St. Saviour’s Church

In April 1866, Chobham Church opened again after being closed for restoration.

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Charles Cracklow. St Lawrence, Chobham, before the restoration of 1866.

Julia Bathurst was present and may well have compared the newly spacious ancient building, now unencumbered by galleries, and opened to the north by a new aisle, with the church she was planning at Valley End.

The differences in style must have been striking.

Julia had chosen a well-established architect, George Frederick Bodley, for her church.

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Photo of George Frederick Bodley (1827-1907), English architect and poet.

Bodley is known as one of Victorian England’s Gothic Revival architects.

One of the features of this style is the use of colour. For example, when Pugin designed the Drummond Chapel at St. Peter and Paul, Albury, he covered the walls with painting. And when St. Peter, Hascombe, was rebuilt in 1866 – a year before Valley End – the interior was richly decorated.

St. Saviour’s opened in 1867. At first sight it seems to lack the colour of other Victorian Gothic buildings. The stained glass over the altar sheds light into the chancel, and the organ pipes are strikingly ornamented.  The texture and colour of the building comes mainly from the warm hues of the brick.

But a careful search shows remnants of lost paint and decoration.

The pews were trimmed with red and green along the top. The sides still show bright red detail.

The sconces for the lamps were coloured red and green, although this has faded. So are the iron tie-rods.

But it is old photographs that give some concept of the dazzling display that was once in St. Saviour’s. They show the back wall, covered with a design of fleurs de lys, a pattern repeated behind the pulpit, and inside the ceiling arches. The stone behind the pulpit on the left is outlined. There is no clue to the colour, but I would imagine they repeated the theme of red and green.

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St. Saviour’s Valley End, showing the old decoration. date unknown; possibly about 1900.

The furnishings in the chancel were beautiful. The graceful globes of the lamps shine on the gleaming cross, and two ornate candelabras stand beside the altar.

The few photographs we have of the old interior were taken on special occasions, such as Easter, when the church was overflowing with lilies, and greenery framed the chancel arch. The gardeners from the local big houses decorated the church for special occasions, and maybe there was  an element of competition to their work.

When the air was heavy with the scent of flowers, the church glowed with bright colour from the pews and the metalwork, and the east walls shone with fleurs de lys, it must have been stunning.

St. Saviour’s opened in 1867. Julia Bathurst, sitting there in her pew, may well have compared it to St. Lawrence. She may have privately thought that Chobham had the Norman arches; but that Valley End would have the colour.

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St. Saviour’s Valley End as it is today.The painting on the walls has been lost.

 

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Sources.

Coventry Standard. 18th May 1866.

With thanks to Chobham Church for the old photograph of St. Saviour’s Valley End. The illustration of St. Lawrence is by Charles Cracklow, and from  ‘Views of the Churches and Chapels of Ease in the County of Surrey, 1827.’

Photo of George Frederick Bodley (1827-1907), English architect and poet – from http://www.stdavidscathedralhobart.org/history/

For more information and illustrations of St. Lawrence see Chobham, Architecture

 

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