St. John the Divine - general history

St. John the Divine - general history

The History of the Church

In 1863, George and Frances Gatty of Felbridge Place decided that Felbridge needed a parish church of its own, as the official parish church for the village was at Godstone, Surrey. Unfortunately, George Gatty died on 19th May 1864, and was unable to see his idea to fruition, but on 27th May 1865, Mrs Frances Gatty gave an area of land on which to build the new church, and Frances, and her son Dr Charles Henry Gatty, concluded the decision to build a church that had been started by George Gatty. The church replaced the Felbridge Chapel, usually referred to as the Evelyn Chapel, which was built in 1787, by James Evelyn of Felbridge Place, as the centre of worship for the Felbridge estate. James Evelyn endowed the Chapel with £30 each year for the officiating minister, £2 10/- for the clerk, £2 10/- for the bread and wine for the sacrament and the remainder for repairs. He also gave strict instruction for what kind of person the minister should be and what he should do. He had to be a clergyman of the Church of England, to hold divine service every Sunday at 11.00 am, on Good Friday and Christmas Day. He was to administer the sacrament on Good Friday, Easter Day, Christmas Day, and other such festivals, and was to catechise, (instruct by question and answer), the children every Sunday.

Prior to 1787, the community of Felbridge had to travel to St Nicholas Church in Godstone, as Felbridge then formed part of the parish of Godstone. After the construction of the Chapel, the Minister could at least conduct baptisms and marriages at the Chapel, but burials still had to be conducted at St Nicholas Church, as there was no consecrated land attached to the Chapel. Many local Felbridge people chose to be buried at St Swithuns, East Grinstead, as this was closer than Godstone, and from 20th June 1842, St John the Evangelist, Blindley Heath, was consecrated and again, being closer to Felbridge than Godstone, became an alternative location for burials before St John the Divine, Felbridge was consecrated in 1865. The first burial to take place at St John’s was that of Rosina Lambert of Hedgecourt, on the 21st March 1866, aged only four years. However, the first headstone to be erected was that of Edmund James Import, who was buried on 26th August 1867, aged twenty-six years. The current churchyard was later extended, which necessitated the closing of the small gate in the South West corner and the opening of another in the West wall. This alteration meant that more room would be available and was approved in April 1946.

The architect employed to design and build the church was William Henry White, an eminent architect who had studied under Sir George Gilbert Scott. Scott was a leading architect of the Gothic revival, and some of the work he was responsible for includes, the Albert Memorial, St Pancras Station, and the Home Office, Colonial Office and Indian Office at Whitehall. William White’s work reflects the use of the Gothic revival, but combines it with the use of modern materials. His vision was to express something of the ancient and eternal from the kingdom of God with the use of contemporary materials of the day, a combination of ancient and modern. His work was much in demand in the middle of the 19th century, and as well as designing St John the Divine, Felbridge, he was also responsible for other works that include, the restoration of Bishop’s Court Palace, Sowton, Devon, including the chapel, completed in the 1860’s, the bell tower of St Leonard’s Church, Hertfordshire, built in 1865, and then the complete restoration of the church in 1880, and St Michael and All Angels, Lymington, Hampshire, built between 1890 and 1892. William White’s work of the 1860’s was considered to be of exceptional quality and Bishop’s Court Palace was considered one of his most important domestic buildings, for here he carefully designed the fittings and much of the furniture, with exceptional attention to detail, specifically for the Palace.

In the building of St John’s, William White used traditional materials and the outward appearance is quite plain but the inside is well proportioned, well detailed and in Nikolaus Pevsner’s opinion, ‘unexpectedly well carved’. The stone used in its construction is rough stone, classed as Wealden rubble, which was quarried on the Felbridge estate, a short distance away, along Woodcock Hill in Coopers Wood, with quoins and dressings of sandstone from the Hastings beds at East Grinstead. It is not known whether any bricks or tiles were made in the Felbridge area, which is a possibility as there is suitable clay to be found here. However, Colthurst & Co of Bridgewater, Somerset, made the red clay ornate ridge tiles that ran the full length of the church roof and the churchyard wall, as well as being used on the vicarage and outbuildings. Perhaps an unusual feature in the building is that the church is built aligned to the main London Road, and is therefore slightly off the true East/West line, being slightly more North East/South West. The church, although fairly compact seating only 250, was designed along the lines of the traditional format of a Gothic church, with a nave, side aisle, and North chapel, leading to a small vestry to the East and the chancel and sanctuary to the South, with a priests door in the South wall of the chancel. The West wall of the church that is aligned to the main road rises to form a gable that has two open arches in which hang the two bells, with a pierced quatrefoil above, the gable being surmounted by a low cross.

St John the Divine, Felbridge, was dedicated on 1st July 1865, and the formation of the ecclesiastical parish of Felbridge was secured by an Order in Council in 1866, forming the ‘Consolidated Chapelry of Felbridge’; this did not coincide with either the estate or the civil parish boundaries. The ecclesiastical parish was formed from small pieces of the five surrounding ecclesiastical parishes, Tandridge, Horne and Godstone in Surrey, and Worth and East Grinstead in Sussex. In encompassing part of the parish of East Grinstead, the parish of Felbridge acquired a small part of the diocese of Chichester. The newly formed parish fell originally under the diocese of Winchester, but when that diocese grew too large, in the late 1890’s, parts of it were apportioned out and the parish of Felbridge moved to the diocese of Rochester. In 1905, a new diocese was created, that of Southwark, and the parish of Felbridge moved again, and is to this day still in the diocese of Southwark. The Order in Council also authorised the demolition of the Chapel, as it was no longer required, this stood to the South of Felbridge Place and almost opposite the Church. It is believed that some of the materials were reused in the construction of 1 & 2, Chapel Cottages, Crawley Down Road. This pair of cottages certainly date to the late 1860’s and are built on a foundation of large sandstone blocks, believed to be the building material for the Chapel, they also had a brick arch recess either side of the range in the kitchen area.

The exterior of the church has remained little changed over the years except for damage sustained during World War II, when, on 28th August 1940, three bombs landed in and around the grounds of the vicarage and church. One bomb landed near the East wall of the church that shattered several of the windows in the South and East walls. There are also a few shrapnel scars to be seen on the East wall, the carved tops of some of the buttressing on the South wall have been sheared off and several of the graves in the area have suffered slight damage. Another bomb landed near the North and West wall where the driveway up to the vicarage, now The Glebe, met the London Road. This bomb loosened or removed slates from the North porch and North aisle, and again left shrapnel scars in the West wall. Perhaps the largest external change was in 1965, when a much-needed extension was added to the rear of the church abutting the East wall with the sandstone block work being completed by builder George Comber. The flat roofed, single storey Church Hall was again extended in 1968, providing additional accommodation for the Sunday Schools, and now includes a hall area, kitchen, office and vestry. Nearing its completion, most of the £6,404 allocated for the work had been used and the building was still in need of many furnishings and equipment, so the congregation of St John’s were encouraged to ‘buy a chair’ or ‘buy a yard of curtain’.

