jeremiah Long as a folly.
White Hill Tower
copyright c/o BCHS
A document dated 1451 shows that a Catherine Maldon owned two properties, one a croft “opposite the cross” at Pendell, next to the marsh.
The marsh is known to have been where the ornamental lake at Pendell Court (The Hawthorns) is now so the cross must have been very close by on the “high ground towards the north end of Pendhill Street”. This was probably where the road goes up and narrows – by the post box outside Pendell House.
Uvedale Lambert considers the cross may have been made of stone but was more probably of wood.This is because of a reference made in Latin to a “cross... now decayed” in a 1517 document and again in 1519 and 1565. He therefore thought it likely it was made of a substance which decayed naturally – and not because of any purposeful act (such as the Dissolution which did not take place until more than twenty years after the first mention of decay in 1517)
The Church Army on a mission to Bletchingley.
Copyright c/o BCHS
Obviously not in the Bletchingley area but with strong connections to the parish.
The Church at Kew was constructed in 1929 from timbers dismantled from a seventeenth century barn. Sources show the barn as being in the “Oxted area” – probably Stonehill Farm at Hurst Green which was owned at the time by Uvedale and Cecily Lambert. New timber for the bell tower at Kew was cut from trees on the Bletchingley South Park estate.
The re-used timbers are even older than the barn – there is a claim that they originally came from a ship of the Armada. But how come they ended up in a barn in land-locked Surrey? Well... Sir Francis Drake’s father, Edmund, did have local connections so this may (or may not) be possible.
The Barn Church at Kew