Felbridge Chapel & The Chapels of Felbridge

Felbridge Chapel & The Chapels of Felbridge

The Felbridge Chapel - The Chapels of Felbridge follows further down.

In 1588 George Evelyn of Nutfield bought 70 acres of Felbridge, this consisted of 30 acres adjoining Felbridge Water and 40 acres known as the Star Barn fields. In 1692 George Evelyn, grandson of the afore mentioned George, gave these 70 acres and a newly built house called Heath Hatch to his youngest son William. In 1719, William sold the land and house to his brother Edward who had just left the army and presumable wanted somewhere to live. Up until this point, the house does not appear to have been the main residence of either of the George’s. In 1741, Edward Evelyn bought of Sir William Gage a house called Park Corner and some 130 acres of land being part of the manor of Hedgecourt. Park corner would appear to be Chapel Farm, now part of the Mormon Temple complex, as this was known to be owned by Gage and also known as Park Corner. In 1747, Edward Evelyn then purchased the Manor of Hedgecourt and several farms belonging to it of the Trustees of the late Sir William Gage. This resulted with the Bourd map of 1748 being commissioned. In 1751, the estate passes to James son of Edward Evelyn, and James Evelyn decides to make Felbridge his constant residence and so in 1763 he builds Felbridge Place.

During all the years that Felbridge had been in the ownership of the Evelyn family, they had worshipped at St Nicholas Church at Godstone, where John Evelyn had erected a chapel in 1662. On making Felbridge Place his sole residence, James Evelyn became aware of the distance that he or anyone in the locality had to travel for ‘divine service’ on a Sunday. To this end, he decided to build a chapel at Felbridge for the use of his family and the neighbourhood. Therefore, in 1786 James Evelyn commissioned a chapel to be built within the grounds of Felbridge Place. The architect Sir John Soane submitted designs for the chapel in 1786. James Evelyn had already used Sir John Soane, in 1785, to design and build the Evelyn Monument as a lasting memorial to his parents. This 80 foot column stood in the grounds of Felbridge Place until 1927 when it was dismantled and rebuilt at Alnwick, Northumberland.

The design for the chapel submitted by Soane measured some 43 feet in length and 25 feet in width with a height of 21 feet. The interior space was 36 feet by 18 feet. The main entrance was from ‘the pleasure grounds’, through a portico with a column either side of the door, that led to ‘Mr Evelyn’s place’ which had a hearth, the only form of heating in the chapel. Entry for the ‘neighbourhood’ was from ‘the road’ via a door at the side. It had two arched windows either side of the side entrance, and on the opposite side, two arched windows either side of an arched niche of the same dimensions as the four windows. The end wall, opposite the Evelyn entrance, had a large semicircular window set high above another arched niche the same size as the windows and niche on the other three sides. The roof was slated and walls, being some three feet thick in places were probably made of sandstone, the same material used for the column. There was a carved stone of the arms of the Evelyn family set in the gables of the chapel.

Inside the chapel, behind the alter, were three arched tablets the central tablet was inscribed with the ten commandments with possibly the Lord’s Prayer and the Creed either side. At each side at the front of the alter area were two pillars which were set in line with the sides of the large semicircular window, with a matching pair of columns set to divide ‘Mr Evelyn’s place’ from the ‘neighbourhood’ area. There are no details as to whether this design was accepted, but it would have made a very impressive private chapel.

On balance, it would seem that although a chapel was built, as indicated by a codicil to the will of James Evelyn, it was unlikely to have been to the exact design of Soane, although it is possible that elements of the design may have been used as the chapel was built shortly after the designs were submitted and no other designs have come to light. However, there are no buildings of the same dimensions as Soane’s chapel on any map after the known date of completion. If it had been made to Soane’s dimensions the chapel would have been nearly as big as the current St John’s Church. The location for the chapel was on a site South of the mansion house. Here there was a building which measured 35 ½ feet by 16 ½ feet, which appeared on the Tithe Map of 1841, and was built on an East - West alignment. The site would appear to be correct based on observations of the evidence of foundations made during the building of Whittington College in the late 1960’s. This placed the chapel opposite the current St John’s church. This building also fitted in with the correct time frame of Felbridge Chapel, as it did not appear on the Bourd Map of 1748, appeared on the Tithe Map of 1841 and does not appear on any Ordnance Survey Map from the 1890’s onward.