For a description of the original interior of St John’s, before its refurbishment in 1974, we can turn to Uvedale Lambert who visited the church in 1925, at a time when little or no alterations had taken place to the original design and concept of the church. He writes:

‘The church consists of nave, chancel, north aisle, north chapel (which contains the organ) with a small vestry eastwards beyond and north and south porches. The roof is tiled except the north aisle, which is slated. The nave measures some 50 feet in length by 33 in breadth including the north aisle, and the proportionately spacious chancel about 35 feet by 18 (these are all approximate inside measurements). Inside the walls are wholly sandstone, dressed and squared and the general impression given on entering is one of light and spaciousness, which is largely due to the size of the chancel and the width of the nave arches opening to the north aisle. This arcade is divided by two round columns which have octagonal caps carved with stiff naturalistic foliage above a circular double ring necking, in old English style. The wide pointed arches are of two orders of plain chamfers, and have hood mouldings of red brick dying into carved stone foliage in the spandrels, (the triangular space between the outside curve of an arch and the rectangular frame surrounding it). The westernmost arch butts boldly into the North aisle wall, which projects some 3 feet 9 inches from the west wall of the nave; but the easternmost arch is complicated and springs from a slender shaft, placed against but not engaged in the wall, which has an octagonal capital with carved foliage, much like the two columns in the west. In the south wall of the nave are two windows, that mirror the south porch with three lights and that eastwards of four lights, all with trefoil heads and heavy tracery of decorated design. The east window, which is set some 4 feet higher than those in the south wall also has four lights, but they are only 13 inches wide instead of 16 inches as in the larger south window. These windows all have rere arches [archway formed across the wide inner opening of a window], as indeed have all the others in the church. A string of moulded red brick runs below the sills along the south side, but is not continued on the west wall. The north aisle has a single trefoil-headed light at the west end and two square-headed windows, each having 4 trefoil-headed lights, in the north wall; and the same red brick cable moulding runs beneath them, as on the south side. The nave roof of deal has 4 tie beams with king posts and owl beams above, while the aisle roof is a lean-to at a flatter angle than the nave roof. (It was no doubt in order to give greater height to the aisle, while keeping its roof below the nave cross, that slates were used for it rather than tiles).

The chancel arch is of the same design as the nave arcade; it is some 15 feet wide, and springs from short whole shafts, supported on fluted extinguisher-shaped corbels, which terminate in carved foliage. One step rises into the spacious chancel, which has an east window of five lights, with the red brick cable moulding beneath its sill. On the south side there is a two light window within the sanctuary, shortened above the two-seated sedilia, which have heavy trefoil heads beneath rigid pointed hoods with coarse crochets. The same red brick moulding runs above the sedilia, but instead of being continuous with that beneath the east window it is dropped rather awkwardly just below it. West of the sedilia it is stopped with a carved stone, and the wall is pierced with a priests doorway, now disused. On the north side opposite the wall is pierced with a similar pointed opening, which leads directly to the organ and eastward to the little vestry. The gangway to this opening is raised one step above the main chancel and choir, while there are 2 more steps at the altar rail, and the altar itself stands on a single step forming a footpace [a raised platform] on three sides. The sacrarium [the sanctuary of a church] thus has its 3 ritual steps, apart from the step up into chancel and the altar. West of the priest door another two light south window is of full length and the brick moulding starts again, to stop against the wall of the chancel arch. The deal roof in the chancel is of barrel type. On the north side, west of the pointed opening already noted, a single wide arch, springing from whole shafts like that of the east end of the nave arcade opens into the north chapel which is on a arch with the chancel. It then rises one step from the north aisle, beneath a sharply pointed arch of similar design to those of the nave arcade. On the south side this arch butts into the wall, which on the north it is supported on a long extinguisher-shaped fluted corbel. There is a pointed window with 2 trefoil headed lights in the south wall, and a similar three light window at the east end, both like all the others in the church as already said, beneath rere [facing on the wall] arches.

As for the fittings, the altar is of dark stained oak with a square headed overhanging carved canopy, while the choir seats are mostly of deal but simple and surely with a few oak poppy heads and a dark oaken priests’ seat and desk. The low chancel screen is of simply worked deal while the octagonal pulpit of carved oak is of pleasing design and stands just under the large four light window in the south nave wall.

The font is of heavy stone, octagonal in shape with a broad plain stand with carved ornaments at the angles above and below. It stands at the west end and near the south door’.

Documentation has not yet come to light detailing the termination of use of the Chapel, but it is believed that some of the furnishings were relocated and reused at St John’s Church. The stone font and lid are believed to have originated from the Chapel, also the original lectern, the base of which matched the lid of the font, along with the original altar and original pulpit. Pieces of the Communion ware also date from the days of the Chapel, a silver cup, a silver flagon, and a silver paten, each vessel being inscribed with ‘Felbridge Chapel’. The silver cup weighs about 9oz (243g), and is 8ins (20cms) in height, the bowl and foot diameters being 3½ins (8.75cms) with the depth of the bowl being 4⅝ins (11.28cms). The maker’s mark is E.F. in an oblong stamp, that of Edward Fennell of Foster Lane, London, and is dated to 1787. The gilt-lined bowl of the cup is deep and bell-shaped, and rests on a slender cylindrical stem, which widens into a foot with thread moulding round the edge. One side of the bowl is engraved with a star ornament with the initials IHS. On the other side of the bowl is the Evelyn coat of arms with the Cust crest. A griffin passant, (a beast facing and walking towards the viewers right with one front leg raised), impaling ermine, (stylised representation of ermine fur), on a chevron saltire (a bend or cross in the shaped of St Andrew’s cross), with three plates charged with three bars of wavy azure, for the Evelyn arms, and the crest of Jane Cust, his second wife, a griffin passant, ducally gorged, (with a crown round its neck), on a wreath. The silver flagon weighs 31ozs (837g) and stands 10½ins (26.25cms). The maker’s make is IW in a shaped mark, that of John White of London, and dates to 1734. The flagon has a domed lid surmounted by an acorn ornament. On one side is engraved the star ornament, and on the other the arms of Evelyn and the Cust crest. The silver paten, (a plate, especially used to hold the Eucharistic or Communion bread), weighs 7ozs (189g) and is 6¾ins (16.88cm) in diameter. It bears the maker’s mark I.Y. in an oblong stamp, the mark of James Young of Aldergate Street, London, and dates to 1788. The star ornament is engraved on a raised dome in the centre, and on the rim, the edge of which is threaded, is the Evelyn coat of arms and the Cust crest, the same as found on the cup and flagon.

In 1865, with the opening of St John’s church, two more pieces of Communion ware were added by the Gatty family, another silver cup and silver paten. The silver cup weighs 9oz (243g) and stands 8ins (20cms) tall, with the maker’s mark T.C., possibly Thomas Cording of London, dating to 1865. The bowl of the cup is gilt lined, with the star ornament on one side and the Gatty arms on the other, azure, a cross Moline, (a cross that has arms of equal length with the ends of each slightly broadened and curved back), in saltire between four fleurs-de-lis argent, with the crest of a pheasant with wings endorsed, (on the back of), on a wreath. The silver paten weighs 7ozs (189g) and is just short of 7ins (17.5cms); again with the maker’s mark T.C., dating to 1865. The centre is engraved with the star ornament on a raised dome, with the Gatty arms at the rim. A second flagon or ewer made of copper or brass was used to fill the font until it was stolen, This stood 15-18" high and was a bulbous jug shape with a handle and lip.

From the beginning, the parish church of St John the Divine has been a ‘low’ church, meaning that it is opposed to excessive ritualism and favoured a more evangelical doctrine, following in the footsteps of the Evelyn Chapel. On the acquisition of Felbridge Place, the Gatty family took over the responsibility of selecting the officiating minister for the Evelyn Chapel, and on the building of St John’s took the Advowson, (the right to nominate the successor to a vacant benefice), of the church. On the death of Charles Henry Gatty in 1903, he left strict instructions in his will that the Advowson should be left to his cousins, Alfred Leighton Sayer and Charles Lane Sayer, and ‘All my personal estate to be divided equally between them, or if they are both dead at my decease, to the children of Alfred Leighton Sayer, and I request that my lands should not be sold to a Roman Catholic or a Jew’. In 1911, the Sayer’s sold Felbridge Place, along with the Advowson, to Mrs Emma Harvey and the East Grinstead Estate Company. The then vicar, Rev John Thorp, felt that this was not appropriate for the Advowson to be held by the East Grinstead Estate Company and persuaded Col. Alfred Robert Margary of Chartham Park to buy the Advowson and become Patron of St John’s in 1912. Col. Margary remained the Patron until his death in February 1936, when it passed to his son Ivan Donald Margary. Ivan Margary held the Advowson until after the Second World War, and then in 1960 the Advowson was transferred to the Southwark Diocesan Board of Patronage.

