Mayhem on the links.

 

Agatha Christie once planned a murder in Valley End.

Sunningdale Golf Club lies to the west of the Chobham Road, on what was common land. In the 1920s the southern part of it was within Valley End parish.

Agatha knew Sunningdale and the surrounding area well. In the 1920’s she moved to the district with her husband, a retired officer named Colonel Archibald Christie.

NPG x82104; Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie (nÈe Miller) by Elliott & Fry
Agatha Christie, by Elliott & Fry, half-plate negative. National Portrait Gallery.

Agatha had wanted a country cottage, but she didn’t find her rural retreat at Sunningdale. Instead it was full of expensive houses clustered around the golf course – which delighted her husband.

He had just been elected to Sunningdale Golf Club, and had decided that Sunningdale was perfect.

Colonel Christie was thrilled with their new home. He played on the links at every opportunity, and Agatha rapidly found herself becoming a golf widow.

The years at Sunningdale ended unhappily for her. Not only did her husband abandon her for golf, but he then went on abandon her for another woman too.

In 1926 the pressure must have been unbearable. She went missing, and it was only after a well-publicised search that she was discovered in Harrogate, where she was staying under a false name. It is possible that she had suffered amnesia brought on by stress.

Finally Agatha divorced her husband in 1928.

The next year, 1929, she published a short detective story, “The Sunningdale mystery,” in “Partners in crime.”

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“There is a public footpath that crosses the links, and just as they were playing up to the sixth green, Hollaby noticed a woman coming along it.” (The Sunningdale mystery.)

The story centres on Sunningdale Golf Course. Agatha played golf herself, and she was obviously familiar with the links, and was quite happy slotting victim and suspects into the landscape.

She mentions the public footpath crossing the course, and the suspect runs desperately away from the links, tripping over the heather. A revolver is discovered in the furze bushes growing beside the green, and an unknown woman appears suddenly from the ladies course.

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“She ran for her life across the golf links, expecting every minute to be shot down by a revolver bullet. She fell twice, tripping over the heather…” (The Sunningdale mystery.)

It is also clear that she knew the surrounding area. Paths leave the golf course, to emerge on the Windlesham Road. The murderer goes back to London via Woking.

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“Just at that point there is another of those narrow slips leading to the Windlesham Road…” (The Sunningdale mystery.)

Agatha included other features too. The victim, Captain Sessle, bore a curious resemblance to Colonel Christie. He also was a retired officer, and married to a devoted wife. A devout golfer, he spent much of his time practising on the course.

This was his downfall. Early one morning “a gruesome discovery was made on the famous golf links.” Sessle was found, lying face down on the seventh tee. He had been stabbed to the heart with a woman’s hatpin.

Definitely a writer’s revenge on her errant ex-husband!

Sources.

Agatha Christie. “An autobiography.” Harper Collins. 1993.

Agatha Christie. “Partner’s in crime.” Fontana paperbacks. 1983.

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The Battle of Chobham Place Woods

“They hang the man and flog the woman

That steals the goose from off the common,

But let the greater villain loose

Who steals the common from the goose.”[1]

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The entrance to Chobham Place Woods.

The people who lived on the ancient heath lands had rights on the common land. They could graze their livestock, and gather fuel and building materials. When the common land was enclosed to be cultivated, it had a massive effect on rural society.

One example of enclosed land is Chobham Place Woods. These are now a public space with a car park off Valley End Road, near the junction with Windsor Road.

In the 1850s they were part of the common and Denis Le Marchant, the owner of Chobham Place, wanted to enclose them.

NPG Ax46399; Sir Denis Le Marchant, 1st Bt by Hills & Saunders

Sir Denis Le Marchant, 1st Baronet. 1795 – 1874.   National Portrait Gallery.

He was virulently opposed by Richard Gude, a local landowner, who lived at Valleywood Farm and was therefore a neighbour of Le Marchant.

Where litigation was concerned, Gude had previous form. He took a dispute over an annuity, Gude v. Mumford, (descendants of the family still live in the village today,) as far as the Court of the Exchequer in 1837.

But Le Marchant was the Clerk to the House of Commons, and a powerful man. Gude was too incensed to care. Between 1853 and 1854 he petitioned the Queen and Parliament three times, writing to Lord Palmerston, the Secretary of State, who must have known Le Marchant well.

NPG D1396; The House of Commons, 1860 by Thomas Oldham Barlow, after  John Phillip

“The House of Commons, 1860″(including Denis Le Marchant) by Thomas Oldham Barlow, after John Phillip, mezzotint, 1863 or after.   National Portrait Gallery.

