Our Modern History 1901-

 Exodus 35:35
He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as craftsmen, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple

and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers—all of them master craftsmen and designers.

 This account of the history of our church acknowledges and has drawn heavily upon information provided in the following:-
  Wonersh History Society
  History of the Church by Revd A L Brown.
Parishes: Wonersh - British History OnlineVictoria County History 1911.

1900-01 Restoration

Proverbs 22:28  Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set. 

The church restoration project, probably started in the time of Revd Sherrin, came to fruition under Revd Cunningham. The “principal householders” in Wonersh formed a general committee, including Messrs Furnivall, Cowley Lambert, H W Prescott, Sir William Roberts-Austin, Frank Sparkes and Mrs Sudbury. The cost was expected to be about £3000. 


 Concept drawing by the Architect 1900

The plan from a well known Victorian architect (Sir Arthur Blomfield) was to demolish the church and replace it with an imitation Gothic building. Fortunately when it was determined to refit the church a scheme for careful restoration submitted by Charles Nicholson (1867-1949), later to be Knighted, was accepted. He was at the beginning of his career as an architect and was living at Poynetts on the north border of Blackheath. We are indebted to his vision and good taste. Messrs Nicholson and Corlette were appointed as architects and Messrs E & J H Holden of Cranleigh as the builder. The church was closed between April-August 1901 when services were held in Lawnsmead School, and a Thanksgiving Service held on April 21st 1902. 




Church_after_1901The chancel was restored to its original length and height and was re-roofed. The north chapel was reclad in stone and the roof and windows were copied from old paintings. The floor level was kept at the raised level set in 1793, a decision that the architect considered in retrospect could have been addressed. Excavations in some parts of the church floor revealed 14th c tiles at the original level and other remnants of earlier church fabric. 

The doorway in the tower north wall was closed off and the porch removed which had partially obscured the lancet window. Unearthed in the chancel were a number of pieces of worked stone from the head of a 15th century door which were clearly the head of the old doorway into the north chapel. These ancient pieces were preserved and set (rather low) in the inner north wall of the tower. The new north chapel door designed along the lines of the original door and bearing the date 1902 was cut in the original position of the priest’s door. 

 At the eastern end of the chapel the altar is built above the old sacristry which had been filled in when the north chapel  was built and was now cleared and opened out. A concrete wall was built above the original western wall and arches constructed to support the 18th C altar from the chancel which was incorporated in the design. A pavement of 14th C encaustic tiles was re-laid as the altar step, these found in the nave at the original floor level. Excavations outside the east wall did not find any trace of the other half of the sacristry. Some fragments of old mouldings and bosses representing a monkey and a grotesque face were built into the new external battlements of the chapel. 

Considerable structural repairs were undertaken, especially to the tower, and the entire church was re-seated and arranged in accordance with contemporary ideas of worship. The ceiling in the nave and chancel was removed. The lath & plaster partitions were also removed between the tower and nave and north chapel, and the chancel and two side chapels. Discovered in these walls were two 15th century oak screens. It was only possible to reconstruct one screen from the remains; this was placed as a parclose screen in the north arch, moved in 1988 to the south arch. Of the old 18th C fittings, the old gallery front now forms the deal panelling of dado rail on the north side of the nave and the front of the old pews which flanked the central alley form the dados on the south and west walls. The oak Grantley pew provided the partition in the south chapel (vestry). The balustrade from the old pulpit was used in the staircase leading to the belfry. The old arms and hatchments of the Grantley family were hung in the nave. 

Fragments of the ancient Norman font bowl and part of the stem were dug up in 1901, the missing portions made good and the font placed in its present position. 

All windows retained the clear glass of the previous Regency restoration, with the exception of the nave north window which was the first stained glass in the church for over a hundred years. 

It should be noted that in order for the restoration to proceed, the 5th Lord Grantley gave up ownership of the south chapel, and gave permission for reburial of the family remains, and repositioning of the large tombs. Special permission was gained for burial in the closed churchyard at Wonersh and the removal outside of one of the large tombs (near the NW wall). 

1901 to 1981

The Incumbents of this Parish during this period are recorded as being-:
1898-1906 Philip Cunningham,MA
1906-47 Algernon Leslie Brown,MA
1947-53 Robert Saville Brown,MA
1953-80  Hugh G B Anthony,MA

Church 1911

Improvement continued after the restoration. Stained glass windows were installed, five of which are by Archibald Nicholson, brother of the restoration architect. The east window of the Lady Chapel was the first, installed in 1902, and the large east window in 1915. The last window was installed in 1938. The choir stalls were given in 1906 and “the motif of their design was to illustrate the Psalter”. There are two clergy stalls which originally had carvings which subsequently were moved onto the rood screen in 1930. 

The organ was built in 1885 by TC Lewis for John Courage, a member of the brewery family. It was almost certainly initially installed in the great hall at Snowdenham, the Courage family house in Bramley, and was presented to Wonersh church soon after the restoration in 1901. 

