The Heart of God for Chertsey

History of the church

St. Peter’s Church (north side)

History and Guide.

The Porches

You enter by the South Porch which was erected as part of the rebuilding of 1806.   The stone came from Chobham Heath and from other local sources.  The stair case leads to the South Gallery, which once ran the whole length of the church and was balanced by a gallery on the North side.  Both galleries were shortened to thier present size in the restoration of 1963.  The North Porch exactly balances the South Porch.

The Nave

The Nave dates from the restoration of 1806.  The story is told of how the builder contracted to complete and cover in the roof upon which he was to be paid £6,000.   He therefore began with the roof, which was framed together and supported by wooden pillars and slated before the walls were begun.  The builder then left for America with the money, leaving the parishioners to raise a further £6,000 to complete the Nave.

The visitor is invited to walk down the South Aisle noticing in passing several interesting memorial plaques.  There is a tablet to the memory of Charles James Fox.  Other persons remembered in the Church include Lawrence Thomson, who was an early translator of the New Testament and Admiral Sir Henry Hotham, who died and was buried in Malta soon after the Napoleonic wars.

St. Peter’s (south side) before the 1806 rebuilding

The Memorial Chapel

At the end of the south aisle is the Memorial Chapel to the Chertsey fallen of two world wars. Once an entrance to the church stood here, but in 1922 it was beautifully converted into the chapel. The floor of the sanctuary contains some of the Chertsey Abbey tiles.

Also of interest is the outline of an old doorway set in the wall between the chapel and the  chancel and surviving from the original building of 1300.

The Chancel

This is one of the oldest parts of the church, dating from about 1300. The walls are rougher and contrast with the dressed stone of the Nave. Its most notable feature is the fine oak kingpost roof which also dates from the 14th century.

Of special note is the stained glass window in the east wall.  Erected in 1870 in memory of the Rev. John Crosby Clark, it depicts scenes from the life of Saint Peter. The window in the south wall is late Victorian and was given in memory of Mainwaring Shurlock, a churchwarden and benefactor of the church.

A monument of note is the bas relief in the sanctuary by Flaxman and depicting the Raising of the daughter of Jairus. The monument is to the memory of  Emily Mawbey.

An organ was first installed in 1808 and contained 522 metal pipes in the great organ and 140 in the swell. By 1879 this organ was worn out and Messers. Walker and Son installed the present organ, which was first used on the 8th January, 1880.

The Central Aisle

Walking up the central aisle towards the Tower we can see the interesting arcading supported on wood columns encased in wooden cladding. High on the west wall hang the Arms of Queen Anne, who was known to have stayed at Chertsey at Denmark House, almost opposite the church.

The Font

The font is an octagon of Caen stone made from the design of the font at Saint Mary’s, Oxford. It is in rectilinear style and was presented to the church by William Evans, Sheriff of London and Middlesex in 1845.

The Tower

The lower parts of the Tower share with the Chancel the distinction of being the oldest part of the church. The brick top dates from the restoration of 1806.

The Tower contains a fine peal of bells, a carillon and a clock. The carillon plays four times a day, two hymns- “We love the place, O God” and “Now the day is over”- and two songs- “Home Sweet Home” and “Sicilian Mariners”.

The stained glass is late Victorian and is in memory of the Herring family, benefactors of the church. The Herring iron foundry in Chertsey was world renowned, and produced castings many of which can be seen to this day.

Historical Note

The history of the church is closely linked with that of the Benedictine Abbey which was founded at Chertsey in 666 A.D., reputedly by Frithwald, Ealdorman of Surrey. Click here for more details.

The old church dated from about 1300 and was originally the Church of All Saints. When the Abbey was dissolved the church adopted the name of the Abbey- Saint Peter.

The nave was rebuilt and the tower made higher in brick in 1806. The interior of the church was renewed in 1869, when the present pews were introduced. In 1878 the chancel walls were strengthened by encasing them in stone to match the nave.

The church was given its present look in a restoration carried out in 1963.

The Bells

The peal of eight bells was completed in 1869, but several of the bells are of great historical interest. The oldest is the fifth, which was cast in 1310 and re-cast in 1380, having been fractured in the fall of the Abbey Tower. It came to the church from the Abbey at the dissolution. The sixth was cast in 1712 at Chertsey. The Armada Bell is so named as it was cast in 1588, the year of  Drake’s Armada victory. The Tenor was cast in Chertsey  in 1670 and re-cast in 1869, when the Treble and the Second  were added to complete the peal of eight.

The Curfew, which is still rung every night from Michaelmas to Lady Day, is sometimes rung on No. 5 – the ancient curfew bell (more often on bell No. 4 these days). The legend of this bell inspired the famous poem “Curfew shall not ring tonight” by Rosa Hartwig-Thorpe.

The carillon dates from 1892 and plays four times a day.

The clock was given in 1893 by the Herring family and replaced an older, single-faced clock about which nothing is known. The present clock bears a plate to record that it was made by Messers. Smith and Sons at the “Midland Steam Clock Works”, Derby.

The Tiles

By the 13th century, Chertsey Abbey was renowned as a centre producing encaustic tiles. Many cathedrals used the tiles for flooring, including  Westminster Abbey, where they can still be seen in the floor of  the Chapter House. A few remain at Chertsey in the Memorial Chapel. The most famous pictured stories and legends including King Arthur and Richard the Lion Heart. Examples are to be found in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and in the Guildford Museum.