Details are documented about the charity that was set up to fund the Felbridge chapel that was built in 1787. A sum of £1166. 13s. 4d was invested, with a 3% annual annuity, in the names of trustees. This fund gave £30 a year for the officiating minister, £2. 10s for the clerk, £2. 10s to find bread and wine for the Sacraments and the remainder for repairs of the chapel. It was declared that the owner of the Mansion House at Felbridge was to appoint the chapel keeper and could ‘remove him at their pleasure’. They were also to appoint the minister who was to be a Clergyman of the Church of England, in priests orders and again could the owner could ‘remove him for sufficient cause’. The minister was to perform ‘divine service’ every Sunday morning at 11 o’clock, and on Good Friday and Christmas day, the Sacrament was to be administered on Good Friday, Christmas day and Whit Sunday, and every first Sunday in the month, except such Sunday that should follow these festivals. The minister was also to catechise the children every Sunday.

Endowed by James Evelyn, with the chapel, was a silver cup, platen and flagon. The cup was made in London in 1787 and stood about 8 inches tall, with the diameter of the bowl and foot of about 3 ½ inches. On one side of the bowl a star ornament was engraved and on the other side the Evelyn coat of arms. The platen was also made in London in 1787 and was 6 ¾ inches in diameter. The star ornament was engraved in the centre, and on the rim, the edge of which was threaded, was the same coat of arms as on the cup but without the crest. The silver flagon is dated as 1734 and was just over10 inches tall and made in London. The jug shaped vessel had a domed lid surmounted by an acorn ornament. On one side of the body was the star ornament and on the other the arms that appeared on the cup.

Although the elements of the chapel are well documented there are few details about the ministers. The only minister listed is Stileman Bostock and he doubled as the clerk in the Hedgecourt Court Rolls between 1801 and 1808, but his exact length of service is unknown. The chapel remained open until 1865 when St John the Divine Church replaced it and Felbridge became an ecclesiastical parish. The church was built opposite the chapel and a condition of the new church was that the chapel be demolished. The chapel silver moved across the road and joined a new cup and platen that had been endowed there, along with the top of the alter and possibly the lectern, pulpit and font. A carved stone crest of the Evelyn family that had adorned the chapel was given back to the family and accepted by the Earl of Liverpool, son of Selina, Vicountess Milton.

Surrey Archaeological Collection Vol 12 p 71
Surrey – Manning & Bray Vol II p 331/2
Commissioners report (County of Surrey) concerning charities – p 540 extract within Evelyn Family Papers
Evelyn Family Papers – Surrey History Centre
Hedgecourt Court Roll – Surrey History Centre
Article on the death of the Earl of Liverpool – The Chiel
Soane’s Gratitude in stone by Margaret Hudson
Felbridge Chapel plans – The Soane Museum
Board map of 1748
1841 Tithe Map for Felbridge
1890 Ordnance Survey of Felbridge

The Chapels of Felbridge

Chapel in the Park

The first mention of a chapel in the Felbridge area is in the Charter Roll of 1365. It states that: ‘ Hugh Craan, citizen of Winchester, by charter with warranty, gave Sir Nicholas Lovayne, his heirs and assigns, all his manors of Heggecourt and Coulyngle (Covenlingley), with a wood called Lynlee and a chapel in the park there, with parks, mills, woods, turbaries (the rights to take peat from another’s ground), rents, reliefs, heriots, suits of court, rights etc., in Wolkenstede, Grenestede, Lingfield, Horne, Crawle, Borstowe and Horle, all of which Craan had of John Husee brother of Sir Roger Husee’. The grant was witnessed at Hedgecourt by Sir John Sancto Clero (Sinclair), Roger Dalingrugge, Thomas de Leukenore, Richard de Borstowe, William Newdegate, Henry atte Helde and Robert de Weston. In 1400 the Manor of Hedgecourt is comprised of two parts, Shavenore held by Sir John Dalyngregge of the manor of Shiffelde (Sheffield- Lingfield) and the other part called ‘Lilley with the rest of the park held by William Warbelton of the manor of Tandregge’. Both Lambert and the Victoria History of Surrey agree that the wood called Lynlee in 1365 and the wood known as Lilley by 1400 are one and the same.

