St Andrew’s History

By Pia Chamberlain

Kingswood was in existence before the Norman Conquest and is mentioned in the Domesday Book. It was granted by Henry II, together with Selwood (both as portions of the Manor of Ewell), to the Prior and canons of Merton Priory.

We know that there was a chapel in the hamlet of Kingswood well before the middle of the 15th c. because such a chapel is specifically mentioned in the deed of endowment of the Vicarage of Ewell in 1458, when it was described as ‘being of long standing’. It was then stipulated that the Vicar of Ewell should be under no obligation to celebrate mass or go to the hamlet of Kingswood, but that the Prior of Newark, who held the rectory, should provide a priest to do duty as chaplain. It was further ordained by this deed that if an inhabitant of Kingswood died and his corpse was taken to Ewell for interment the vicar should meet the funeral procession at Provost’s Cross, on the south side of Ewell. This it was alleged ‘had been a custom from ancient time’. Where this chapel stood and for how long it had been in existence is not known. No more is heard of it after the dissolution of Merton Priory in 1539. The Manor of Kingswood then reverted to the Crown and was annexed to the Honour of Hampton Court, Henry VIII’s huge hunting domain.

From then on the inhabitants of Kingswood had to walk the 5 miles to Ewell (and back!) to worship at the Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin.

This was still very much the situation when Thomas Alcock, already the owner of Kingswood Warren for several years, purchased the whole of the Kingswood manorial estate in 1835. One of the first tasks the new Lord of the Manor set himself was to provide the inhabitants of Kingswood with their own place of worship. Thanks to the generosity of the Alcock family and a number of other subscribers a small rectangular church, described as being ‘in the Norman style’, and substantially built of brick and flint with a slated roof, was erected along the Brighton Road. It was dedicated to St. Andrew and was consecrated on 14th January 1836. The new church contained 152 sittings, all of which were said to be ‘free and unappropriated for ever’.

Kingswood still remained a part of Ewell Parish as it had been for centuries, but finally, by an Order in Council dated 11th September 1838, a new ecclesiastical district, which included an adjoining section of the Parish of Banstead, was created. The new district was to be known as the Consolidated Chapelry of St. Andrew, Kingswood and had a population of 561 inhabitants.

It soon became apparent that the building put up in 1835 was too small to accommodate the number of worshippers in Kingswood and Thomas Alcock decided to build a new, larger church, this time entirely at his own expense.

In younger years Thomas Alcock had been a frequent house guest of the Vansittart family at Shottesbrooke Park, in Berkshire. During his visits there he worshipped at the 14th c. Church of St. John the Baptist, situated on the Shottesbrooke estate and he was so taken with the building that he decided to have an exact replica of it built in Kingswood. He asked the architect Benjamin Ferrey to take charge of the project.

Benjamin Ferrey (1810-1880) was eminently qualified to carry out this commission. He had been apprenticed as a draughtsman to the elder Pugin and had travelled widely with his master in England and Normandy measuring and drawing medieval buildings. He eventually became one of the best architectural draughtsman of his day. He later entered the office of William Wilkins, where he was employed on the detail drawings of the National Gallery. In 1834 he set himself up as an architect in Great Russell Street and in 1841 he was appointed hon. diocesan architect of Bath and Wells. In 1842 he superintended the restoration of the nave, transepts and Lady Chapel of Wells Cathedral. In 1843 he designed the Church of St. James in Morpeth and in 1845 he designed the Church of St. Stephen in Rochester Row, Westminster. This building in particular won him the support of the all-powerful Ecclesiologists, who were spearheading the Anglican Gothic revival movement.

Building on the new St. Andrew’s Church, on a site some 100 yards to the north of the 1836 chapel, started in 1848 and was superintended by a Mr. Sargent, using all local labour. It was finished in 1852 and cost between £8,000 and £10.000.

The spire was only added some two years later, although it is not quite clear why this was left out at the time. We know at least from the speeches made at the time of the Consecration that the reasons for the omission were not financial.

