Church History

Carol Vault Newspaper photo2017279 Vault 2 DSC_0214Saint Michaelhistoryburialvaults

St Michael's Church Postcard from the 1930s

St Michael’s Church Postcard from the 1930s

Summary Timeline:

Pre-conquest There may have been a pre-conquest church – see stone fragment in the South Transept.
1080-1150 Norman cushion capitals now in the south transept were taken from the old tower in 1851.
1200-1300 Parts of the Chancel including the early 13thC lancet windows in the north wall, also the late 13th C pillars and arcades on the north side of side of the Nave. 1
300-1400 South Chancel, including the arcade and pillars to the North Chancel. Also the arcades and pillars on the south side of the Nave.
1400-1800 Only memorials survive from this period, plus the iron gates to the vestry and the reset 15th C ceiling beams over the South Transept. The Hassell picture…. illustrates 18th C fittings removed in 1851.
1851 The central Norman Tower was demolished and the present Chancel arch formed. A new tower was constructed over the South Transept. (Top stage refaced 1963).
1882-4 A new roof structure was formed and the organ installed in its current position. The mobile console dates from 1990 1897 Tower bells augmented to present ring of eight. Rehung 1984-85

The earliest reference to a church at Betchworth is in the Domesday Book of 1086. No detail of that church is known, although a fragment of stone found when the Norman tower was dismantled in 1851 suggests that it may have been built in stone. About 1089 the Manor of East Betchworth and the advowson of the church (the right to appoint vicars) were granted to William de Warrenne, probably as part of the endowment made at the creation of the Earldom of Surrey. The advowson could be of considerable value, so when in 1199 Earl Hamelin de Warren gave it to the Priory of St Mary Overie (now Southwark Cathedral) the act was considered one of piety.

The advowson remained with St Mary Overie until Henry VIII confiscated it at the Reformation. During the reign of Edward VI much of the confiscated property, which remained in the hands of the Crown was used to endow grammar schools, almshouses and other worthy institutions. The Advowson of Betchworth was one of a number given to the Dean and Chapter of Windsor, Guardians and Trustees of the Order of the Garter, and the patronage remains with them to this day.

The plan referred to earlier illustrates the main building phases of the present building, much of which dates from the 12th century. There were two major alterations in the 19th century: the first, in 1851, involved the demolition of the old crossing tower, and the erection of the present one; the second, in 1879, involved the construction of the North Transept which houses the Goulburn Chapel.

St. Michael’s is unusually large for rural parts of the Weald. This may be due to the inclusion within the mediaeval parish of two substantial villages, Brockham and Betchworth. The daughter parish of Brockham was created in 1847. It had always been the earnest wish of Henry Goulburn, son of the Henry who bought the Manor of Betchworth in 1816, that there should be a church at Brockham. The younger Henry predeceased his father in 1845 and Christ Church was erected by his father and friends as a permanent memorial to him.

Betchworth church is dedicated to St. Michael. Owing to the passage in Revelation XII where the dragon Satan is defeated and cast out of heaven by St. Michael, he is traditionally honoured as captain of the heavenly host and as protector of Christians. St. Michael is also patron saint of soldiers and is regarded as one of the receivers of the souls of the dead.

The West End of the Nave

The tour of the church starts at the west door. From this point the figure of St. Michael fighting the dragon Satan may be seen high up above the Chancel arch. This dates from 1851 when the present Chancel arch replaced the old crossing tower. In 1897 St. Michael was joined by the stained glass figure of “All Angels” set into the windows of the aisles.

Insert St Michaels Hassell picture (JPEG to follow) St Michaels Betchworth: Watercolour by Edward Hassell, 1829

The drawing is based upon a painting by Edward Hassell. In 1829, when the picture was painted, Hassell would have been standing underneath a gallery which occupied the west end of the Nave. The shadow of another balcony may be seen in the arch to the right of the picture. The erection of Brockham Church resulted in less space being needed at St. Michael’s and as part of the 1851 alterations the balconies were removed.

The present west window in the decorated style dates from 1851. The Royal Coat of Arms was incorporated into the central light of the window to take the place of the Arms shown in the Hassell painting. After the Reformation a law was passed that the Royal Arms be displayed in churches as a reminder that the monarch is head of the Church of England. The Arms in the right and left-hand lights are respectively those of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Winchester in 1851. The Arms occur because at the time Betchworth was in the Province of Canterbury and the Diocese of Winchester. Archbishop Sumner and Bishop C.R. Sumner were brothers, which is why the right-hand side of the Arms are the same.