Gude wrote bitterly, “I am goaded by the scandalous and oppressive nature of the proceedings of Sir Denis Le Marchant and the Inclosure Commissioners.”

One of his arguments was that the poor would suffer when the common land was enclosed. This sounds suspiciously like special pleading; Gude he had been such an unpopular Guardian of the Poor that he was subject to arson attacks.

Gude complained that Le Marchant bought the land at his own valuation, while William Abdy’s offer, of three times the amount, was rejected. But the real cause of frustration shines through when he complains that the other adjoining landowners, William Abdy and himself, would get no part of the woods.

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The Avenue in Chobham Place Woods.

He claimed that Le Marchant had twisted the law in his own favour, secretly putting clauses into a Public Bill for his personal benefit.. And he was clearly infuriated that Le Marchant, a relative newcomer, should profit over old Chobham families. Such as the Gudes.

The issue was settled in 1854, by the Inclosure Commissioners.

They looked at the deed by which Le Marchant claimed the to have bought the land, and accepted it. But they refused to let Gude see it, as it was a private document.

No wonder he was so frustrated.

The Commissioners complained that Le Marchant’s Agent had interfered with the appointment of the second valuer. They found this so objectionable that they refused to accept him. Maybe some of Gude’s fury was justified.

Le Marchant won, and took Chobham Place Woods. For many years they framed the approach to his house, Chobham Place.

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Chobham Place from the woods. It is now known as Wentworth Place.

But during the Second World War part of the common was taken for the Tank Factory. To compensate the village, Chobham Place Woods and Round Pond Woods were given as a replacement, and now, after a century and a bitter dispute, they are once again common land.

Sources:

National Archives HO 45 /5530.

Reports of cases argued and determined in the Court of Exchequer in Equity…Vol. II, 1838.

With thanks to Rob Searle.

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If you would like to know more about Richard Gure’s case against Denis Le Marchant, here is the text of his 1853 petition.

In Parliament.

Sir Denis Le Marchant’s Inclosure.

Reasons against the inclosure.

That CHOBHAM COMMON is 25 miles from London and easily accessible by railway, – midway between Windsor and Guildford, and near Virginia Water, Sunning Hill, Staines, Bagshot, Chertsey and Woking, and therefore likely to be resorted to, as Railway facilities increase, by the London Population.

That the intended Inclosure of these 32 acres of Common, adorned with 300 trees and upwards, the growth of centuries, and some 12 feet in circumference, is a wrong to the Public, and a case not contemplated by the Inclosure Acts, which were passed “ for the Improvement of Commons, subjected to rights of property, which obstructed cultivation and the productive employment of labour.”

That no cultivation can improve this spot, beautiful by nature, and no employment of labour upon it can be so productive as its fuel to the poor, and its shade, shelter and food to their cattle and pigs, and to those of the adjoining proprietors and their tenants.

That a Public Highway is included in the Inclosure, the diversion whereof will increase the distance, already about Two miles from the Village, and send the public up two steep bleak and scarcely traversable dusty hills.

That the two adjoining Proprietors have about equal frontage to this Common with Sir DENIS LE MARCHANT, and have therefore an equal right with him to the Common proposed to be inclosed, whereas he is to take the whole, and access to their lands is to be stopped.

That Sir DENIS LE MARCHANT proposed to give £10 an acre, which he considered more than the value and claimed the trees as his property; whereupon Sir WILLIAM ABDY offered £30 an acre and to pay for the trees by valuation, and insisted that at all events this Common should be submitted to public competition by a sale by Auction.

The Inclosure Commissioners however direct this Common be sold by valuation to Sir DENIS LE MARCHANT, by virtue of their Act of Parliament passed in June 1852, after he had been informed he would not be permitted to put up further embankments until he had thrown open his previous Inclosures, pursuant to his written undertaking to the Parish, and no notice of such an intended Act of Parliament was given to the parties greatly interested in preventing this Common being inclosed.

That by such an Act of Parliament, seemingly passed for this express purpose, this part of the Common, of importance only to the public, to the promoter of this scheme, and the two adjoining Proprietors, is to be transferred from the two to the one, and the price thereof given for public purposes, to the majority of the Parish, to whom any rights over it were of little or no value.

That the inclosure of the 32 acres will tend to delay bringing into cultivation the remaining 7000 acres of Common, which have not the same recommendations to promote their inclosure.

