Extracts from 'A Guide for our Visitors' by H.R.H. White (1983)
CHIDDINGFOLD is a small and beautiful village centred around the Green, Pond, Church and Crown Inn, but the parish of under 3,000 people and 1,000 dwellings extends over 10 square miles being in area one of the largest hereabouts and one with a distinct place in our long national history which goes back to Roman and earlier times.
Traces of Celtic occupation have been found in Golden Horde Field on the county boundary east of Cripplecrutch Hill. In Riddings Field, at Whitebeach, is the site of one of the first Roman villas to be discovered in the Weald. Excavations have disclosed the foundations of a number of buildings and yielded pottery, glassware, trinkets, bronze ornaments and coins which indicate that this may have been a Romano-British farming settlement.
The name of Chiddingfold is derived from the Saxon, probably meaning the fold 'in the hollow'. It may therefore be presumed that some very primitive form of village existed here before the Norman Conquest.
In medieval days Chiddingfold became notable for a short period (1350-1400) for its glass making. Authentic records date this industry from as early as 1226, and it continued until the early 17th century when, it is said but not authenticated, eleven glass furnaces in the area were suppressed during the reign of Elizabeth 1 on the petition of the inhabitants that they were causing a nuisance.
This action was due largely to the unpopularity of the foreigners (French, Flemings, Germans from Lorraine) who owned these furnaces. A Royal Proclamation of 1615 prohibited the use of wood fuel for industrial purposes. The departure of glassmaking from this area can be attributed mainly to the higher profits which could be derived from smelting glass with coal, and from another traditional Wealden industry, iron-founding.
Robert Quennell became a notable ironmaster at Chiddingfold. His son, Peter, supplied 'gunns and shott' for Charles I on credit. When the Parliamentarians destroyed the forge at Imbhams this family was ruined and had to leave their ancestral home at Lythe Hill, now a hotel. Ponds still remain at Shillinglee and Imbhams which supplied water power to operate the bellows for the various furnaces used for iron-founding. Much local timber was also felled to feed the fires. The site of a further furnace under the road bridge at Frillinghurst, West End Lane was revealed during bridge repairs in 1983, and soon after a pen pond in Frillinghurst Wood which probably supplied it with water.
Evidence of the prosperity of Chiddingfold in medieval times when it was supplying glass for St. George's, Windsor, St. Stephen's, Westminster, and other places (1352-6) is shown by its grant of a charter for a weekly market and an annual 3 days fair which it received early in the fourteenth century.
Various residences retain characteristics of Tudor and earlier dating; many have been here since Georgian times. They are mainly of mellowed brickwork with some half-timbering and typical Wealden tile-hung elevations, high pitched gables and handsome brick chimney stacks. The Manor House is Georgian and earlier. Old Pickhurst is mainly Tudor. Fairfield dates from the seventeenth century with Georgian additions and Glebe House is notable for its fine architectural design.
The Crown Inn is a very picturesque building which claims to have been established in 1285. The earliest recorded reference is in the late fourteenth century when it was fully described in a title deed, a copy of which is displayed in the present lounge. Particularly notable is the splendid king-post roof of extremely ancient construction.
This celebrated inn is the oldest licensed house in Surrey and one of the oldest in England. In 1542 it was referred to as 'le Crowne'. Ten years later a most spectacular scene could have been witnessed when Edward VI, attended by high officials of state, courtiers, peers and some 4,000 men-at-arms, stayed here on his way to Shillinglee, whilst his great retinue encamped all over the green, which must have been very much larger than it is today.
Other hostelries of medieval days were the Thorne Tree and the Swan. The name of the former was changed to the Blackbird and the Bush, and later to the Bush Inn. When the original Swan was pulled down and re-built an early sixteen hundred date was found carved upon one of its massive beams.
The smithy on the village green stands on the site of the original market house and near it were the village cross and stocks. Until 1914, the blacksmith's forge stood on the site of the present 'Old Forge Cottage' and there are definite records of a forge having existed on site 600 years ago. The blacksmith who occupied it at that time was named Robert Durling. This ancient forge was worked by the Bartletts, father and son for close on 200 years in unbroken line of succession, and the late Mr. James Bartlett shoed a horse as recently as 1952. The smithy on the village green is still worked .
Throughout the parish may be seen copses of sweet-chestnut and ash trees which are specially grown for the making of walking sticks and umbrella handles - a rural industry which is almost entirely confined to this part of Surrey. The Stick Factory is just south of Witley BR/SR Station .
The village green is used for community events and particularly the annual Bonfire, torchlight procession and fireworks held on the Saturday nearest to 5th of November.
The Parish Church, listed in 1960 as a building of Special Architectural and Historical interest, dedicated to St. Mary, is well situated in the village centre on the main highway, alongside the green and pond (in which there are water lilies and golden carp), and opposite the Crown Inn (1285). There is some evidence in local place names that Christian worship, possibly the saying of Mass by a priest sent out from the mother church (matrix ecciesia) at Godalming, took place at four 'outliers' in the parish besides the parish church - to the south at Rodgate by Cripplecrutch (close coupled cross), to the west at Prestwick (Priest's Place) by Cross in field, to the east at Dyers Cross, and to the north at Prestwick Manor Farm 'Church Field' near Stonehurst.