The pulpit was beautifully carved in walnut panels by Dr C Ede of Bramley. 

At this time in 1900 the new Parish Cemetery was opened between Wonersh and Blackheath.

In 1902 Lord Ashcombe returned the great tithes to Wonersh & Shamley Green and handed over patronage of Wonersh to Selwyn College, thereby ending the period of impropriation that had lasted for some 350 years. 

Church before 1996

A small porch was added on the west wall of the nave in 1913. 

The cover of the font, which was given in 1915, contains under a canopy a reduced copy of the statue of the Madonna & Child in Bruges, attributed to Michelangelo. 



The Roll of Honour on the north wall was added to commemorate those who lost their lives in the First World War 1914-18. It includes the names of those who are also remembered at St Martin's Blackheath. 

The church was first lit by electricity in 1927. 

The copies of religious paintings hung in the nave and Lady Chapel were given in 1927. 

For most of our history the Parish has been in the See of the ancient Diocese of Winchester. From 1927 it became part of the newly formed Diocese of Guildford. 

A scheme was launched in 1928 uniting Blackheath with Chilworth, comprising portions of the parishes of Wonersh, Shalford and St Martha’s, into a separate Church District. After a trial period it was decided to continue the scheme and aim to make the District into a Parish. An Endowment Fund was set up with a view to raising the £300pa income to enable the parish to be formed. The fund was completed in 1937 and the new Parish of Blackheath and Chilworth consecrated by the Bishop of Guildford on 25thSeptember 1937. 

In 1930 the Rood Screen between the nave and chancel was given, this being contemplated as part of the original re-ordering by Charles Nicholson, the 1901 restoration architect. 

In 1934 Wonersh House was demolished, and afterwards the grounds adjacent to the church gifted in Trust to the Village, to be known as Church Green Trust. The brick walls of the estate, on the boundary with the church, were retained and have listed status. 

A marble figure of the Madonna as the “Second Eve” treading on the serpent in the niche of the Lady Chapel, said to be Italian 18th C, was given in 1948.

 The Roll of Honour on the south wall was added to commemorate those from Wonersh and Blackheath who lost their lives in the Second World War 1939-45. 

In 1958 the old six bells were taken out and recast and together with two new bells were re-hung as a peal of eight.  

The present clock was presented to the church as a memorial in 1966; there is evidence of an earlier clock and it was referred to in 1803 in Manning & Bray, but no details are known. 

1981 to Date

The Incumbents of this Parish during this period are recorded as being-:
1981-90 Tom Farrell,BD
1990-95 Malcolm K Williams,MB,BS
1996-2006 Jeffery Wattley, BScEcon, BA
2006- Ian Scott-Thompson

Periods in the history of Wonersh church had previously been marked by major building or restoration. However with the arrival of Revd Tom Farrell in 1981 there began a major revival in the fellowship and a steady increase in numbers which continues to this day. 

In 1985 a new Vicarage was built in the grounds adjacent to the church, and the old Vicarage in The Street was sold. 

By 1988 alterations to the church were necessary to make the best use of the whole church in order to ensure a proper rapport between leaders and congregation, which was considered vital for continued growth of the church, the quality of worship and the fostering of fellowship. This re-ordering was fiercely opposed by some (including the Victorian Society) and in 1989 this resulted in a Consistory Court of the Diocese being held in the church. Whilst it was found that there were some irregularities with the Faculty, all the proposals were upheld and the work went ahead. 

The re-ordering removed the 1930's rood screen which was relocated against the east wall of the chancel behind the altar. The crucifix atop the screen was repositioned high on the west wall of the nave. The altar was moved to the second step in the sanctuary, and the sides of the surrounding frame slightly opened out enabling the minister to stand behind the altar table and look directly at the congregation. 

The 16th C tomb in the Lady Chapel was relocated alongside the west wall of the tower (no remains were found in the tomb), and the floor level raised several inches to match that of the chancel. The screen between the chapel and chancel was relocated to the south, and the south screen eventually incorporated as part of the display cabinet in the new porch. 

The pulpit was realigned to face north west, enabling the preacher to see (and be seen by) those in the Lady Chapel. 

At the same time new heating and sound systems were installed. 

In 1995/6 a new porch complex was added to the west of the church. This comprises a multi-purpose meeting room and small kitchen, as well as toilet and office facilities. The meeting room was named the Selwyn Room and the new extension dedicated by the Bishop of Guildford in 1996. 

In 1998, under a pastoral re-organisation, Blackheath was rejoined with Wonersh to form the Parish of Wonersh with Blackheath, sharing the ministry team. 

A modern audio/visual system was installed in 2003, the whole church wiring and lighting renewed in 2006 and complete re-decoration in 2007/8. 



Wonersh Interior today

St John the Baptist church in 2006.

 Nave Interior