That the estates of some of the opponents of this Inclosure have descended to them through centuries, whereas Sir DENIS LE MARCHANT purchased his house abutting the Common, in the year 1840.

That all the documents and papers relating to this Inclosure ought to be laid before Parliament, that full justice may be done to the Public and the parties interested, this however is opposed by the Secretary of the Treasury, so that the right by sanction of Parliament to all Inclosure Bills is reduced to a mere sham, as it can have no materials upon which to form a judgement as to the propriety of an Inclosure, directed by the Commissioners of Inclosure, and will account for their utter defiance of all legal rules and the acknowledged rights of property.

It is hoped Parliament will erase “CHOBHAM” from the schedule to the Inclosure Bill about to be brought in, and show the public that the machinery of the Inclosure Commission is not to be set in motion and worked by the Chief Clerk of the House of Commons, that he may monopolize advantages equally belonging to his neighbours.

RICHARD GUDE Jun.

8, George Yard, Lombard Street,

May 1853.

[1] Quoted in “Surrey Heath in the 18th century,” by Phil Stevens. Surrey Heath Local History Club and Phil Stevens, 2007.

Valley End School in the 1930s

What was it like to go to Valley End School in the 1930s?

It was very small. There were only three classes, the Infants, Middle and Top, but the pupils were aged from 5 to 14.

Most of  the children made their own way to school. Some had company; Bob Hizzey was always  accompanied by his dog, Rusty the cairn terrier. Rusty would walk with Bob from Brick Hill to Valley End, and then make his own way back. When school finished, the dog would be waiting outside. As Bob went home for dinner, Rusty made 4 trips a day to the school and back again.

During the 1920s and 30s, the headmaster was Mr Bennett. When he retired in 1939 he had been Headmaster of Valley End School for 18 years. He lived in the schoolhouse, which had very basic amenities. When he left the new Headmistress wouldn’t move into it until it was refurbished.

He was known as Gaffer, and remembered for playing cricket with the children on his lawn in summer, and for his endearing trait of giving 6d as a reward for good work, and for his less endearing trait of clipping pupils round the ear on occasion.

When Joan Weymouth (née Millard) started school at Valley End in 1934, she not only went to the same school as both of her parents, but also had the same teacher, Miss Canning. This lady taught the infants and was fondly remembered by many of her pupils.

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A class at Valley End School. (Photo courtesy of D. Hizzey.)

Another of the teachers, Mr. Franklin, had lost a son in the First World War. On Armistice Day he would read out the names of the fallen with tears running down his face.

The school still had a tradition of local benefactors. In the 1930s these were Mr. Serpell of Westcroft Park, and the Hendersons of Windlesham Park.

They paid for wonderful Christmas parties, complete with a substantial tea, a magician, and presents.

Empire Day was celebrated with a school sports day at Chobham, and the Hendersons and Serpell sponsored that too.

Valley End was a church school, and Mr. Edmunds, the priest from St. Saviour’s, would visit to teach scripture. He unfortunately wore a badly fitting wig. The children would gaze at him in fascination. There was always the chance that it would slip.

As a church school, there were daily hymns and prayers, and twice during the year the entire school trotted next door to the church for a service.

A lot of time was spent in teaching handwriting, but classes were not limited to the 3 Rs. A bus took pupils to a hut in West End to learn about cooking. But the girls struggled to use the elderly coal range there.

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Valley End Cookery Class. (Photo courtesy  of J. End.)

So the lessons were then renamed Homecraft, and moved to Windlesham School, where there were some proper gas stoves. The boys also went there, to do carpentry. The bus seems to have vanished; the children had to get on their bikes and make their own way.

Valley End taught swimming as well. The pupils learned in a chilly lake on an estate off the Westwood Road. The only changing facilities were some dense rhododendron bushes, with the boys on one side and the girls on the other.

This was a rural area. Occasionally there was half-day holiday so that the children could collect acorns for the pigs in the farm opposite. On Good Friday the pupils brought in eggs to give in the church. The school taught gardening. The children were given small plots.

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Gardening at Valley End. (Photo courtesy of D. Hizzey.)

The facilities at the school were very basic. The school was lit by oil lamps, and if it was too dark, or if a storm was brewing, the children sometimes went home early. The toilets were still basically buckets. Mr. Spong, wearing his bowler hat and riding his tricycle, gamely emptied them regularly.