The Fenwick Memorial to the north of the west door describes the terms of the Fenwick Bequest to the charities of Betchworth. Margaret Fenwick was the daughter of the Sir Adam Browne of Betchworth Castle and the last of nine generations of Brownes to own the castle and Manor of West Betchworth. (This Manor was mostly in the parish of Dorking, the parkland of the ruined castle now forms Betchworth Park Golf Course). The Fenwick bequests are still administered by the Trustees of Betchworth United Charities. The last time the award was given for “a maid servant as shall respectably live seven years in any one service” was in 1939.

The Goulburn Chapel in the North Transept

The Goulburn Chapel was built in 1879 as a memorial to Frederick Goulburn (1818-1875), son of the Rt Hon. Henry Goulburn who acquired the Manor in 1816. The present Lord of the Manor is Lord Hamilton of Dalzell, a direct descendant of Henry. The altar in the Chapel and the panelling were previously in the South Chancel. They were the gift of the Mott family of Morden Grange, Betchworth.

The Chancel


The north windows are Norman, the oldest in the Church, although the glass is Victorian. The east window dates from 1851: it replaced the perpendicular window shown in the Hassell painting. The three lights represent Christ washing the disciples’ fee, The Ascension, and the Last Supper.

The Choir Stalls were carved by Julia Corbett, wife of James Corbett of More Place. The Corbett family served the church in Betchworth for nearly one hundred years. James Corbett (1829-1912) was Churchwarden for fifty years. Mrs. Corbett not only carved the choir stalls but also cared for the Chancel and Sanctuary until her death. Their home at More Place was the centre of much village life, including the More Place cricket club. In memory of Mrs. Corbett the family gave the reredos and the sedilla. Their daughter, Grace, who survived them until 1949, continued her mother’s work.

Three memorial tablets on the North Wall are in memory of the Lords of the Manor of East Betchworth – the Harveys, the Bouveries and the Goulburns. The fine brass of a small figure holding a chalice represents Thomas Wardysworth, Vicar of Betchworth who died in 1533. The iron gates which close the doorway into the Vestry probably date from the 16th century.

The South Chancel

The South Chancel was traditionally associated with the Manor of Brockham, which was until 1846 within the parish of Betchworth. It also houses memorials to the Lords of the sub-manors of Wonham and Egland (More Place). All three sub-manors were subservient to the Manor of East Betchworth.

The Organ

The first pipe organ by Henry Bevington & Sons of Soho, London arrived at Betchworth church in 1880. This was rebuilt and extended by Norman & Beard in 1912.  It occupied a buried position at the eastern end of the Lady Chapel.  In 2004 following professional advice on the failing organ from the organ consultant, Ian Bell, the Parochial Church Council concluded that it should raise the necessary funds both to commission a new mechanical action pipe organ (which had been identified as the optimal solution) and also to create a much needed multi-purpose room in the space vacated by the old organ.

The new organ by Kenneth Tickell & Co Ltd of Northampton was completed in February 2014 – the partially finished organ was first used for the Christmas Services in 2013.  The organ was dedicated by the Bishop of Southwark on 4 May 2014 and the Inaugural Recital was given by the International Concert Organist, Thomas Trotter, on 31 May 2014.  The Second Anniversary Recital will be given by the International Concert Organist, Margaret Phillips on 21 May 2016 at 4.00 pm.

The organ consists of 2 manuals and pedalboard and comprises 26 stops.  It has 1,602 pipes from 16 feet (5m) in length to just a few inches.  It has tracker key actions, slider soundboards and electric stop and combination actions.  The case is of light European oak with oak pipe shades and the speaking pipes on the front case are of polished tin.

The Large Oak Chest

The large oak chest is hewn from a single piece of oak: its age is not known, but the tree may have been alive at the time of Christ. Up until the 20th century the parish records were stored in the chest. It has three locks, one key being held by the Vicar, and one by each of the Churchwardens: all three had to be present for the chest to be opened.

The Brass Memorial

The brass memorial situated near the most easterly window commemorates the parents of Thomas Morsted with an inscription which in translation reads: “Here lies Thomas Morsted and Alyanora his wife, may their souls be brought near to God, Amen”.

The younger Thomas was surgeon to Henry IV and Henry V and was present at the Battle of Agincourt. He died in 1451. his parents lived at More Place and he bequeathed money to “the Church of Bechesworth for the reparation and amendment of the Chapel in the said Church in which my fader and moder ben buried”.