From Saxon times, the Lord of the Manor would give land, generally close to his own dwelling and farm buildings, for the purpose of building a religious house. He would construct the building and a priest would be sent from the nearest collegiate or church every Sunday to take the service, this would have been from Wolkenstede (Godstone). The chapel would have been a humble structure made of wood. In some cases the local people would request a permanent priest and would ask that one of the collegiate priests might become resident. The Lord of the Manor would make the official request and the priest would have to be agreeable to him before he became resident!

The exact site of the first chapel is not known but it may well have stood in what is now known as Chapel Wood. However the ‘Park’ boundary, forming the manor of Hedgecourt, is known as it is shown on the Speede Map of Surrey of 1610. On the Bourd map of 1748 Chapel Wood was known as Chappel Park. This was situated just North of the moated site which was the site of Hedgecourt Manor, and it was here that the grant of 1365 was witnessed. This would be a logical place to construct a chapel, not far from the Lord of the Manor’s dwelling place, on relatively high ground away from the marshy areas that could be found at Hedgecourt and in what was an open area, not wooded which was also a common feature of Hedgecourt at that time. The chapel, if located here, may well have lent its name to the open area that was known as Chapell Park and which later became known as Chapel Wood and Chapell Farm which abutted Chapell Park and which is now part of the Mormon Temple complex.

New Chapel

There are no exact details about the ‘chapel in the park’, but it would appear that a new chapel had been constructed sometime in the mid 1500’s, possibly as a result of the Dissolution of 1538. The 1559 Court Roll of Lagham and Walkhamstead makes some of the earliest mentions of a place called Newe Chappell, in which John Mentall was to ‘open and make good the water course at his land called Shawnors, to take the water off the high road leading from Newe Chappell to Grinsted, before Michaelmas next – penalty 20s’, and the inhabitants of Blindley tithing (Blindley Heath) were ‘to make good Newe Chappell bridge next St John’s birthday (24th June), penalty 6s 8d’. In 1610 the Speede Map of Surrey shows a ‘church’ symbol at New Chapel, outside and to the North East of the fence or paling denoting the ‘park’ that was known as Hedgecourt, clearly demonstrating that the chapel at Newe Chappell was not ‘in the park’. Again the 1761 map commissioned by the Clayton family shows a ‘church’ symbol drawn at New Chapel, and the Rocque map of 1762 names what is now the A22 as New Chapel Lane, ending at the cross roads.

There are also only a few details about this chapel but there are at least three map references as mentioned above. What is interesting is that if you superimpose one of the old maps onto a modern Ordnance Survey map, New Chapel Green, where the chapel stood, equates to the plot of land on which a house called The Homestead now stands. It would seem likely that a new chapel had been built, and that it was a different chapel to the one in the park, for several reasons. Firstly, New Chapel falls outside the boundary of the Manor of Hedgecourt as shown by the Speede Map of 1610, secondly if the chapel had existed at New Chapel in 1365, as outlined in the grant between Hugh Craan and Nicholas Lovayne, one would have thought that it would have been referred to as ‘the new chapel’ then and not ‘the chapel in the park’, and thirdly the name of New Chapel does not appear until the mid 1500’s.

It is not known when the chapel at New Chapel fell into disuse as there has been a building or buildings on the green represented on the Ordnance Survey maps from 1791 until the present day, the most recent being constructed just after the Second World War. The chapel may well have closed its doors around 1786 with the opening of the Evelyn Chapel.

The Gage Chapel

The life of this chapel is short and brief, but relatively well documented. In 1724 the Jesuit Fathers opened a Catholic chapel in the Manor of Hedgecourt. Hedgecourt Manor was owned by Sir William Gage at that time, whose main family seat was at Firle near Lewes. The Gage family held the Catholic faith until the 18th century, and are reputed to have worshipped in secret at Firle Place in a crypt under house. However, in 1720 the chapel at Firle was closed when Sir William Gage stopped practising his Catholic faith. It is believed that the appointments of Hedgecourt chapel had come from Firle. These appointments were five silver candlesticks, a silver thurible (incense vessel), two silver cruets, four sets of vestments, a Mass book and a large crucifix.