The whole interior of the church was re-planned and re-designed between 1972 and 1974. The chancel was opened up; the old altar was removed although the top, a single slab of oak originating from the Evelyn Chapel, was given a new ‘under-standing’ and moved to the centre of the chancel as a Table. The carving round the edge of the altar table, ‘Do this in remembrance of me’, taken from Luke 22: 19, was commissioned by Mrs Anne Halsall of the Old Pheasantry, Woodcock Hill, Felbridge, in memory of her late husband Robin. The carved altar screen was removed and the East wall hung with a curtain, below the East window, concealing two three-feet wide panels of red, cream and black tiles that flanked the original altar position. The choir was placed behind the re-positioned altar table, on the former footpace, and a see-through cross was suspended above the Table. The form of a cross can be seen from any angle in the church due to its construction of having bolts, representing the nails used in the crucifixion, on an East/West alignment passing through the ends of the North/South cross pieces. The two new clergy stalls incorporated the ends of the old choir stalls. The old carved chancel screen was replaced with a lower communion rail of clean, unfussy lines. A simple three-sided pulpit, abutting the South wall of the nave, replaced the octagonal carved oak pulpit. The carved lectern and Church Wardens’ staves were removed, along with the Mother’s Union Banner and Union Jack that once hung in the sanctuary and chancel. Removed too, from the East wall of the sanctuary, was a pair of wooden boards that hung either side of the East Window, these displayed The Creed and Lord’s Prayer on one and the Ten Commandments on the other. The original lid of the stone font was replaced with an octagonal slab of wood, and the font itself, although still standing at the rear of the church, was eventually replaced by a portable hexagonal one made of wood. A board with a list of christenings used to hang on the South wall at the rear of the church, near the font, but this too has been removed and replaced by storage shelves. Perhaps the only original fittings still left in the church are the hymn number boards that hang either side of the arch leading to the chancel area, in their original position.

The removal of all the old order of decorations does not mean that the church is no longer adorned. There is a fine set of needlepoint kneelers depicting the cross, flanked by grapes and vine leaves, and the Agnus Dei or Lamb of God carrying the St George banner within a circular landscape, flanked by vine leaves. In 1988, the St John’s Banner Group was formed with the aim of adorning the walls of the church with relevant hangings. The first banner to be produced was entitled Praise the Lord, and was hung on the South wall of the church between the two windows. To commemorate the 125th Anniversary of St John’s in 1990, the vicar, Stephen Bowen, asked that the Banner Group might produce the Banner of St John’s. The banner was used at the front of the procession for the open-air service held on the Village Green. It depicts an eagle soaring over the countryside, with the text: ‘I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself’, the text taken from Exodus 19: 4., unfortunately, on the day of the service for which it was specially made, it poured with rain, however it has been used since in more clement weather. When not heading the processional march it was to be found hanging above the pulpit, but with the installation of the multi media system it was moved and is now to be found above the South door. Another large banner entitled Holy Spirit used to adorn the walls at the rear of the church near the North door. This depicted a dove with randomly arranged words of Come, Fill,Cleanse, Heal, Comfort, Renew and Strengthen. This was made circa 1993, and was given to a church on the Isle of Wight in 2002, when the area at St John’s, in which it hung, was turned into a Children’s Corner. A large Noah’s Ark banner replaced the afore mentioned banner, which is more appropriate for children. This was not completed by the Banner Group, but under the direction of Ann Morley, assisted by Brenda Langridge and children from the Pathfinders, Explorers and Climbers. Help was even donated by two children from Montreal, Canada, who made the lions and a little boy from Texas, USA, who made the crocodiles. There are also a series of pulpit falls, made by the Banner Group, which change according to the time of year and events in the religious calendar. In addition to the kneelers and banners, Dorothy Harding presented the church, in 2001, with a tablecloth trimmed with her handmade lace for the side table in the chancel.

The red, cream and black tiled floors with iron grills that ran the length of the nave and aisle were carpeted in blue carpet by a generous donation from Mrs Stern of The Stream, London Road, Felbridge. The grill areas were filled with concrete that gave a flat surface on which to lay the carpet. Examples of the tiling that once covered the floor are still visible in the two porch areas of the church. Ivan Donald Margary replaced the original hand-blown pipe organ that stood in the North chapel, with an early Hammond electronic organ in 1936, in memory of his father Col. Alfred Robert Margary. This had a load speaker unit placed in the loft above the chancel. As a point of interest, the Hammond organ was valve operated and because of this, the church had to be kept locked for the duration of the war, when not in use, to prevent the possibility of the valves falling into enemy hands as they could have been used in radio equipment. In 1973, after thirty-seven years service, the Hammond organ was replaced, again by Ivan D Margary, with a Rodger’s Colombia ‘75’which was dedicated at Easter 1973.

Twenty years after the re-design and re-fit, the church saw another major upheaval in 1994, when all the wooden flooring under the pews was sanded down and re-varnished, and the carpet was re-fitted. It was then discovered, some 135 years after completion, that the roof had not been constructed correctly, and that structural work, including re-tiling, would need to be done. The work was under the control of the Parochial Church Council. The work was due to start in May 2001, at an estimated cost of between £90,000 and £110,000. However, with just a few weeks to go until the start date, the Southwark diocese requested that the roof tiles be changed from Redland’s Heathland concrete tiles to Sandtoft’s Gloxhill clay tiles. The estimated cost had by then risen to £133,000 and clay tiles increased it still further, added to that, the tile company did not have that quantity of clay tiles to hand and skilled tilers were in short supply. Taking all things into consideration, it was decided to postpone the scheduled work until the summer of 2002. Work finally commenced in April 2002 and the congregation of St John’s moved temporarily to the hall at Felbridge Primary School for Sunday services, until August, when the school closed for its annual maintenance, and then to the Felbridge Village Hall until the completion of all works. During the work it was discovered that the valley gutter between the chancel and the chapel needed replacing, along with several rafters, but an unexpected problem was discovered in the stonework of the gable ends, which was found to be loose. After the necessary repair work, the roof was re-tiled, including the North aisle, which had been originally slated, by the end of July. Financing the work was a major concern, fortunately, Mitchells, the contractors, had agreed to hold their original price, except for the tiles themselves, but by the start of the repair work the total estimated cost had risen to £138,000. However, the church was fortunate in that it received an unexpected windfall in September 2000, when a relative of the congregation left £75,000 to be used on a charity, some small grants were obtained from groups like the Surrey Churches Preservation Trust that donated £1,500 towards the cost, and Marshall’s Charity that donated £2,500. Church initiatives included buying a tile for £1 in exchange for one of the old tiles, and the Felbridge Brownies held a sponsored silence and donated £80 towards the costs. St John’s was re-opened by the Bishop of Woolwich on 1st September, 2002, repaired and ready to serve the community of Felbridge and life in the 21st century.

The Felbridge Vicarage

Mrs Frances Gatty donated, on 10th December 1866, three acres of land for the erection of a large vicarage, with garden, for the use of future vicars of the parish. Built behind the church, it was typically Victorian and large, being of thirteen rooms, with spacious gardens, stabling and a three-acre glebe. This property may also have been designed by William White and was built, in keeping with the church, of Wealden rubble, being described as ‘well-situated and comfortable’.

During World War II, the vicarage and grounds bore the brunt of a bombing raid, when, on 28th August 1940, two bombs fell within the grounds and one to the North of the church, close to the North porch. Mrs Hewitt, wife of the then vicar, detailed the damage caused:

‘No. 1 bomb landed 18 inches from the corner of the larder and also demolished the North wall of the garden from the house to the stable yard, shattering the greenhouse and hurling its contents, and those of the wood pile opposite the cycle shed, onto the lawn. It cracked the East wall, shattering the windows and frames and bedroom door. It felled the 18-inch thick wall enclosing the kitchen quarters. It shattered the fuel sheds and cycle shed, ruining two cycles and breaking the old-fashioned wringer. It also brought down tiles and gutters.

