Church and Community
Last Updated (Wednesday, 22 July 2009 23:22)
Our Church in the Community
St Nicolas Church is located at the centre of Great Bookham, at the bottom of the High Street, where Lower Road and Church Road cross.
The church, dating back to Saxon times, is surrounded by a two acre church yard in the centre of the village. It is a centre of worship, a location for festivals and a landmark which is loved by both those who worship there and those who know it as the centre of the village.
The eleventh century Nave occupies the probable area of the original Saxon church. The Normans extended the Nave to the south around 1140 and north around 1180 when the stonework of the Tower was built. The Chancel was built in 1341 and an area adjacent to the porch around 1380. The South Aisle and Slyfield (Lady) Chapel were built around 1440, when the stone Tower was buttressed and the timber Tower and Spire were built. The Tower door and north facing window in the Nave were created in the seventeenth century. The North Aisle, Sacristy (Vestry) and Sexton's Shed were built in the nineteenth century, the Choir Vestry in the twentieth century and the Church Room was added in 1979. A Pastoral Centre was added at the north west corner of the church yard in 1996.
The community that the church serves
The village, whose population is about 11,000 or 4620 households (census 2001), has some light industry, small offices and several dozen shops. Many residents commute to London or work within about a thirty mile radius of the village.
The church is used for regular worship on Sundays at: 8.00 a.m. holy communion; 10.00 a.m. Parish communion, but on first Sunday of the month Family Service and 11.15 a.m. Holy Communion; and 6.30 p.m. evensong every Sunday. On Wednesdays there is a Pram Service at 2.00 p.m. and Said Holy Communion on Thursdays at 10.00 a.m.. The church has an active Sunday school. The church electoral role is 298 (in April 2009). About 250 people worship each week of whom around 160 take communion.
The church is also used for baptisms, weddings, funerals, memorial services, flower and music festivals, a pageant and other celebrations. The local choral society regularly gives concerts and many other local organisations such as schools, scout troops and the British Legion hold services in church.
The church itself
St Nicolas is a grade one listed building set in a two acre church yard with a Lychgate. The stone church has a wooden tower and spire. The roof of the south aisle is Horsham stone tiles and the rest of the roofs are tiled. The framework supporting the bells and shingle-covered spire are massive oak timbers.
There are two small windows above the arches of the north arcade in the Nave which are possibly part of the original Saxon church. The Howard window, in the south wall of the Nave, was added in 1676 whilst the north facing window was added early in the nineteenth century. The east window in the Chancel contains six panels of fifteenth century glass. It was purchased in 1954 to replace a window damaged in the Second World War. The window in the north end of the South Aisle is Norman but the glass was dedicated in 1875. The east window of the Slyfield Chapel is the work of O'Conner, completed in 1859.
The Norman font (c. 1140) was moved to its current position when the pulpit, choir stalls and pews were added during the restoration carried out in 1885.
There are two bells; the larger one bears the inscription 'William Eldridge made mee 1675'. The smaller one has no inscription, but was probably cast by Robert Burford of London around 1400. Two other bells, which were cracked, were sold in the middle of the nineteenth century. The organ, built by Bishop and Son, of London, was rededicated at Bookham in 1968.
There is an early fifteenth century rood-screen at the entrance to the Slyfield chapel and a parclose screen (c 1500) separating the chapel from the choir. There are two piscinas in the Chancel and Slyfield Chapel and five brasses, the earliest is dated 1443. There are also a number of memorials, including a tree and dedication stone. A more detailed description of the church and its history is given in "St Nicolas Church, Great Bookham - Illustrated Guide" available in church or from the Parish Office.
There is a memorial by the Lychgate celebrating those who fell in the First and Second World Wars. Several Howards, including the first two Earls of Effingham, lie in the Howard Vault, to the south of the Tower.
Access to the buildings
Level access is available into the church and church rooms. However there is a step up from the Nave, North and South Aisle level into the Chancel, Slyfield Chapel or Vestry. An inspection of the Church, Church Room and Pastoral Centre, made by the Fire Service in January 2009, highlighted no fire hazards requiring special measures and found the access and egress satisfactory. There are accessible WCs in the Church Room and Pastoral Centre.