The church that Bodley built.

On the 16th. July 2017, we are meeting at St. Saviour’s, Valley End, to celebrate 150 years of the church that Julia Seymour Bathurst founded, and that George Frederick Bodley built.

Church colour.JPG

St. Saviour’s Church in 1872. (Photo courtesy Hugh Holland.)

It’s a small, friendly place, with a deceptively simple design. It’s been described as: “St. Saviour, Valley End… A real attempt to re-interpret Surrey traditions in 19th century terms” *

If Bodley had introduced local materials and methods of building, it would explain why St. Saviour’s rests so peacefully in the landscape. But what were the traditions which inspired him?

Surrey has always been rich in trees and forest. Even today it remains the most wooded county in England. It is no surprise that builders in the county have always used timber heavily.

When Bodley first arrived at Valley End, he would have been faced by a  fine half timbered farmhouse, Westley Green, opposite the site.



Westley Green Farmhouse. (Photograph by David Fettes.)

This is not the only half timbered house in Valley End. Fosters Farm is another one, and there are more timbered buildings along the Windlesham Road, such as Biddles Farm and Buckstone Farm.

Did this style inspire Bodley? It’s possible. He added a half timbered porch to St. Saviour’s, which is unique among his designs.


The porch at St. Saviour’s Valley End. (Photograph by David Fettes.)


The west wall at St. Saviour’s. showing the beams. (Photograph by David Fettes.)

Wood had been used heavily in Surrey churches for centuries, and Bodley was probably aware of this. There are over 40 churches in the county which retain their medieval wooden towers, and they are often clad in wooden shingles.

This is what Bodley did at Valley End. The steeple was covered in wooden shingles, which have just been replaced.


The wooden shingles at St. Saviour’s. (Image courtesy Parish of Chobham with Valley End.)

At St. Saviour’s the timber is teamed with brick. Bricks had been made in Surrey for hundreds of years, and Chobham has some wonderful examples, such as the 17th century Brook Place. Bodley would have seen Rose Cottage at Valley End, glowing with the subtle shades of local brick.


Rose Cottage. (Photograph by David Fettes.)

Valley End  had it’s own brickfields on the Common, but it seems that Bodley decided that the quality was too poor, and brought materials in from elsewhere.


Brickwork inside St. Saviour’s. (Photograph by David Fettes.)


Tiles have been made in Surrey for generations. In the 13th century nearby Chertsey Abbey was producing the best floor tiles in England. During later centuries roofing tiles became so good in the county that thatched houses  are unusual in Surrey.

In Surrey, and in Sussex and Kent, another use of tiles developed. From the late 17th century tiles were hung vertically to protect the upper floors.

Bodley must have been aware of this. He added a small panel of vertical tile hanging to the exterior of St. Saviour’s, but tucked it away at the back, beside the vestry.


Small section of tile hanging at St. Saviour’s.

But the church wasn’t the only building he designed at Valley End. Julia Seymour Bathurst also asked him to build the vicarage, and here he included sweeps of vertical tile hanging, an acknowledgment of the local building traditions that had inspired his  work on the church of St. Saviour’s, Valley End.


Vertical tile hanging at Valley End Vicarage.


*“St Saviour, Valley End. 1867. By Bodley. The standard chapel of ease, but done sensitively. Brick with a shingled belfry and well-managed Whipped gable. Honest interior with exposed bricks and big iron tie-rods. A real attempt to re-interpret Surrey traditions in 19th century terms; a great pity that it had to have Gothic detail.”


One of the red and green tie-rods at St. Saviour’s. (Photograph by David Fettes.)

“The buildings of England, Surrey.” By Ian Nairn and Nikolaus Pevsner, revised by Bridget Cherry. Penguin books. 2nd edition 1971.



“The buildings of England, Surrey.” By Ian Nairn and Nikolaus Pevsner, revised by Bridget Cherry. Penguin books. 2nd edition 1971.

“The churches of Surrey.” Mervyn Blatch. Phillimore, 1997.

With many thanks to David Fettes.


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