No. 2 bomb landed in the shrubbery, midway between the church and the vicarage. It shattered the E window and the cycle stand beneath it. It also shattered the small E window and brought down slates from the vestry below it. It burned or felled the shrubbery. It cracked and burst inwards the oak door of the vicarage, and it shattered the bedroom windows above it. It cracked the ceiling and brought down slates from the porch and roof.

No. 3 bomb landed at the bottom of Vicarage Drive, on the London Road, at the W end of the church. It damaged the boundary wall of the church yard on the N and W, loosened slates on all the N roof and N porch, and left many bomb scars on the church walls.’
The damage was eventually repaired, although the windows in the church were boarded up for the remainder of the war, and in 1946, were temporarily replaced with clear glass, pending the re-instatement of stained glass. The vicarage, however, never really recovered and in 1962, when a survey was carried out on the property it was discovered that the building was being propped up in three places, this coupled with the fact that it was also riddled with wet rot, necessitated the building of a new vicarage.

The architect chosen to design the new vicarage was Mr E F Starling, who worked on several projects in the Southwark diocese, including the design of All Saints Church, South Merstham, Surrey, built in 1951, and later, the South porch of Holy Trinity, Redhill, Surrey, built in 1967. It was agreed that a contemporary building was needed, and it was designed specifically for use as a vicarage, with a private house, study, office and a room large enough for parish meetings, as at that time there was no church hall. The new vicarage was built, in 1965, on the site of the old vicarage orchard, and was completed within eighteen months, at the cost of £9,500. The advantage of the new vicarage, especially for Rev Walters who was the vicar at that time, was that it was smaller, more compact and more economic to run. The disadvantage of the new building was that although the Church Commissioners footed the initial bill, only £2,000 was a gift, the rest of the £10,000 loan that had to be paid back by the diocese of Southwark and the then vicar of Felbridge, Rev Walters. This was eventually achieved by the sale of the glebe for private housing. Further revenue was gained when in 1974, Tandridge District Council bought land at the Southern end of the old vicarage garden, and built six flatlets for elderly people, the building being named Mackenzie House, after Mrs Murdo Mackenzie, a leading figure in the community and congregation of Felbridge who lived at Stone Wall, London Road, Felbridge and who died on 5th February 1959.

The old vicarage was eventually demolished at the end of 1965, and the site of the building turned into a much-needed car park. Whilst it stood, it not only provided a home for the vicar of St John’s, and his family, but also acted as a focal point for much of the social and spiritual welfare of the community. Garden Fetes, Tea Parties, Confirmation classes, concerts and many other events were staged in the Vicarage and its surrounding gardens and grounds, with the village bowling green occupying part of the glebe between 1936 and 1947, before moving to its current location in Crawley Down Road. The only remaining building from the vicarage complex to survive, both the bombing and demolition, was that of the stable block, which was converted to a private house in 1953, and is called’ Vicarage Lodge’. Its construction and use of materials, Wealden rubble with the addition of red brick and tiles, gives some idea of the appearance the original vicarage.

Vicars of St John’s

E T Fellows 1865 – 1874
R A Kennaway 1874 – 1884
S C Macartney 1884 – 1889
J Thorp 1889 – 1914
G O Troop 1915 – 1918
B W Clinch 1918 – 1932
A Sidley 1932 – 1933
W H Hewitt 1933 – 1949
R E Theobald 1949 – 1961
L E W Walters 1961 – 1968
C R Boff 1968 – 1979
S G Bowen 1979 -

Being vicar of a parish meant that you had certain entitlements and at St John’s the first basic entitlement was somewhere to live, the vicarage, which came with a three-acre glebe until the early 1970’s when this area of land was sold off for development. The vicar was also entitled to a ‘living’, the church benefice, which included the revenue attached to it. The living was made up of various financial attributes to be gained through service to the parish, and the way the living was made up varied from parish to parish and over time, as things changed and became superseded. Some of the original, basic financial attributes include, Fees, for weddings, funerals and other similar items, Ecclesiastical, and later Church, Commission, were, and are still, central funds, Easter Offering, incumbents used to be given the collection taken up on Easter Day, possibly in lieu of the tithes that parishioners used to have to pay, and Queen Anne’s Bounty, similar to the Ecclesiastical Commission, - a central source of funding. Some parishes include local endowments, similar to that set up by James Evelyn for the Evelyn Chapel; the living at St John’s also includes a local endowment, a trust fund set up by Ivan D Margary, last Patron of the church, in January 1961. Known as the Ivan Donald Margary Trust Fund, it provides a sum of money, ‘from time to time and not less than twice every year to the Incumbent for the time being of the Benefice of St John the Divine Felbridge’. The first vicar to benefit from this trust fund was Rev L Walters.

Edward Thomas Fellows 1865-1874

Edward Fellows was educated at Brasenose College, Oxford, and took his BA in 1857, and gained his MA in 1861. The Bishop of Ely ordained him as deacon, a member of the clergy ranking just below a priest, in 1858. Three years later in 1861, the Bishop of Chichester ordained him as priest, an ordained minister ranking below a bishop, having the authority to pronounce absolution and administer sacraments. Between 1858 and 1861, he was curate, where he assisted and deputised for the rector or vicar of Hadleigh, Suffolk, and then between 1861 and 1865, at Hartfield, Sussex. There is also mention that Edward Fellows was the officiating minister at the Evelyn Chapel, Felbridge, in 1864, before taking up the position of vicar of Felbridge in 1865.

Being the officiating minister at the Evelyn Chapel would have meant that he had been appointed by the then Lord of the Manor, George Gatty, who became the Patron of St John the Divine, Felbridge, and therefore held the Advowson or right to nominate the successor to a vacant benefice, (church office endowed with fixed assets). As vicar of St John’s, Edward Fellows received a house, three-acre glebe, (a plot of land granted to a clergyman as part of his benefice during his tenure in office), and a gross yearly living of £100.

Edward, known as Thomas, Fellows was married to Katherine Ellen, who unfortunately died on 11th September 1872, aged only thirty-nine years. She is buried in grave no. A4. 2-4, beside the South wall of the church. Edward commissioned a stained glass window in the South wall of the chancel, but this was one of the windows to suffer damage during the Second World War, so Katherine’s life is now commemorated in the replaced East window, which was dedicated to all those who had memorial windows shattered during the war.

Richard Arthur Kennaway 1874-1884

Richard A Kennaway was born 28th February 1847, the fourth son of Sir John Kennaway Bart. of Escot, Ottery St Mary, Devon. He was educated at a private school in Sussex, followed by Trinity College, Cambridge, attaining a BA in 1863 and MA in 1872. He was ordained as deacon, at Winchester in 1870 and priest in 1871, and was curate at St Marks, Reigate between 1870 and 1874. He came to the parish of St John’s, Felbridge as vicar in 1874, and as vicar was entitled to a house and three-acre glebe, and a gross yearly income of £100. Also the same year, 1874, Richard married Mary Jane Boddington on 23rd July, in Bramley, Surrey, and by 1881, his family is listed as including a son Gerald, aged four, a daughter Elta, aged one and another son, Mark, aged eleven months. Their domestic staff included, Miss Katherine Sargent, as housekeeper, Miss L J Bingham, as cook, and Miss Mary H Ruwsell and Miss Mary A Budden as nursemaids.

Richard Kennaway left the parish of St John’s, Felbridge, in 1884 and went as vicar of the church at Milton, near Portsmouth, Hampshire between 1884 and 1889. He then moved as rector of Green’s Norton, Northamptonshire, between 1889 and 1909, followed by Bramdean, Hampshire, between 1909 and 1915, when he retired to Shawford, Hampshire, where he died, aged seventy, on 17th January 1918.