The Church of Godalming, with all its appurtenances which included the chapelry of Chiddingfold, originally belonged to the Crown, but by Charter of Henry I about 1115 it was granted to Sarum (Salisbury) with its chapelry of Piperham now the Parish Church of Haslemere which gained independence from the Mother Church of Chiddingfold finally in 1868. The patronage connection of Chiddingfold with Salisbury continued until 1846 when it was made over to the Bishop of Winchester, passing in 1852 to the Bishop of Lichfield who never exercised his right. In 1873 Chiddingfold was one of several benefices exchanged between Lichfield and the Crown; the parish remains in Crown patronage, exercised through the Lord Chancellor, in the Diocese of Guildford (1922).
There have been a number of noteworthy Rectors of Chiddingfold, from 1150, details of whom are recorded, with the complete record of names displayed on the pillar just inside the main entrance.
THE PORCH through which you enter dates from the early 14th century, when the church was enlarged, and rebuilt in the extensive restorations of 1869/70. You may have noticed the wall stoup or stone basin for holy water (14th century), the two oak bench seats (17th century), the bequest board (Callingham) one of 6 charities administered and the Areas Map showing the division of the parish under Area leaders for pastoral care today. The early English doorway (13th century) was re-erected here when the south aisle was widen-ed (15th century).
THE NAVE - First impressions of the interior are the loftiness of its arches and the slender grace of the piers. The building was enlarged in the 13th century in the Early English style and consisted of a chancel, nave, aisles and a western tower. To the north of the Chancel a Chantry Chapel was added soon afterwards. The south aisle was enlarged four feet to the south in the 15th century and the roof raised. The 13th century mouldings of the arches were re-used.
Before going further turn to the SOUTH AISLE - where the main items of interest are a 14th century Piscina, 18th century memorials to the Enticknap family of Pockford, the Font (1867) and its unusual pyramidical counterweight balanced cover, and the Glassmakers' lancet window (12th century but moved in the 15th century).
The Picina was restored in the re-ordering of the aisle in 1983 when the insect damaged Victorian pews and dado were removed. In 1888 part of an old tile (13th century) was found embedded in the plaster of the of the west wall of this aisle, but in 1983 a whole tile was found, identified as 1300-1350 being from a tiled floor of the church replaced by flagstones in the 15th century which in turn gave way to memorial slabs and then the 1870 Minton tiles you see.
The family vault of the Enticknaps was revealed in 1983 showing a single span arched brick roof and a chamber of exceptional proportions. It was investigated, and a 1983 'time capsule' was left before paving over as you see it.
427 fragments of original Chiddingfold glass (13th to 16th century) of which 224 are coloured, used as found, have been leaded to form the lancet window you see to the right of the Font. There is a plaque describing it on the west wall below the window. The Jubilee Window of Queen Victoria to the left is of Whitefriars glass.
Continuing along the west wall of the Nave note the memorial to Sir William Bragg, O.M., K.B.E. who invented a prototype of the iron lung; and see the two hatchments of the Lord Winterton family of Shillinglee above the arch now filled in to enclose the area below the Tower as the Choir Vestry.
The west end once had a singers and musicians gallery, removed in 1860 with the Winterton gallery pew which was where the organ now stands and can be seen in 19th century drawings; together with a 17th century elaborately carved oak pulpit and reading desk, the high sided pews which replaced 14/15th century primitive narrow benches, examples of which are in the Chapel including a child's oak bench, but all have been considerably repaired over the ages.
CHANCEL and SANCTUARY
The many points of interest include the Priest's door in the south wall (13th century) which can be seen outside, the five 13th century lancet windows also in the south wall, two Piscinas in the Sanctuary, the War Memorial riddle posts and panelling, the fine example of modern craftsmanship in English oak in the refectory style Altar Table, the Sanctuary Lamp perpetually lit as a memorial to the departed of the village, and the Chandeliers.
The king post roof is unusual in that it is made of chestnut not of oak. It was formerly carried out over the Chantry Chapel which now has a roof of its own.
The westernmost of the varying height lancet windows is extended down - a 'low side' window - the lower part being originally closed with a shutter. The glass is Whitefriars by Powell; the East window by Warrington.
Of the two Piscinas, where sacred vessels were cleansed after the celebration of Holy Communion (Order of Pope Leo IX, 1054) the nearer trefoil headed one is the earlier (13th century), the other being inserted around 1300 of more ornate design and containing a drain. An order of the Pope after 1250 necessitated the use of two Piscinas to separate washing and the sacred elements, but shortly after 1300 another Papal Bull ordered the a priest to consume so there was a return to one Piscina use. The earlier Piscina was converted to an Aumbry or cupboard; the ancient shelf remains in good condition.
The Sanctuary Lamp from Palestine is some 200 years old.
The two Chandeliers (given in 1878) come from a demolished City of London church and are older than the larger one in the centre aisle of the Nave (John Fielder of Killinghurst 1786, who is buried in the centre aisle). The Chandeliers are hand-crafted with each piece numbered and not interchangeable.