There seems to have been a running feud between Windlesham-ites and Valley End–ites. Children from Valley End School wouldn’t play with the pupils from Windlesham School. Sometimes at Valley End the boys from Windlesham fought the lads from Chobham and Valley End. The battles spilled out of the playground and they waged war on each other on the way home.

Joan Millard would be met by her mother, and their pet goat.  Her mother would turn up with the goat, Molly, who would be wearing a collar and on a leash.

Valley End was small by modern standards. But many of the pupils who went there have happy memories of the school.

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Valley End School as it is today.

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Sources.

  1. M. Smith. “Windlesham remembered.” Windlesham Magazine, Feb. 1983.
  2. M. Smith. “Memories of Valley End School.” Windlesham Magazine March 1990.
  3. M. Smith. “More memories of Valley End School.” Windlesham Magazine May 1990′
  4. Ron Little. “Schooldays.” Windlesham Magazine. Dec. 1989.
  5. Saturday 28 October 1939 , Surrey Advertiser.

With thanks to Joan Weymouth, Sallie Buchanan, and David Hizzey.

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Frozen ink, child labour and heroism; early days at Valley End School.

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In March 1902, toddler Harold Nix fell down a well. He was in mortal danger, as it was 24 feet deep, with 4 feet of water at the bottom. But his 15 year old sister, Mabel, bravely climbed down and held him up until they were rescued.

Mabel was awarded the bronze medal and certificate of the Royal Humane Society for her courageous act.

This was noted with pride in the logbooks of Valley End School. She had been one of their pupils.

The school must have been proud of her resourcefulness and courage. But possibly they would have required resilience from all their children.

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School parade in 1911. (Photo courtesy of J. End.)

Valley End School was founded by Julia Bathurst of Hyams in 1859, “to the end that thereon should be built a School Building for the education of Children, or adults, of the labouring, Manufacturing, and the poorer classes of Chobham.”

To modern eyes the conditions were Spartan.

It opened in September 1859, with 62 children, and one teacher. The school was intended for ages 5 to 13, and was divided into 2 main groups, “Infants” and “Standards.”

(Overcrowding was still an issue in 1905, when one teacher taught 74 pupils in one room.)

The first teacher, Martha Robertshaw, luckily had some help. The Vicar called in at least once a week, and she was assisted by Mary Bathurst.

Mary was the daughter of Julia, who founded the school. She visited to help on most days, and sometimes brought her friends with her. Mary paid some of the older children to become Monitors to support the younger ones.

The facilities were very simple. There was a pump for water, and the toilets were basically a row of buckets. These were emptied into a trench in the schoolhouse garden. (The master was frequently complimented on his vegetables.)

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Valley End School. (Photo courtesy of D. Hizzey.)

There was no artificial light until 1945. The rooms must have been very dark in winter. It could also be cold. In 1895 the ink froze in the inkwells.

Valley End suffered epidemics of serious illnesses, such as smallpox, mumps and measles. The school simply closed.

Absenteeism was always a difficulty. Some children lived over 100 yards from a road, and were kept at home in bad weather.

Child labour was a constant problem. Pupils were away because they were working at home, or on the farms, or in the brickyard.

Sometimes there were more interesting places to be than in school. The children were watching the soldiers on the Common, or the crowds passing on their way to Ascot races.

The school sounds a bit austere. But it was successful. The Government Inspectors found it excellent, and “A very valuable School.”

The children received a useful, basic education. The school got good results. After all, Valley End School could produce students as brave and resourceful as Mabel Nix.

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The Schools, Valley End, Chobham.

(From the Oliver Collection held in the University of London’s Library Depository at Egham, courtesy of the trustees of the S. A. Oliver Charitable Settlement.)

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Sources;

A brief history of Valley End Church of England School 1859 – 1977: researched and written by Ann Thompson. A. Thompson 1978.

Globe, 12th June 1902.

National Archives Ed 49/7364. VALLEY END SCHOOL transfer to new ecclesiastical district. 1880

ROYAL HUMANE SOCIETY BRONZE MEDALS CITATIONS
TAKEN FROM THE ANNUAL REPORT 1902.Compiled by Peter Helmore. http://www.lsars.org.uk/bronz02s.htm

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“That family has meant very much to this place” – Joan Weymouth and Valley End Church.

In the 1890s, a wealthy family called the Christies moved to Ribsden House in Windlesham.

Harry Carnell, their groom and coachman, left his native Derbyshire and came with them.

He spent the rest of his life in this area. His descendants still live in Valley End today.