Sydney Parkyns Macartney 1884-1889

Sydney P Macartney was born, circa 1844, in Naples, Italy, the third son of Maxwell Macartney, MD, of Rosebrook, Armagh, Northern Ireland. He was educated at Clare College, Cambridge, and attained a BA in 1866 and MA in 1870. He was ordained as deacon in 1866, and priest in 1867 in Worcester. He was curate at St John’s, Kenilworth, Warwickshire, between 1866 and 1868, St Michael All Angels, Bromley, Kent, between 1868 and 1870, the parish church of Thorverton, Devon, between 1870 and 1872, the parish church of Chudleigh, Devon, between 1872 and 1879, and the parish church of Penshurst, Kent, between 1879 and 1884. He was appointed vicar of the parish of St John’s, Felbridge, in 1884, and brought with him his wife, Amy Amelia Gilman, whom he had married on 14th October 1868, in London, and their handicapped son Sydney J, who was born circa 1875, in Chudleigh, Devon. Amy was born in 1847, in Australia, a British subject. As vicar of St John’s, Sydney was entitled to a house, the three-acre glebe and a gross yearly living of £100. The parish clerk, at that time was Henry Bingham.

In 1893, Sydney Macartney went as curate to the parish of Hartfield, Sussex, until 1902, and then moved to Ruscombe, Berkshire, as vicar between 1907 and 1913, before retiring to Twyford, Berkshire, where he died, aged eighty-five, on 3rd March 1929.

John Thorp 1889-1914

John Thorp was educated at Magdalen Hall, Oxford, were he gained his BA in 1859, and MA in 1860. He was ordained as deacon in 1860 and priest in 1861. He served as curate at Chirk, Clwyd, Wales, between 1860 and 1864, and then moved to St Andrew’s, Watford, until 1865. In 1866, he became vicar of Darsham, Suffolk, and then vicar of St John the Divine from 1889, until his death in 1914. As vicar of St John’s he was entitled to a house, the glebe and a gross yearly living of £104, net £100. At the sale of the Felbridge Place estate in 1911, the net income may have dropped, being listed as ‘about £97’.

John Thorp was born in 1833, in Ferry Compton, Warwick, and married Sara Ann, who was born circa 1831. In the census of 1881, they are listed as living in Darsham vicarage with their family, Mabel Evelyn, aged fourteen, Berta J, aged ten, Constance M, aged eight and Mark L, aged five. Their domestic staff were listed as Miss Amelia Dady, and Miss Clara Roper, both domestics, and by 1887, Miss Clara Cooper had joined the Thorp’s domestic staff. Clara Cooper had been a nurse at High Street Grammar School, Barking, before entering the Thorp household. She moved with them to Felbridge, and after the death of John Thorp, moved with his two unmarried daughters still living at home, Annie and Mabel, to 21, St Georges Court, Gloucester Road, London. Sometime after World War I, they moved to Hove, Sussex, and Clara finally retired from service after World War II, and went to live with her niece, Ethel Dunster in Slough. Clara died on 7th April 1953, two weeks short of her eighty-sixth birthday. Other members of the Thorp family’s staff at Felbridge included, Miss D Brand, Miss Esther Sergeant, Miss L Thacker, Nurse Harding, Ernest Bingham and Mr W Woodhams.

The Thorp family were a close family, and several members are buried in St John’s churchyard. Barbara Sybil Francis, the grand daughter of John Thorp, by his daughter (Bertha) Janet and her husband Bertram Francis, who died on 28th January 1906, aged only fourteen months, and is buried in grave no. D6. 5-7. Sara, wife of John Thorp died at Felbridge vicarage on 14th October 1909, and is buried, along with her husband in grave no. D6. 8-15. Her burial service was performed by her son Mark, who had followed in his father’s footsteps and was also a member of the clergy.

In the June of 1914, John Thorp had been vicar of St John’s for twenty-five years. To mark the occasion a collection was made of the parishioners, which resulted in the presentation of a three-handled silver rose bowl, which was inscribed:

From his parishioners, as a mark of their affectionate
Regard and esteem, and to commemorate the 25th year
of his work in this parish. – 23rd June, 1914.

It was further decided to give Annie and Mabel, the two unmarried daughters of John Thorp who still lived with him at the vicarage and who both worked within the parish, a pair of silver sweet dishes each, inscribed with their initials, for the work they had done in the parish, particularly with the Sunday School, and the interest they had taken in the musical side of the church services.

Rev John Thorp died on 28th October 1914, and was buried with his wife Sara. The local paper reported:

‘A feeling of very sincere regret has been aroused throughout the whole neighbourhood of Felbridge and East Grinstead by the death of the Rev. John Thorp, who for 25 years had been the revered and beloved vicar of the former parish, and had always taken a keen interest in that which concerned the welfare of the residents in the district. It is too much to say that he was a man beloved by every section of the community, for his earnest Christian life and his genial presence had won the respect of everyone with whom he came in contact. He was an evangelical Churchman of the old school, very sincere in his work and a most capable preacher, and although his parishioners at Felbridge were not a large body the church there was invariably well filled, for he drew to it many from the outside district, who greatly appreciated his ministrations.

Outside his purely parochial duties, Mr Thorp took a fair share in the religious and philanthropic work of the neighbourhood. He was the founder of the Godstone Clerical Meeting, an organisation for mutual help and consultation among the clergy of the Rural Deanery. He was also hon. secretary for the Church Missionary Society in the Godstone Rural Deanery, and for many years hon. secretary of the East Grinstead Branch of the British and Foreign Bible Society. He was an ex-officio trustee of the Felbridge Beef and Faggot Trust, and was largely instrumental in getting it put on a sound business footing after the death of Dr. Gatty.’ [Abridged]

George Osborne Troop 1915-1918

George Troop was born in Canada, and was educated at King’s College, Western Nova Scotia, where he gained a BA in 1877, and then a MA in 1882. He was ordained as deacon in 1877 and priest in 1878, and was curate at St Paul’s, Halifax, Nova Scotia, between 1877 and 1881. He briefly went, as curate, to the Church of the Ascension, Hamilton, Ontario, in 1882, becoming rector of St James and St John, New Brunswick, later that same year, the position he held until 1886. He then moved to St Martin’s, Montreal, between 1886 and 1913. During his time at St Martin’s he also lectured at the Ecclesiastical Historical Diocesan Theological College in Montreal between 1911 and 1913.

In 1915, George Troop came to England and joined the parish of St John’s, Felbridge, as vicar. His entitlement as vicar was a house and the three-acre glebe, with a gross living of about £100. One of his members of domestic staff was Beatrice Beckett, n¾e Brooker, who after four and a half years in the Land Army during World War I, took up service at the vicarage as parlour maid. George Troop remained at St John’s until 1918, when he returned to Canada, and became the incumbent at the church of the Messiah, Toronto, until 1920.

Benjamin White Clinch 1918-1932

Benjamin Clinch originated from Australia, being ordained as deacon in 1884, and then priest in 1885, in Queensland. He was curate at St Paul’s, Maryborough, Queensland, between 1884 and 1885, then at Ipswich, Queensland, between 1885 and 1886, and finally at St Peter Mowbray, Cape Colony, between 1886 and 1887. He became the incumbent, (a person who holds an ecclesiastical benefice), at the Church of the Holy Trinity in Hoxton in 1892, for one year before moving to St Paul’s, Tottenham, London, between 1893 and 1896. He then went to Emmanuel Church, West Dulwich, between 1896 and 1899, St Mary Magdalene, Peckham, between 1900 and 1902, Holy Trinity, Lee, London, between 1902 and 1903, St Mary’s, Hornsey Rise, London, between 1903 and 1913, St David’s, Islington, between 1913 and 1914, St Peter’s, Saffron Hill, between 1914 and 1915, All Saint’s, Langham Place, between 1917 and 1918, finally becoming vicar at St John’s, Felbridge, in 1918.