A ring of six bells, bearing the name of the masterfounders Charles and George Mears, with the date of 1852, was cast by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. Even today, these bells are acknowledged to be one of the best peals in Surrey.

The Consecration of the new church took place on 23rd September 1852. The Bishop of Winchester, Charles Richard Sumner, officiated at the ceremony, which was attended by neighbouring clergy, as well as local dignitaries and gentry. (It is worth noting that Kingswoood started off in the Diocese of Winchester, was then transferred to the Diocese of Rochester in 1877 and finally became part of the newly created Diocese of Southwark in 1905.)

A local paper of the time reported that after the service ‘a substantial dinner was served up in one of Mr. Edgington’s large and elegant tents, to which all Mr. Alcock’s tenancy, labourers and inhabitants of the district were invited. Altogether there could not have been less than 400 who partook of Mr. Alcock’s hospitality, exclusive of a large party who dined at the hon. gentleman’s residence’.

The old chapel down the road continued to be used as a day and Sunday school and as a parish room. When the Tadworth Board School was opened on the Common opposite the Old Vicarage in 1876 the old church was still used as a church hall for some time before finally falling into disrepair. The plot with what remained of the building was finally sold in 1930 and the proceeds of the sale, the sum of £105, went towards the building of a parish hall in Tadworth (which, it must be remembered, was still part of the Parish of Kingswood at the time). The ruins of the old Kingswood church were still visible as late as the 1950s and were often mistaken for the remnants of a much older building. A bungalow was finally built on the site in the 1960s.

The Exterior

st-andrews-externalThe church follows a traditional cruciform plan. It is constructed of brickwork with knapped-flint facing and sandstone dressing. It has slate roofs and the well-balanced tower is surmounted by an octagonal spire.

The clock, which was added when the spire was built, is by John Moore and Sons, of Clerkenwell, London, and bears a date of 1854. It used to be wound manually every week until 1974 when it was finally electrified.

There are simple moulded arches to the west and south doors and access to the latter is through a gabled porch.

A vestry was added to the north-cast chancel wall in 1950-51 and a parish room was built above it in 1965.

The Interior

Some aspects of the interior of St. Andrew’s may be faithfully copied from its 14th c. model, but its overall style is unashamedly Victorian, without, however, displaying any of the excesses of the genre.

The roof timbers, in particular, impressive as they are, bear little resemblance to their medieval counterpart and are akin to the design used by Ferrey for some of his other churches.

The elaborate window traceries, on the other hand, remain very much inspired by those at Shottesbrooke.

The Nave

The limestone font situated just to the left of the doorway is an almost exact copy of the font at Shottesbrooke, but the oak cover, surmounted by a figure, of the Christ Child with arms outstretched was specially created for St. Andrew’s and dedicated on All Saints Day 1934.

The circular plaque in the Italian Renaissance style on the north wall of the nave was modelled by the sculptor Nathaniel Hitch and painted by a parishioner in the 1930s. The Virgin Mary is seen holding the infant Jesus on her lap while the infant John the Baptist, carrying a cross, is turned towards Jesus. The older female figure is believed to be either Anne, the Mother of the Virgin, or Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. The man in the background could possibly be Joseph.

It is a sad reflection upon our times that for different reasons two precious artefacts can no longer be displayed at St. Andrew’s. An exquisitely painted parish chest, dating back to the 16th or 17th c., used to stand near the lectern in the crossing, but sadly it was stolen during a break-in in 1979. A magnificent silvergilt Communion cup and paten cover, bearing the London hallmarks of 1675 and engraved with the coat of arms of the Stephens family of Epsom, has been handed over to the Victoria and Albert Museum, where it can safely be displayed.

The Crossing

The oak pulpit dates from 1852 and forms part of Ferrey’s original design.