Joan Weymouth, née Millard,remembers Harry Carnell well. She used to cycle to church with him on Sunday. He was her granddad.

“My grandfather, he never bowed and scraped. But you know, he left school at 13, and he just was so educated. He taught himself. He was treasurer of Valley End for all those years.”

Harry Carnell married Mary Grace Foster, who was also from, Ribsden, in 1898 in St. Saviour’s. They had two children, Ellen Mary and Lilian Annie.

Ellen married Francis Gear in 1925. This was Colonel Gear, Joan’s uncle, who was treasurer of Chobham and Valley End churches for 25 years. I’ve heard him praised as a formidable fundraiser, but as Joan says, “He gave a lot of money of his own” too.

Lilian Carnell went to Valley End School, and joined the church choir. That was where she learned to smoke at 10 years old! Her path would have crossed with that of Reg Millard.

Reg was the nephew of George Vass, who was Parish Clerk for 43 years. When he retired 118 parishioners and friends had a collection and presentation to thank him. An illuminated scroll with all their names is hanging in the church.

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Illuminated document in St. Saviour’s Church.

Reg Millard had been brought up by his uncle and his aunt Georgina. “But my Dad was so lucky to go to them, because they thought the world of him. He used to take my Dad to church, and Winn Smithers could remember Mr Vass coming down to the front, ‘cause there was the choir, and fetching my Dad because they weren’t behaving.”

Lilian Carnell married Reg Millard in 1926, and they remained involved with the church.

They were both in the choir. “My Dad was a tenor, and he used to sing in the crucifixion at Chobham on Good Friday from Valley End, with Mr Rolph and Percy Mumford.”

He used to collect subscriptions for healthcare. “My Dad did the Slate Club. You used to pay that at the Vicarage every Monday. And that is because you didn’t pay for a Doctor if you paid into it.”

Lilian was busy at St. Saviour’s as well. “My mother was on the PCC, she was the last churchwarden. She was the first woman churchwarden too.”

She was a very thoughtful person. “Mum was a Girl Guide and she was Brown Owl of the Brownies, and she had this little girl from Dr Barnardo’s, who wasn’t treated very well, and Mum, well if you’d known my Mum, she was special. She used to take this little girl to Valley End Church. When she grew up this girl left £30,000 to Valley End Church, that was just through Mum being so kind to her.”

This legacy went towards the heating in St. Saviour’s. If you are warm during the services at Valley End, this is solely due to Lilian Millard’s caring nature.

Lilian and Reg’s daughter, Joan, followed in their footsteps.

She went to Sunday School in St. Saviour’s. “Mr Rolph used to play the carillon, the bells, at Westcroft Park at the time we were in Sunday School at half past 3.”

Joan sang too. “I was in the choir. The choir stalls were up behind the organ, so the choirmaster could see you.”

She remembers all the vicars, right back to Mr. Edmonds. “Mr Edmonds was vicar but he had a wig. He went and saw Mrs Blackett, and she’d got a flypaper, where flies get stuck to it. I didn’t see it, but evidently his wig got stuck to the flypaper.”

Later, “I was on the PCC for years. When my uncle died Timothy Thornton came up here to get me to go on the PCC, and I said no.

He said, “Joan, you’d really be good there.”

“No,” I said, “Honestly, I’m not a clever person, I’m not like my mother.”

He said, “Joan, we don’t want too many clever people on the PCC.”

I thought well, that lets me in then.”

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Joan Weymouth In St. Saviour’s Church, Valley End.

In his sermon for the 100th anniversary of St Saviour’s in 1967 the Rev. Roney Ackworth mentioned the Vass family, and Reg Millard, of that family, who had just read the second lesson.

Then Ackworth spoke of “Harry Carnell, who perhaps did more for this church than any other single person. He was treasurer for 50 years, and his daughter and son-in-law are treasurers to this day. He was a sidesman for 12 years and churchwarden for 38 years. And when he had been churchwarden his daughter carried on as the succeeding churchwarden. His great grandchildren are still in our Church School.

“So that family has meant very much to this place.”

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Sources.

With thanks to Joan Weymouth. All quotes by Joan Weymouth.

“Time will tell,” sermon by Rev. Ackworth on the 100th anniversary of St. Saviour’s Church, Valley End. In Chobham Parish Magazine, July 12th. 1967.

“ A pleasant occasion.” (The presentation to George Vass.)  In the Parish Magazine for Long Cross, Botleys and Lyne, and Valley End. September 1930.

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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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