As vicar of Felbridge, Benjamin Clinch was entitled to a house, the glebe worth £2, Ecclesiastical Commission of £102, Fees of £5, and Easter offerings of £15, with a gross yearly living of £124, net £121. He settled in the parish of Felbridge for nearly fourteen years, before retiring through old age and failing health in 1932.

On his departure he was presented with three parting gifts, an electric table lamp from the children and staff of the Sunday School, a morning tea service and tray from the children and staff of Felbridge School, and a substantial cheque from members of the parish. Unable to call and thank parishioners personally he wrote:

‘I wish to thank my wardens for their loyal and great help to me in the church; and also our organist and the voluntary choir. The choir has loyally supported me since the day I came to Felbridge. A great many of its members have sung in the choir since childhood, and are pillars of the Church. I thank them, and earnestly pray that they will continue their good work. I also thank Miss Cheal and her helpers for carrying on the Sunday School for so many years. Our Sunday School is a credit to the parish. I warmly thank the members of the Parochial Church Council and the sidesmen for their work and loyalty to me at all times. I thank Mrs Sawer and the distributors for their work in connection with the magazine. I must not forget Mr Peck, our worthy Treasurer, who has done so much for the Church. I thank Mrs Cheal very heartily for growing and supplying the altar flowers for the last ten years. I thank you one and all for the many kindnesses I have received.’

Albert Sidley 1932-1933

Albert Sidley was born in 1876, and won a Scholarship to Episcopal, Manchester, in 1902 where he gained a 1st Class in the Preliminary Theological Examination in 1904. He was ordained as deacon in 1904, and priest in 1905, at Manchester. He was curate of St Andrew’s, Burnley, Lancashire, between 1904 and 1910, before moving to Christ Church, West Didsbury, Greater Manchester, between 1911 and 1912, and Christ Church, Malvern, Worcestershire, between 1912 and 1914. Between 1919 and 1932, he was given permission to officiate in the diocese of Southwark, spending thirteen years of his clerical life working in South London, first in Stockwell and Brixton, before moving to St John’s, Felbridge in 1932. As vicar for the parish of Felbridge he was entitled to a house, the glebe, worth £2, Queen Anne’s Bounty, £45, Ecclesiastical Commission, £278, Fees, £10, and Easter Offering, £6, a gross income of £341, net £306.

Albert Sidley’s induction to St John’s, Felbridge, took place on 29th April 1932, and he said he found the ‘beautiful country parish of Felbridge a delightful contrast’ to his previous parishes. Albert brought with him his wife Elsie whom he had married less than a year previously; they had no family. Unfortunately, Albert could not enjoy his new position as the vicar of St John’s for long, as after a short and unexpected illness, he died in April 1933, eleven months after his appointment as vicar, he was only fifty-seven years old. He was cremated at West Norwood, Surrey, and his ashes interred at St John’s in grave no. A1. 5. His memory lives on in the Sidley window, which is to be found in the North wall of the side aisle, near the North chapel of St John’s church.

After the death of Albert, Elsie Sidley moved to St John’s, The Limes, Felbridge, and returned to her profession of teaching, taking up a position at the East Grinstead County Grammar School in 1937, and being appointed Senior Mistress in 1940. She had started her career in teaching during World War I, at a Grammar School for boys in Yorkshire, before moving to London, where she had worked under the distinguished educationalist, Dame Rosa Bassett, during the 1920’s. Elsie remained at the East Grinstead County Grammar School until 1949, when failing sight forced her to retire. In 1951, she re-married, Dr Percy Brigstocke of Wisborough, Furze Lane, East Grinstead, a member of the St John’s congregation who had not long lost his wife. Elsie Brigstocke eventually lost her sight completely and died in June 1976.

William Herbert Hewitt 1933-1949

William Hewitt was born in Dublin and was educated at Trinity College, Dublin where he gained a BA in 1898. He then went on to gain his BD (Batchelor of Divinity) in 1905, and MA in 1910. He was ordained as deacon in 1898, and priest in 1899, serving as a curate of Christ’s Church, Derry, Northern Ireland, between 1898 and 1900. On leaving Derry he entered the Church Missionary Society and in 1901, went to Sierra Leone until 1908. Whilst in Sierra Leone, he became the Vice Principal of Fourah Bay College between 1901 and 1902, and then Acting Principal between 1906 and 1908. When Hong Kong University was founded, in 1908, William Hewitt left Sierra Leone and became Chaplain at St Stephen’s College, there, between 1908 and 1912, then Warden of St John’s Hall, Hong Kong, between 1912 and 1915, and finally Warden of St Stephen’s College, between 1915 and 1928. St Stephen’s College was founded by a Chinese gentleman along the lines of an English Public School.

In 1928, William Hewitt came to England and took up the post of Warden of the Henry Venn Hostel in Highbury, London, between 1929 and 1933, for the purpose of training missionaries for the Church Missionary Society. In 1933, he took up the position of vicar at St John’s, Felbridge, his first true parish. He brought with him his family, his wife, who for many years had been a missionary in China, and their two children. His entitlement as vicar of St John’s was a house, the glebe worth £2, Queen Anne’s Bounty of £45, an Ecclesiastical Commission of £278, Fees of £10, Easter Offering of £6, giving a gross yearly living of £341, net £278. By 1947, this had changed to, glebe value of £2, an Ecclesiastical Commission of £278, Queen Anne’s Bounty of £45, and Fees £18, East Offerings £30, giving a gross yearly living of £373, net £301.

William Hewitt was a keen sportsman, preferring golf and tennis. He had a great interest in languages, and his wife worked for the Government during the war, as a Chinese translator. Both were keen students of Chinese, and had done some research work on the language of South China. It was the Hewitt family that were resident when the three bombs dropped in and around the vicarage and church grounds on 28th August 1940, suffering extensive damage to the vicarage, with shattered windows, gaping cracks in the wall of the house, loss of tiles and guttering, demolition of the greenhouse, garden walls and cycle shed, and burnt gardens and shrubbery. Fortunately, no one was hurt, although Mrs Hewitt was sleeping in the bedroom that bore the brunt of the blast near the vicarage. They remained at St John’s parish until the retirement William Hewitt in 1949. He died, in his late seventy’s, in December 1955.

Reginald Edmund Theobald 1949-1961

Reginald Theobald was educated at the University of Durham and in 1933, became an associate of the London College of Divinity. He was ordained as deacon in 1933, and priest in 1935, serving as a curate of All Saint’s, Shooter’s Hill, London, between 1933 and 1937. Between 1937 and 1939, he took up the post of Chaplain in the North Province, in the Diocese of Lagos, Nigeria, returning to England in 1939, to the position of vicar of St Saviour’s, Brixton, London, where re remained throughout the war years, until 1949.

In 1949, he took the position of vicar of St John’s, Felbridge, and brought with him his family, his wife and two children, Mary and John. As vicar of St John’s he was entitled to a house, the glebe valued at £3, Church Commission of £407, Fees of £29, Easter Offering of £30, Parochial Church Council £37, giving a gross yearly living of £506, net £425.

Reginald Theobald remained at St John’s until September 1961, when he moved to Christ Church, Ottershaw, Surrey. A collection was organised and Rev and Mrs Theobald were presented with a substantial cheque on leaving. From his new parish in Ottershaw, he wrote:

‘No words are adequate to express our thanks to you all for your gift to us; all we can do is to accept it as a wonderful token of your friendship and affection, and to say thank to for it. The TV we are buying will be a constant reminder to us of you all and of the happy twelve years we spent in Felbridge. The balance is going towards an electric kettle and washing machine, which will be a great boon on the domestic side of our new home, and so make more time for work in the parish.

My wife asks me to pass on her grateful thanks for the lovely tea service from members of the MU, Wives’ Group and Working Party. Mary and John were thrilled with the Record Token, and thank you very much for it.

We should also like to thank all who have written to us expressing their prayerful good wishes for the work in our new parish, and to thank especially those who came over to Ottershaw for the Institution.