The brass lectern in the shape of an eagle with outstretched wings dates from the early part of the 20th c. Above it a brass memorial plaque is dedicated to the men of the parish killed during the Great War.

The four projecting limestone heads at the junction of the arches are again a replica of similar heads at Shottesbroooke, but Ferrey has gone much further at St. Andrew’s by adding similar heads as corbels in the chancel and on either side of the East Window.

The pipe organ, by Bevington & Son of London, originally stood in the URC Church in Redhill, where it was installed in 1901. When it became redundant in 1989 it was purchased by Kingswood PCC and re-erected in its present position.

The Chancel

st-andrews-interiorTwo memorials of particular interest, both dedicated to uncles of the founder Thomas Alcock, can be found in this part of the church.

One is to John Alcock, who died in 1814. He came to Kingswood in 1809 and initiated the purchase of the Warren estate, which was finally inherited by his nephew Thomas, the benefactor of this church.

The other memorial, on the north wall of the chancel, is dedicated to a brother of the above, Lieut. Col. Thomas Alcock, who at an advanced age was asked by his nephew to lay the first stone of St. Andrew’s in 1848 and was still there to celebrate its consecration 4 years later.

Note at the bottom of the memorial the impaled arms of Alcock and St Leger.

The Sanctuary

The reredos was designed by architects Frederick Bligh Bond, Thomas Falconer and HaroId Baker of Bristol and Amberley, Gloucestershire and was installed in the early 1920s. Three low-relief oak panels, representing from left to right the Road to Emmaus, Christ appearing to his Disciples on the evening of Easter Day and the Discovery of the Empty Tomb by Simon Peter and John, are set into an intricately carved limewood surround. There are four figures in niches: to the left of the central panel is St. George and to the right the winged figure of St. Michael. The identity of the two other figures is not clear.

The oak linenfold panelling on either side of the reredos bears the inscription: ‘In loving memory of Percival Hambro 2nd Lieut. King’s Royal Rifles fell at Equancourt near Bapaume France on March 21st 1918 aged 19.

New altar rails were installed in 1932 as part of a refurbishment of the Sanctuary and Chancel financed by Lady Bonsor in memory of Sir Henry Cosmo Bonsor. The Sanctuary floor contains various memorials to the Bonsor family.

The Stained Glass

St. Andrew’s has an interesting collection of Victorian stained glass which clearly shows the evolution of style during the 19th c.

The earliest window is the West Window, which was made by James Powell & Sons. This firm, situated on the site of the former Whitefriars monastery, between the Thames and Fleet Street, was producing mainly flint glass when it was bought in 1834 by James Powell, a London wine merchant. On his death the firm passed to his three sons Arthur, Nathaniel and James Cotton Powell, who in 1844 established a stained glass department. The latter benefited from the scientific researches of Charles Winston, a lawyer by profession, who had dedicated himself to the study of medieval stained glass. It had made him aware of the shortcomings of the glass available to artists at the time, this being often thin and garish in colour. In 1847 he encouraged experiments aimed at rediscovering the chemical components of medieval glass and persuaded the firm of James Powell & Sons to produce glass to his recipes. It was mainly due to this collaboration that the firm was to become one of the most important studios and glass manufacturers of the Victorian period.

Benjamin Ferrey is one of the early Gothic revivalist architects who appear in Powells’ archives in the 1840s. It is no doubt upon his recommendation that Thomas Alcock ordered on 27th February 1851 a ‘three-light window and tracery for the west end of church with No 1 Norbury patterned blue line in geometrical forms and stains, three-flower York border on red background’. The cost of the order was £26 12s.

The first window on the south wall of the chancel dates from the late 1850s and was executed as a private commission by Henry Hughes (a partner of Ward & Hughes). The scene on the left shows the Raising of Lazarus and on the right the Presentation in the Temple. Simeon is seen holding Jesus in his arms. The opening words of the ‘Nunc Dimittis’ appear at the bottom of the light. The window is dedicated to the memory of Lieut. Col. Thomas Alcock, the uncle of the founder, and his coat of arms appears in the quatrefoil at the top of the tracery (the same coat of arms can be seen at the bottom of the memorial to Lieut. Col. Alcock on the opposite wall).