The Marble Slab

The marble slab with a coat of arms flanked by skulls on a pediment supported by black marble pillars is the memorial of Gabriel Wight of Brockham who died in 1621. The Wights were Lords of the Manor of Brockham from 1605 to 1834, although few of them seem to have lived in the village. Gabriel’s father, Thomas, bought the estate in 1605 having made his fortune as a draper in London. The translation of the Latin inscription reads: “Beneath this marble in the hope of resurrection lies buried Caabriel Wight of Brockham, Esquire, who took to wife Miriam, daughter of the citizen Abraham Campion a truly minded man of ancient lineage. To them were born two sons and two daughters of whom one died and the other survived. Died 20 December A.D. 1621.

windows   St Michaels Betchworth – Windows

South Transept

The South Transept was built in 1851, and occupies the lowest stage of the tower built to replace that demolished from the crossing. To the right of the window is a fragment of carved stone found during the 1851 alterations. It is thought to have come from the pre-Norman church recorded in The Doomsday Book. The cushion capitals supporting the arch to the South Aisle also came from the Norman tower when it was dismantled, as did the heavily moulded ceiling beams.

Above the oak cupboards, installed in 1997, two tablets record work to the right bells housed in the tower. On the east wall is a copy of the map of the Manor of East Betchworth made for Sir Ralph Freeman in 1634 soon after he bought the manor.

The hatchments high on the walls are those of the Stable Family of Moore Place whose memorials are in the Nave and South Transept. A pamphlet about the hatchments is on sale.

The banner is that of General Sir Charles Richardson G.C.B., C.B.E., D.S.O. (1908-94) granted when he was made Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath (G.C.B.). Details are to be found on the wall below the banner

The East End of the Nave

The pulpit was the gift of Joseph Maynard of Hartsfield in 1885. It replaced a wooden hexagonal pulpit, which in turn had replaced a three-decker pulpit shown in the Hassell painting. It is described by Pevsner (Buildings of England; Surrey) as: “lush 1885. Five kinds of marble inlaid mosaic panels of Faith, Hope and Love. This sort of furniture is undervalued. It is as full of life and as robust as a Jacobean pulpit and in fact must reflect a similar standard of value”.

On the north side pillar is a memorial to the Rev. G. R. Kensit, Vicar of Betchworth from 1834 to his death in 1879, when he died in office. He was a remarkable man whose ministry saw the immense alterations to the church. He died in the Old Vicarage in Church Street and his successor, Canon C. E. Sanders, a year after taking office, went to the new Vicarage in the Old Reigate Road. As the incumbent now served both Buckland and Betchworth, the post is styled Rector, and a new Rectory was build on Old Reigate Road in 1995.

On the south side wall is a marble memorial to Sir Benjamin Brodie who lived at Broome Park. He was surgeon to both William IV and Queen Victoria and a doctor on international repute. His grave and those of his family are in the graveyard.

Two brasses towards the Chancel steps are amongst the earliest in the church. They mark the burial place of Richard Powlsden (1613) and his wife Amy Powlsden (1614). Although they died in Charlwood they lived at what is now called Strood Green Farm, designated “Newlands” on the 1634 map.

Further to the west is a brass tablet marking the burial of three members of the Stables family whose hatchments are in the South Transept. John Stables and his wife Dorothy lived first at Wonham Manor and then at More Place. Their eldest son and fourth child, John Edward, died at the age of fifteen. Their remaining seven children are memorialised in a brass in the floor of the South Transept. An account of the family will be found in the pamphlet about the hatchments on sale in the church.

To the east of the crossing aisle is the memorial stone of Thomas Arnold and members of his family. Generations of the Arnold family lived in various parts of Betchworth and Brockham during the 17th and 18th centuries including Rice Bridge, Snower Hill, Fryleigh and Kemp’s Farm. They were graziers and butchers. The Ladds (Thomas Arnold’s wife’s family) were tanners.

South Aisle


The font is the work of the distinguished sculptor Eric Kennington and was dedicated in 1951. It was given by Mrs. Cunning of Broome Park in memory of her husband, Dr. Joseph Cunning and their only son, Pilot Officer James Erskine Cunning, who was killed in action in 1941.

Consecration crosses were scribed or painted on churches at the time of their consecration. A lightly scribed cross may be seen on the westernmost column of the south aisle: this was probably carved in the 14th century when the aisle was added.

Family History

We are willing to publish links to family history for the interest of genealogists.   The first of these concerns the family names of Jaffray, Woodriff and Moir.

Jaffrays Woodriffs & Moir