And now we must look forward with hope and expectancy into the future, believing that god has much to do through us – you under your new Vicar in Felbridge and we in our new parish at Ottershaw. The days in which we live are critical and insecure, and call for an adventurous and dynamic faith. Where can such faith be received except through Christ Himself through His Church?

May God’s richest Blessing rest upon us all in our new tasks.’

Leslie Ernest Ward Walters 1961-1968

Leslie Walters was educated at Wadham College, Oxford, where he gained a BA in 1951, and at Ridley Hall, Cambridge where he gained a MA. We was ordained as deacon in 1957 and priest in 1958, serving as curate at St Peter’s, Hereford, between 1957 and 1959, moving, as curate to Emmanuel, Morden, Surrey, between 1959 and 1961.

In 1961, he took up the position of vicar at St John’s, Felbridge, and brought with him his family, his wife Madeline and two small daughters, Rachel, aged two and newly born, Jennifer. His entitlement as vicar was an income of £237 net Endowment (the Margary Fund) and £733 net Benefice. During his time spent at St John’s, the old vicarage was demolished and replaced with a new up-to-date one, more suited to the needs of a vicarage of the day. Also during his time in Felbridge, he struggled to get planning consent to build on land adjoining the church, the glebe. The sale of the land, shortly after the completion of the new vicarage, came at a welcomed time, as the Church Commission gave £10,000 that had footed the bill for the £9,500 vicarage, of which only £2,000 was a gift. The remainder of the loan had to be paid back by the diocese of Southwark, the vicar of Felbridge and the Parochial Church Council. Consent was eventually passed for six properties to be built, now The Glebe, but this decision came too late for Leslie Walters to witness as he had taken up a new appointment as vicar of Emmanuel Church, Streatham, in June 1968.

The year before Leslie Walters left the parish, in the summer of 1967, he and his family, which had by then gained another daughter, Alison, then eight months old, took part in a four-month ecclesiastical exchange, as a pioneering exercise, with Rev Richard Shacknell from the Church of Resurrection, Pleasant Hill, near San Francisco, California. The exchange was suggested by the bishop of Southwark and approved by the Felbridge Parochial Church Council, and the parish of Felbridge experienced a different style of service between May and September.

Charles Roy Boff 1968-1979

Charles, known as Roy, Boff was born in 1931, and was educated at Clifton Theological College, Bristol, gaining a BA in 1957, and a MA in 1960. He was ordained as deacon in 1957, and priest in 1958. He was curate at All Saint’s, Plumstead, London, between 1957 and 1961, before moving as vicar to Christ Church, Gipsy Hill, Upper Norwood, between 1961 and 1968. In 1968, Roy Boff came as vicar to St John’s, Felbridge, having left Gipsy Hill, a popular clergyman, as demonstrated by the two-coach loads of people from his previous parish that attended his Induction at Felbridge, in the September.

Roy Boff came to the parish with his wife Barbara, and five daughters, Deborah, Penny, Fiona, Alyson and Katie. It was during his time in the parish that St John’s saw the biggest change. Having recently acquired a new vicarage and Church Hall, St John’s then went on to extend the Church Hall, open up the chancel of the church, carpet the aisles, and witness the building of The Glebe on the former lands of the glebe, and witness the establishment of MacKenzie House, in some of the grounds of the old vicarage.

During some of the duration of Roy Boff’s time in Felbridge, Arthur Rider, honorary curate of St John’s, assisted him. Arthur Rider had been on the Parochial Church Council of St John’s since the early 1960’s and had spent three years at St Andrews, Fort William, Scotland. He was officially ordained as deacon by the Bishop of Southwark at Southwark Cathedral, in December 1970. Apart from being honorary curate, he was also honorary chaplain to two London hospitals, both in the diocese of Southwark, St Francis geriatric hospital and Hamlet House that helped victims of multiple sclerosis, and he also served on the Felbridge Parish Council. In 1971, Arthur Rider temporarily left the parish of St John’s to ‘look after’ the parish of St Andrews, Fort William, for the duration of the winter whilst a new rector was sort, as the previous rector there had been appointed Bishop of Argyll and the Isles.

It was also during the early 1970’s that Roy Boff had two unexpected visitors at St John’s, that of a pair of barn owls. Stephen Dalton, the renowned wildlife photographer, followed up a tip-off given by a churchwarden, that a pair of barn owls were nesting in a local country church. So one summer night he and a friend were to be found crouching in the shadows of St. John’s churchyard. In his own words:

‘Moonlight was shining brightly on the roofs and belfry. At each end of the church was a stone cross and on one transept stood a small ornate tower. In the distance the mournful baying of a pack of kennelled foxhounds was cut occasionally by the bark of a vixen, but much closer and above us was another sound – an eerie hissing and snoring. Suddenly a silent white form passed over the graveyard and came to rest on one of the crosses. After pausing there, it glided down to the tower and disappeared through a small arch in the side. After a crescendo of hissing, the white phantom re-appeared at the entrance and drifted away into the surrounding darkness.

Owls hold a unique place in folklore and superstition. The barn owl roosts and nests in hollow trees, barns and derelict buildings. Its liking for church towers and old ruins, its nocturnal habits, its silent flight and phantom-like presence, its hissing, snoring and occasional spine-chilling screech have cast it as a bird of ill omen, and the owl and its haunts often feature in ghost stories and tales of the supernatural. We had found the ideal site to portray, in one picture, not only the barn owl, but also the atmosphere surrounding it’.

After seeking permission from Roy Boff, and receiving a permit from the Nature Conservancy, Stephen Dalton set about capturing a photograph of the owl. Ten days later most of the preparations were in place, but the equipment then began to play up. After several failed attempts and three weeks had passed, despondency had turned to desperation. Then one night when they were sitting in their car debating whether to dismantle the equipment, ‘the majestic white bird calmly surveyed its territory, and after what seemed minutes seized its prey in its beak and in one long glide descended to another small cross above the chancel. Once again it transferred the rat to its talons and paused. The suspense increased. Finally the owl picked up the rat by the scruff of the neck and slowly turned towards the tower. It hesitated a moment with its wings partly open, then launched itself from the cross. Suddenly, for a fraction of a second, the owl and the tower were illuminated by a dazzling light, then all was dark’. The result was a beautiful picture of barn owl returning to its nest, prey in mouth, and a chance to see St John’s church from an unexpected angle, followed by television fame when the whole event appeared in a documentary, and later a book called Caught in Motion, detailing high-speed nature photography.

Roy Boff proved to be as popular in the parish of St John’s as he had been at Gipsy Hill, the reason for his popularity was perhaps best summed up by one of his parishioners ‘he was always there’. However, at the end of March 1979, Roy Boff was no longer ‘always there’ as he took up his new ministry as vicar of Steyning, Sussex. On their departure, Rev and Mrs Boff were presented with a carriage clock and a cheque for over £800 from the parish. In his letter of thanks, Roy Boff wrote:

‘We thank all who contributed to the marvellous gifts which you showered upon us and for all the kind letters, cards and flowers which have pursued us here [Steyning Vicarage]. None of us expected anything like the ‘send-off’ you gave us and we certainly felt we did little to deserve it all. May I also say ‘au revoir’ to the many friends who could not manage the weekend farewells. The last few weeks at Felbridge were so busy it was impossible to visit everyone who had made our ten years in Felbridge such happy ones. It has been a great joy to serve the Lord among you and these tokens of your affection will be a constant reminder of your friendship.’

Stephen Guy Bowen 1979-

Born in 1947, of a musical background, Stephen Bowen was educated at the City of London School where his main interest was modern languages, which he went on to read at Queens College, Cambridge. After being invited to a Bible Class one Sunday afternoon, he became a Christian and began to consider entering the Ministry, so he changed to Theology for his second and third years, gaining a BA in 1968. After a year teaching at Ealing Grammar School, he went to Clifton Theological College, Bristol, where he gained a MA in 1972. He was ordained as deacon in 1971, and priest in 1972, being curate at St John’s, World’s End, Chelsea, London, between 1971 and 1973, combining with St Andrew’s in 1973. He then moved, still as curate, to St Saviour’s, Guildford, Surrey, between 1973 and 1977, (in 1976 the parish was re-named St Saviour’s, West Stoke-next-Guildford, Surrey). It was whilst in Guildford, that he met and married his wife Mandy before moving to Holy Trinity, Wallington, between 1977 and 1979.