THE CHAPEL - Resiting of the organ, and its re-building - 1968, together with a new Rector's Vestry at the west end - 1973 cleared the area for restoration as a memorial Chantry Chapel. It had been considerably restored in 1869; the flagstones were originally in the body of the church.
The embroiderers' art in the Mothers' Union banner and the kneelers throughout the church, designed and made by ladies of the village, should be noted.
In the two small windows opposite the organ console is the only glass of any antiquity other than the Glassmakers' window. It consists of four panels of Dutch Glass (15th century) telling the story of Tobias and the Angel, the figures dressed in contemporary costume of the time. There are also two framed panels by George Tinsworth of Doulton & Co. Ltd. and represent Elijah at the Gate of Zarephath and Our Lord being handed over for the Crucifixion. The colouring is not the work of Tinsworth.
FURNITURE, PLATE and VESTMENTS - The Church has a fine early 17th century Sussex oak carved chair, used by the Bishop when he visits and given by Archbishop Laud, in addition to two walnut chairs of Charles II and James II eras. With the ancient (1661, 1747) and more modern plate these are not on open display but are brought to the church for special use and display at exhibitions.
The sets of vestments in liturgical colours, and copes, hand-worked Victorian and beautiful modern designs, some made and embroidered in the village can be viewed when the Rector's Vestry is open.
PARISH RECORDS - of our people and events over the ages, kept in the Muniment Room, Guildford Museum in Quarry St [now at the Surrey History Centre, Woking] are open to public inspection. Ancient records of Baptisms, Marriages and Burials date from 1562, and those of Churchwardens, Overseers and Surveyors of the Highway from 1553. With them are bound volumes of the monthly Parish Magazines first introduced in 1885. Together they monthly a fascinating insight into changes in village life, joys and tragedies, national and local events, but above all its people and their family homes. We continue to write our history in the Parish Magazine (forty pages).
THE BELLS AND TOWER - The lower stonework of the Tower is almost certainly 15th century, but in the main is middle 16th century. In 1869 a ringer's chamber was constructed and the Tower raised by 14ft.
It has a tiled roof, 'cockerel' weather vane and flagstaff (1900). Careful restoration of the stonework took place in 1980/1. The chiming and striking clock, with two outside faces, was made in Brighton, installed in 1894 and restored in 1904 and 1921.
One of the bells was cast in the 15th century and there were three other bells also hanging in the 'staple' in 1552 which may have been even older. Until 1869 the peal consisted of five bells, the oldest of which was the pre-reformation bell still in the Tower though this bell is now used only as a minute bell. It was cast about 1480-1490 by Roger Landam (den or don) of Wokingham and is 30 inches in diameter and weighs about 6 cwts. The unusual inscription on this bell is 'Sancta Trinitas Ora Pro Nobis' (Holy Trinity pray for us) which is very odd as the Holy Trinity, being God, can have no superior to whom an appeal could be addressed!
Other bells date from 1622, 1656, 1665, 1699. In 1869 the five old bells were rehung and a treble added, with two other trebles being added in 1894. In 1936 seven bells were recast and rehung in a metal framework and a new one was made to replace the pre-reformation bell taken out of the peal. Our bells are rung every week by an enthusiastic band of ringers who also ring our set of 13 handbells. The Tower has many visiting bands of ringers. Access to the Tower can be gained accompanied by the Tower Keeper.
THE CHURCHYARD - As you re-trace your steps towards the Lych Gate, or view the Church and Tower from the west where there are several tombstones of interest, notice the several arched brick graves (18th century) constructed of wedge shaped bricks. There is an earlier example, which is not east-west, between the lych-gate and the village war memorial behind which, on the east wall of the church, there is an interesting tablet recording the overnight resting place of the body of Bishop Samuel Wilberforce, July 1873, on his last journey to Lavington. But observe on your way, beside the pathway, the Priest's Door, previously referred to; and near the main door two low segmented arched stone recesses in the outer face of the south wall of the church, the significance of which is uncertain.
In bringing piped water into the church for the first time in 1973, below the green in front of the church wall the builders found part of the old southbound way some feet below the level of the present Petworth Road, and some ancient bones, which made us consider whether the churchyard had at one time extended beyond its present limits or if they were but a reminder of harsher and more uncharitable times; the pathetic relics of those long forgotten who had committed suicide and been denied the right of burial in consecrated ground.
The Church on this site has served the community of Chiddingfold for some 800 years, and parts of the present building have witnessed many historical events in the fortunes of Church, State and the Village. You will have seen examples of ancient art and industry venerated for its age and associations; but the living, witnessing and worshipping Church to the Glory of God is its past and present generations of people. Our heritage and contemporary additions serve our Church of England First School (Aided status) and an active Christian community of all ages. The faith will continue to be kept by clergy and laity, ministering together, and many more chapters will be written to add to this record as the years pass.
We thank our visitors for coming, and hope that you have felt the atmosphere of this living Church and go refreshed and a little more rested. We hope that this short history and guide of the Church within the village it serves has added to your pleasure.