Shamley Green was originally part of the ecclesiastical parish of Wonersh, served by St John the Baptist Church since medieval times. However, when a new local burial ground was required in the mid-nineteenth century a Chapel of Ease was built on the present site of Christ Church on Plonks Hill, on land purchased from Mr H Street. Construction started with the foundation stone laid in 1863 - still visible on the exterior of the Chancel (East-end) wall - and was completed in 1864.
The requirement was to provide seating for up to 300 for which pew rents would only be charged on 100 reserved seats and 200 would be "free". Services were mainly conducted by the Assistant Curate from Wonersh. However, as the village itself grew in population in the second half of the nineteenth century it was decided to create a separate ecclesiastical parish of Shamley Green under the patronage of the Diocesan Bishop . The Reverend Edgar Bowring became the first perpetual Curate (Vicar) of Shamley Green in 1881. He has had many successors. The Reverend Sally Davies has been the Vicar at Christ Church since July 2006.
During the second half of the 19th Century there was a national resurgence of church building to meet the needs of a growing population. After the architect Pugin’s influence mid century there was a revival of Gothic style architecture and the designer appointed for this project was C Howell who was county architect of Surrey; this was his first and only church building.
Built for a cost of £1,500 from brick faced externally with locally quarried Bargate stone the quality of work is exemplary, the design is simple uncluttered yet interesting.
In 1864 the building extended just to the West of the South porch and Spire, there is ample light from the many windows and a wide chancel arch with no dividing screen allows the whole church to act as one unlike so many churches where the main body of the congregation were kept apart from the priests activities at a high altar.
The high timbered roof is also very open with no tie beams just stiffened frames arching from the lower stone corbels supporting purlins and a boarded ceiling between rafters. Not unusually for this period the church is structured in pine perhaps reflecting the shortage and cost of traditional Oak – sad in an area that had once supported such fine Oak forests. The tiled floors again are typical of the Victorian style but in the Chancel where they remain exposed the design is simple and attractive.
Many artefacts and refinements such as the organ and decorations to the East wall came after the consecration for worship in July 1864.
A full history of the church including past vicars and a description of all the memorials, artefacts etc. is available to see or purchase from the church. This was written in 2014 to mark the 150th anniversary of the consecration of the Church.
One ‘luxury’ that probably had to be built in was a form of heating; under the South entrance is still the original iron heater, which before the services had to be stoked with fuel from below the then adjacent West wall so that heated air rose from a brick duct running the length of the Nave to a chimney at the Nave/Chancel junction.
By the beginning of the Reverend Leach’s incumbency in 1890 attendances had grown so that there was a need to lengthen the Nave to provide more seating; over one Easter at this time more than 1,000 communicants were recorded.
The new extension provided a further 78 seats and the foundation stone can also still be seen dated 1897 this time in the West wall. The work was undertaken by a local builder Mitchell & Sons and cost £678.. all paid for by contributions from wealthy patrons and local parishioners the names being recorded in the Surrey History archive. The same building design is repeated the architect being one Pemberton - Leach – the same family Leach ?
By the end of the century the original burial spaces were nearly all occupied and the land (by then owned by Lord Ashcombe a descendant of the Cubitt family of building fame and owners of much local land) to the East of the old churchyard was given for burials; it was consecrated in 1900 and is still in use today.
In 1901 Lord Ashcombe gave a further quarter acre plot “to the vicar and Wardens of the church”, and at a cost of £382 the hall was built, dedicated on a memorial plaque to Eleanor Dacres (the Reredos wood carver) and Francis Leach widow of the vicar.
In 1921 the hall was enlarged by the addition of a Lobby a second classroom and Toilets all at the expense of the then vicar the Reverend C. Eagles.
Changes within the envelope
During the life of a church the needs and requirements of the congregation change, thankfully at Christ Church alterations have been made that have not changed the general architectural integrity of the building.
At the end of the 1940’s the then open South aisle was divided to create a choir vestry leaving the East end as a Lady Chapel for quiet or the opposite when the very young are now present during family services or baptisms.
Pews have been removed from the front of the Nave to allow more movement and create a focus more into the body of the church in particular allowing the use of a Nave altar, pews were also rearranged around the re positioned Font.
The South entrance has been widened to create better communication with people arriving and departing; a welcome area.
Significantly and most recently the need for community and social involvement was realised when in 2002 the Jubilee Room was opened and dedicated by the Bishop of Guildford.
The requirements were for a meeting room, an assembly area or Lobby, a separate entrance with access for the disabled, a toilet and refreshment prep facilities. The design selected was the Octagonal Room we have attached to the rather bland North side of the church and direct access to the rear of the Nave was given by extending a window downwards to form a door with little disturbance internally.
The design is modern and of its age but successfully complements the mass of our Victorian heritage in the church. The facility built as an extension to the church has made a huge difference to the active life of the church helping to meet the changing requirements of worship today and the need to be part of the community in general.