The History of the Building

A Brief History

It is likely that people have worshipped on this site since the seventh century. Originally a wooden church would have stood where the Nave now stands. The stone and flint church mentioned in the Domesday Book comprised the Nave of the church you see today with its two Saxon windows visible high on the north side. South and North Aisles were built in the twelfth century and the stone tower was started then. The large Chancel was built in 1341 and a South Porch in 1380 with a priest’s room above it. The Slyfield Chapel was built in the mid fifteenth century and then joined to the South Porch. The North Aisle was rebuilt with three arcades in 1844 and the church reordered with the Sacristy and Sexton’s shed added in 1885. The small South Porch was added in 1913, the Choir Vestry in 1923 and the Church Room in 1979 forming the structure you see today. Much internal reordering has taken place and continues to meet changing ways in which the building is used1, 2.

St Nicolas church painted by Petrie, around 1805

There are many fine stained glass windows and memorials in the church and it has associations with a number of famous people1, 3. Reviewing the list of incumbents we see such names as Samuel L’Isle (afterwards Bishop of St Asaph and briefly of Norwich), Samuel Cooke and Gerrard Andrewes DD also Dean of Canterbury. Samuel Cooke, who married Cassandra Leigh, was godfather to Jane Austen. Jane stayed with them in Bookham on a number of occasions and set several of her books based on places such as Bookham, Box Hill, Dorking and West Humble. Cassandra Cooke took great pleasure in the presence in the village of Fanny Burney who lived nearby

The Chancel has a fine dedication tablet on the east wall south of the altar; it is one of the best examples of C14 lettering on stone in England. The Slyfields have a number of brasses dating from 1433 in the church. The Shiers, later owners of Slyfield House, are commemorated by both memorials and brasses. A number of owners of Polesden are buried in the church and churchyard including Col. Thomas Moore and his nephew William, Admiral Geary and Ronald Greville – husband of Margaret Greville. The descendants of Sir Charles Howard, Baron of Effingham, who commanded the English Fleet against the Spanish Armada, are well represented with memorials and a stained glass window. The east window of the Chancel contains six panels of fine C15 Flemish glass, installed in 1954 to replace the window damaged in World War II. An unusual willow tree memorial in the Chancel commemorates the Andrewes/Heberden family. William Heberden was Vicar then Rector for many years; his father was physician to King George III.

St Nicolas church painted by Poole

References

1.    St Nicolas Church, Great Bookham, Illustrated Guide

2.    A History of At Nicolas Church, Great Bookham by William Whitman

3.    1800 Great Bookham at the Time of Jane Austen, Fanny Burney and R. B. Sheridan

Our grateful thanks to John Adie & Bill Whitman for their work in producing this history

Building Timeline

Below is a timeline of changes made to the church building over the course of its history.  We are very grateful to John Adie for compiling this information.

DATE

 

666

 

675

 

After 675

  

Between 1042 & 1080

 

1088

 

c1140

 

c1170-1190

 

1180

 

1200

 

1300 - 1400

 

1341

 

1380

 

c1440

 

 

1535

 

c1547

 

1640-1660

 

 

c1700 - 1800

 

1844

 

1846-8

 

c1850

 

1859

 

1885

 

  

 

1897

 

1901

 

1913

 

 

1921

 

1923

 

1936

 

1951

 

1954-5

 

1979

 

1983

 

1996

 

2012

 

2013

ACTION (internal work inset)

 

Chertsey Abbey founded

 

20 houses in Bookham given to Chertsey Abbey

 

Churchyard set aside at cross-roads

 Wooden church built , 2 feet higher on south side

Stone and flint church built with nave and apse; small narrow high windows

 

Church at Great Bookham recorded in Domesday Book

South wall removed, narrow south aisle, heavy arcade pillars and round (Roman) arches

Work starts on thick tower walls

North wall pierced to make transitional arches, narrow north aisle. Old windows plastered over.

Tower cracks at north east corner.

North aisle shortened - two eastern arcades filled in

 

Wooden tower and shingle covered spire built. Four bells installed

Large Chancel built by John de Rutherwycke

South porch built with room over

Slyfield Chapel built, then joined to south porch

Buttresses on tower

 

Rood-loft in Chancel arch

 

Rood-loft removed and made into pews

Arch inserted between Chancel and Slyfield Chapel

Gable built into the North Aisle

East window of the Slyfield Chapel filled in

 

Gallery in rear of Nave

North Aisle rebuilt with three arcades by Carpenter

 

Chancel arch rebuilt

 

Two bells sold

Gallery and room over South Porch removed

 

East window in Slyfield Chapel unbricked and glazed

Sexton’s shed built on north side of tower by Butterfield

Priest’s Vestry (Sacristy) built

Sanctuary and Altar steps added. Nave floor levelled,

Box pews removed. Choir stalls and Nave pews added; vault under the Chancel was filled in.

Lychgate built

 

Victorian screen at Chancel arch

Outer porch added to South Door by Johnston.

Organ in Slyfield Chapel

 

War memorial to honour Bookham men killed in WW1

Choir Vestry added

 

Organ pipes moved to North Aisle

 

Victorian screen moved from Chancel to Tower arch

 

East window in Chancel

 

Church Room built (Nye, Saunders and Partners)

 

Upper book rests on choir stalls added

 

Pastoral Centre built (John Deal Practice)

 

AV screens and new (more efficient) lighting installed

 

Pews removed from the North Aisle

West Door made main entrance with glass inner door and glass screen installed between Tower and Nave

Reason for change

 

Erkenwald, first Abbot

 

No Church

 

Probably on site of present church

 

  

In Lordship of Abbot of Chertsey

 

Churches needed aisles

 

To build a tall tower

 

Processions, stations of the cross

 

Foundations would not support  a stone tower

 

Dedication stone

 

Space for non-worship activities, including weddings

 

Chapel for Slyfield burials

Support

 

Separate laity from Mass

 

Reformation

 

Reformation

To light the pulpit

Reformation

 

For musicians

 

To provide more space

 

Narrower and pointed

 

No longer in use

 

In memory of Lord Raglan

 

Storage and access to tower

 

Change in worship style

 

 

To commemorate the 60th year of Queen Victoria’s reign

 

Marks Queen Victoria’s death

 

In memory of Jane Mary Bird

 

 

World War I & subsequent wars

 

Cleared South Chapel for worship

 

Change in worship style

 

Replace war damage

 

For junior church and meetings

 

For meetings, incl. junior church

For audio visual presentations

 

Flexible area for fellowship

Improved welcome into church

Charity number 1127867

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