The middle window on the south wall of the chancel is attributed to the firm of A. & W.H. O’Connor because of stylistic similarities with the East Window. It dates from c.1864-67 and represents on the left Jesus the Good Shepherd and on the right the Appearance of the Angels to the Women at the Tomb. The quatrefoil at the top contains an Agnus Dei with Banner of Victory.

Next in chronological order comes that great showpiece of mid-Victorian stained glass making, the East Window.

A major artistic influence on the stained glass of that period was the work of the Pre-Raphaelites such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Ford Madox Brown, who not only produced stained glass themselves, but inspired many of the artists working in other studios. The Pre-Raphaelite influence is particularly noticeable in the St. Andrew’s East Window in scenes such as the Crucifixion and the Deposition, which combine dramatic composition with particularly fine painting. Some of the female faces and their flowing loose hair, even Christ’s auburn locks, could all come straight out of a Millais or Rossetti painting. On the other hand the ample use of naturalistic flowers and foliage go back to the ‘millefleurs’ backgrounds of medieval tapestries, which were being re-discovered at around that time.

The palette of vibrant colours, the cobalt greens, the umbers, the violets, even the reds and blues are very typical of this high-Victorian period and would, by the 1870s, have been considered as garish.

Michael O’Connor was horn in Dublin in 1801. He came to London, where he was a pupil of Willement. From 1842-45 he worked in Bristol. He then returned to London and set up his own workshop in 1848. In 1851 he was joined by his son Arthur and in 1860 by his other son William Henry. Michael O’Connor died in 1867. When Arthur died in 1873, William Henry took George Taylor into partnership. The firm ultimately became Taylor & Clifton in 1880 and closed early in the 20th century. At the time when the East Window for St. Andrew’s was produced in 1866-67, the firm would have been trading as A. & W.H. O’Connor.

The curvilinear tracery in mid- 14th c. style is again an almost exact replica of that found at Shottesbrooke.

The top quatrefoil contains a dove symbolising the Holy Spirit, with a three-rayed nimbus representing the Trinity. Underneath two angels mirroring each other hold a banner in two parts which reads: ‘AND THEY WERE ALL FIILLED WITH THE HOLY GHOST’ (Acts 2.4). The next tracery lights represent the twelve Apostles with Pentecostal tongues of fire on their foreheads to show that they have been filled with the Holy Spirit. They are seated singly or in pairs and they carry attributes by which they can he identified. So, for example, St. Andrew is easily recognisable with his saltire cross and, facing him, is St. Peter holding a key.

The scenes represented in the five main lights, from left to right and starting at the top of each light are:

  • Christ calling the two fishermen disciples Peter and Andrew
  • Teaching the multitude
  • The Raising of Lazarus
  • Group of six disciples turned towards the Risen Christ
  • The Garden of Gethsemane: note the heads of the 3 sleeping disciples at the bottom right
  • The Risen Christ
  • The Crucifixion

Both these are contained in mandorlas of white passion flowers and green foliage. The surrounding vine is an allusion to St.John’s Gospel, Ch. 15, in which Jesus refers to himself as ‘the true vine’ and to his disciples as its branches.

  • Five disciples turned towards the Risen Christ
  • The Deposition
  • The Good Shepherd
  • Doubting Thomas
  • The women meet the angels at the Tomb

The East Window is dedicated to the memory of Thomas Alcock, the founder of the church, who died on 22nd August 1866.