It is not known where the chapel was at Hedgecourt, possibly within the house itself, now Hedgecourt Farm, although the house seems rather small to accommodate a chapel, or it may have stood opposite in a field known as Mill Mead. This is a possible location as on the Bourd map of 1748 there is a building depicted which aligns East/West, and is not drawn like any other house or barn featured on the map, unfortunately there is no remaining visible evidence of this building today. Although the location is not known, it is documented in the ‘Records of the Society of Jesus’, Vol. VIII, that Father Henry Molyneux began his ministry at Hedgecourt chapel in 1724 and remained there until 1735 when he left for Bury St Edmunds. He was allowed £30 a year to maintain the faith there. He was succeeded by Father Foley, the author of the ‘Records’, who had entered the society in 1713, and presumably remained at Hedgecourt chapel until its closure.

It is not known when or why Hedgecourt chapel closed, but a likely reason would be that in 1747 Edward Evelyn bought the Manor of Hedgecourt and Covelingly from the trustees of Sir William Gage who had died in 1744, and the Evelyn family did not practise the Catholic faith and would have had no requirement for a Catholic chapel.

Copthorne Chapel

Copthorne Chapel is built on what was part of the old Copthorne Common in Snowhill, which is now part of the civil parish of Felbridge. At the turn of the 19th century there were no chapels or churches, within easy travelling distance, to serve this area of Felbridge, so when a group of evangelical Christians, under the leadership of Rev Trego arrived from the Countess of Huntingdon Church (now the Zion Baptist Church), in East Grinstead, they met with no opposition to setting up a chapel here. The group first met in 1822 in a barn in what became known as Chapel Lane, and continued to do so for the next few years . Five years after their first meeting the first stone of this new chapel was laid on 13th June 1827. The chapel was built within two months, at a cost of £300, and opened on 5th September 1827. The first sermon to be preached there was by Rev J Finchley. The chapel itself has a reinforced floor to take the weight of a portable baptism pool, and there was a pulpit and pews when it opened but these were destroyed by woodworm, along with the floor that had to be re-floored. The chapel was built in what was considered a remote position some half a mile from the nearest village centre and perhaps for this reason the chapel stands within its own graveyard.

In 1848 the congregation had grown along with a Sunday School for the children. The chapel’s minister then was Rev Henry Rogers and his wife set up a trust fund, through her will some years later, to provide £5 a year to its upkeep. The Religious Census of 1851 shows the chapel as having a membership of 230. In 1860 the minister for the chapel was Rev George Vince who was also in charge of the Countess of Huntingdon Connexion chapels of West Hoathly, which had opened in 1824, and Turners Hill, which had opened in 1823, so he relied on lay-preachers to take the services in his absence. Copthorne Chapel continued to share its Ministers with West Hoathly until the retirement, in 1936, of the Rev W H Holt.

The Band of Hope was started at the chapel in 1887 and soon became part of the community, with some 50 children and 10 adults joining, and by 1898 a photograph records a group of around 186 people. The growth in the membership appeared to have had some benefit for the chapel, and in 1890 a further room was added, with the foundation stone laid by a Miss Kensington. The chapel itself was then restored between 1896 and 1898, with new seats and facings being put in and the old brickwork replaced. The end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century saw the chapel at its peak, with a gradual decline in attendance during the second half of the 20th century. During the 1960’s the Copthorne Bank Free Church amalgamated with the chapel which has helped to maintain its survival into the 21st century. The fellowship is now of around fifty adults and six children, under the guidance of Pastor Gordon Hamilton.

Godstone A Parish History by U Lambert
Speede Map of Surrey 1610
Bourd Map of the Felbridge Estate 1748
Clayton Map of their Hedgecourt Common Cottages 1761
Rocque Map of Surrey 1762
Ordnance Survey Maps 1791, 1912 and 1979
The Catholic History of East Grinstead by C P Dolman
Firle Place by T Sobey (article from Sussex Life)
Copthorne the story so far by The Copthorne Village Millennium Group
Notes on Copthorne Chapel by H Robe and G Hamilton