The last of the Victorian windows, the third window in the chancel next to the altar, is of a much later date and illustrates further stylistic developments. Its creator was Herbert William Bryans (1856-1925). The son of a vicar, he first went to India for some ten years to work as a tea grower. On his way back, he bought a vineyard in France and spent another two years making wine. When he finally returned to England he decided to become a stained glass artist. From about 1889 he worked for C.E. Kempe, who was profoundly to influence his style. Kempe’s main source of inspiration was 15th c. stained glass. His work was characterised by his use of blue green and ruby glass and large areas of silver staining combined with the delicate and detailed painting of the figures. Bryans was to adopt a very similar technique himself and his work is often indistinguishable from that of his master. He left Kempe in March 1897 to set up his own studio in London. His chief designer from 1902 to about 1923 was Ernest Heasman. In that same year, Bryans was joined by his son James, who went on to work for the studio for several years.

Gone have the vivid colours used by earlier Victorian stained glass artists. By the time this window was made, the palette had become much more sombre. In this ‘Adoration of the Shepherds’, Bryans remains completely faithful to his master’s style, so much so that this window was thought for a long time to be by Kempe. A proper attribution could finally be made when Bryans’s logo of a running dog was spotted recently on the scroll held by the last angel on the right. The painting of the faces is particularly fine and is probably at its best in the representation of the Virgin and Child. As a homage to his master, Bryans even inserted two peacock feathers, arguably Kempe’s most recognisable trademark, into the hat of one of the shepherds.

The next series of windows, situated in the nave take us right up to the middle of the 20th c. Commissioned to mark the Centenary of St. Andrew’s, they are the work of Francis Stephens.

Francis William Stephens (1921-2002) studied at the Royal College of Art and after the war decided to specialise in stained glass. In 1950 he became chief designer and managing director of the firm Faith Craft, which produced ecclesiastical work of high quality. An artist of deep religious faith and of High Anglican persuasion, he came on the scene at a time when not only many churches had been damaged or destroyed in the Second World War, but also when the Church of England was going through a period of deep liturgical renewal. He worked for 18 years for Faith Craft, which had been set up in 1921 by the stained glass artist Wilfred Lawson and had its showroom in Tufton Street, near Westminster Abbey. In mid-life, however, Stephens decided to train for the priesthood and he was ordained in 1971. During his ministry at St. Mary’s, Primrose Hill, from where he retired in 1992, he carried on his creative work, especially as a stained glass artist. He left a large body of work throughout the country, and to a lesser extent abroad.

A series of windows, with the theme of martyrs and missionaries of the Church of England, were commissioned from Francis Stephens in 1952 to mark the centenary of St. Andrew’s.

The first window on the north wall of the nave was dedicated on 31st January 1954 and represents on the left King Charles 1, who was included as a Martyr in the English Prayer Book from 1662-1859, and on the right Bishop Thomas Ken (1637-1711). He was one of six bishops who, together with the archbishop of Canterbury, were committed to the Tower for protesting against James II’s Declaration of Indulgence. Although Bishop Ken was acquitted and did not suffer martyrdom he made a courageous stand to defend his church and may therefore be termed a confessor.

The next window on the north wall was dedicated on 4th December 1955 and features on the left George Keith. He was born in 1638 and was educated at Aberdeen University. He became a Quaker and went to Pennsylvania, but then joined the Church of England and was ordained priest in 1700 in London. In 1702 he was sent by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel as its first missionary to New England, where he died in 1716. The right hand-side light represents Allen Francis Gardiner, Captain R.N. He worked in South Africa, but is chiefly remembered for his missionary activities in South America. Amidst local hostility and without adequate support he and his party lost their lives in Terra del Fuego in 1851, having founded the South American Missionary Society.

The next window, on the opposite south wall, dedicated on 15th May 1955, shows on the left John Coleridge Patteson, born in London on 1st April 1827. From 1855 he spent 16 years as a missionary in the New Hebrides, Banks, Solomon and Loyalty Islands. In 1861 he was consecrated first Bishop of Melanesia. He was killed by natives of the Santa Cruz Islands on 20th September 1871. The subject of Florence Nightingale for the other half of this window seems at first to be out of keeping with the theme of the series, but it was expressly chosen by parishioners to commemorate the death of Stephanie Dunn, the daughter of the Rev. Alexander Dunn, Vicar of Kingswood from 1931-1947. Florence Nightingale had, among others, founded a nursing school at St Thomas’s Hospital, where Stephanie Dunn was killed with some fellow nurses during a bombing raid at the height of the ‘Blitz’ in September 1940.

The last in this series of windows is situated on the south wall, by the font. It was dedicated on 24th February 1957 and depicts on the left the Boy Martyrs of Uganda, who, rather than deny their Lord, chose to die by fire in 1885. The right-hand side light depicts Vivian Redlich, a missionary priest in New Guinea, who stayed with his people during the Japanese invasion in 1942. He is seen celebrating his last Eucharist in the bush before his martyrdom.

A more recent addition is the window on the east wall of the south transept. It is the work of the artist Sherif Amin and was dedicated on 7th February 1999.

Sherif Amin studied at the Chelsea School of Art and the Architectural Association. He free-lanced for a number of reputable interior design firms before deciding to specialize in stained glass making. He trained in Spain with stained glass artist Rudy Bellemans. His commissions have included both secular and ecclesiastical work.

The meaning of this window may be interpreted in a number of ways. For the artist, the figure at the top with outstretched arms represents Rosemary Latimer, who commissioned the window in memory of her husband. The three smaller figures resembling angels are her children and the main figure in the window is Donald Latimer pursuing his favourite hobby, DlY The sun, according to Sherif Amin, represents energy, as well as a light of hope and warmth in the form of kindness and the comfort one derives from it. To the Christian, the design incorporates the themes of light (Christ the Light of the World) and work (Christ the Worker).

The most recent window, the South Window, was donated by a parishioner, Peter Temperton, in memory of his wife Hazel and was executed by the studios of Goddard & Gibbs. This internationally renowned firm, which had been established in the East End of London in 1868, has now sadly ceased trading.

John Lawson, who designed this window, was senior artist at Goddard & Gibbs from 1970 until his retirement in 1996. He was the son of the stained glass artist Wilfred Lawson, mentioned above in connection with the Centenary windows. John Lawson studied at Chelsea School of Art and spent much of his career creating designs for ecclesiastical settings. He was also very interested in heraldry and in 1994 was commissioned to design a window with a heraldic theme for the Henry VII chapel at Westminster Abbey. He was equally in demand overseas and in the 1990s was invited by the Sultan of Brunei to design a glass dome for a new mosque built to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the sultan’s reign. Closer to home, Lawson’s work can be seen in hundreds of churches all around Britain, including Ripon Cathedral in North Yorkshire. Locally he created a series of windows for the Lady Chapel at All Saints’ Church, Benhilton. John Lawson died in October 2009 at the age of 77.

The brief the artist was given for this window was that it should be a celebration of St. Andrew. John Lawson chose to illustrate the following passage from St. Matthew’s Gospel, Ch. 4, Vv. 18-20:

As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he (Jesus) saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea – for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and will make you fish for people.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed him. (New Revised Standard Version)

The window was officially dedicated on Sunday 22nd January 2006 by the Bishop of Croydon, the Rt. Rev. Nick Baines.

The Bells

The tower contains a ring of six bells, cast in 1852 by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, whose master founders at the time were Charles and George Mears. The bells were rehung in 1927.

A winding stone staircase leads from a door outside the church up to the Ringing Chamber, then up to the bell tower and from there out onto a parapet. There is a bell cord which extends from the tower down into the church and is visible by the lectern.

The bells are:

Bell Strike Note Original Recorded Weight (cwt-qtr-lbs)
Tenor E 17-2-10
5 F sharp 11-3-12
4 G sharp 9-3-25
3 A 8-1-9
2 B 7-1-18
Treble C sharp 6-3-10

(Information supplied by Whitechapel Bell Foundry)