In September 1979, Stephen took up the position of vicar of St John’s, Felbridge, the position he still holds in 2002. In January 2005, he will have equalled the length of the ministry of John Thorp, the longest serving vicar to date, that of just over twenty-five years.

In September 2002, Tim Neale, who was appointed Assistant Pastor, joined Stephen in the parish of St John’s, Felbridge. Tim, born in 1974, hails from Abergavenny, Wales. He was educated at Swansea, where he gained an HND in Business and Finance and then at the age of twenty-two, decided on a major career change and spent the next three years studying for a BA in Applied Theology at Moorlands Bible College, Dorset. He than spent the next three years teaching RE in South Wales and the West Midlands, before taking up his first full time ministry, at St John’s.

The Stained Glass Windows

Most of the windows were damaged during the Second World War when the three bombs landed in the grounds of the vicarage and church. The grisaille (monochromic colouring) glass in one of the South windows in the chancel is all that remains of the original glass. This consists of four rectangular panels of painted glass, two that are predominantly blue and the other two red. These have been set into clear diamond shaped panes with lead work. The only two pre-war stained glass windows that were not damaged are located in the North wall of the North aisle, all the rest date to post 1946.

East Window
This is the largest of the windows and was completely destroyed during the war. The present window was replaced in 1949, the work of Geoffrey Webb and is of a new design, retaining a few elements to the original. The central sexfoil window does still have the Agnus Dei or Lamb of God that can be seen in old photographs of the church interior, and there are still angels beneath it. Under the window there is a brass plaque that is inscribed:


Inscribed on a plaque under the grisaille window on the South wall, a short history of the East window is to be found, which states that it was installed in 1949, and that it replaced four memorial windows shattered by enemy action in August 1940, which commemorated Dr Charles Gatty, J Whyte, Mrs K Fellows and J C Joyner. The original East window was dedicated to the memory of Dr Charles Henry Gatty but the replacement, executed by Geoffrey Webb of East Grinstead, replaced the commemorative windows of the four people mentioned above. The new design represents the Tree of Life with Christ at the centre amid the words ‘I am the vine; you are the branches’ as detailed in John 15. Above the main figure are St Peter, St Andrew, St Stephen, St Barnabas and St Paul, while along side Jesus are St Mary Magdalene, St Mary the Virgin, St John and St James. At the top is the Paschal Lamb and the banner of St George surrounded by angels.

North Windows

The Sidley Window
This is the window in the North wall of the side aisle, nearest to the North chapel and is also the work of Geoffrey Webb and has a dedication that reads:

In remembrance of Albert Sidley
Vicar of this parish AD 1932 – 1933.

The window itself depicts the Presentation in the Temple, with Simeon, with a scroll above his head, holding the baby Jesus with a halo. The scroll reads: Mine eyes have seen thy salvation. The figure to the right is Anna. To the right of Anna’s head can be seen the initials GW 1936, Geoffrey Webb of East Grinstead. The Presentation story is detailed in Luke 2: 22 – 29.

The Wren Window
This window is situated near the North door in the North wall of the side aisle and has the dedication that reads:
+ DIED 1937 +

The window depicts Christ the shepherd carrying a lamb crook, accompanied by a small flock of three sheep, as detailed in Luke 15: 4-6, and John 10: 11-16. Underneath the figure is the line of text:

My sheep hear my voice and I know them as they follow me.

This window does not have any initials or name of maker.

West Window
This is a small window situated to the North of the bell chamber in the West wall of the nave, slightly obscured by a screen that has been erected to hide the heating system. The window depicts a seated Mary holding the baby Jesus. Above Mary’s head are three angels and above them the star of Bethlehem. The dedication reads:
And in loving memory of

Wife of Edward Albert Batt and
Daughter of William & Mary Ridley.

Barbara Batt filia pinxit

This window does not have any initials or maker’s name on it, but the inscription filia pinxit may mean that Barbara Batt, the daughter of Mabel Batt, executed the design.

(For further details on the stained glass see Fact Sheet, Stained Glass Dedications of St John the Divine, Felbridge. SJC07/02ii)

Memorials in the Church

On the North wall of the side aisle of the church, just East of the North door, there is a small square wall tablet that is inscribed:

In Memory
of Burstow, Surrey
a generous benefactress
to this benefice.
AD 1928

There is also a brass wall plaque on the North wall of the side aisle of the church, to the East of the above plaque, about half way along. Along the top edge, on an interwoven ribbon, are the words: OMNIA EXPLORATE MELIORA RETINETE, and along the bottom edge on an interwoven ribbon, the words: PANTA ΔOKIMAZETE TO KALON KATEXETE.

The two mottos, first in Latin and then in Greek, both mean: PROVE ALL THINGS, HOLD FAST THAT WHICH IS GOOD. This quotation, ‘prove all things, hold fast that which is good’, is taken from 1 Thessalonians 5: 21. The literal Latin version could more literally be translated, ‘Explore all things, hold on to those which are better’, although on the plaque they are probably meant to be the same.

Either side of the plaque, again on the ribbon are DVRATE, on the left and KAPTEPEITE on the right. These, the first in Latin and the second in Greek, are the Foljambe family motto of ‘BE STEADFAST’.

The inscription on the plaque reads:



High up on the North wall of the North chapel, by the organ, is a large carved marble tablet that is inscribed:



Below and slightly to the West of the above tablet is a small rectangular marble tablet that is inscribed:


Next to the above tablet is another, larger rectangular marble tablet that is inscribed:


Below this tablet there is another rectangular marble tablet that is inscribed:


To the East of the sedilia, set in the recess of the blocked off priests’ door in the South wall of the chancel is a large brass plaque in memory of the men who served in the First World War and did not return to Felbridge. At the top it is inscribed: IN GRATEFUL MEMORY OF OUR FELBRIDGE HEROES 1914 –1918. Up the left hand side and down the right is inscribed: GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN THAN THIS. THAT HE LAY DOWN HIS LIFE FOR HIS FRIENDS.

The names that appear are:
SAP. J. BONNY R. E. 12.3.15
PT. A. H. BINGHAM R. SX. 19.4.17
PT. S. BURCHETT R. SX. 8.8.17
PT. F. L. CREASY R. SX. 25.9.15
LNC. CPL. E. S. CREASY R. SX. 3.9.16
LIEUT. COL. A. V. COWLEY 9th KGS. OWN. 23.10.18
CPL. A. J. HILL R. SX. 1.6.17
PT. O. E. MEPPEM E. SY. 15.6.17
PT. H. C. PAICE R. SX. 14.11.15
PT. G. MARDEN R. W. SY. 25.9.15
PT. F. G. WHEELER E. KT. 26.1.16

Originally this memorial was situated high up on the North wall of the sanctuary and when visited by U Lambert, in 1925, was so dirty and high up that he could only read eight names, and he wrote ‘The brass badly needs cleaning and it may be said that it is wrongly placed since a war memorial should always be set up where it is accessible and legible to all’. At some point after 1925, the brass was moved to a lower position on the South wall of the sanctuary where the fifteen names can now be easily viewed.

Also against the South wall in the chancel, can be found a pair of carved light oak credence tables, (the credence table was designed to hold the bread and wine during the Eucharist or Communion). Each of these tables has a plaque that is inscribed with the same memorial that reads:


4TH MAY 1942



The altar table has an inscription that reads: ‘Do this in remembrance of me’, carved along the West side. The carving was commissioned in memory of Robin Halsall, who died in 1994, and a dedication plaque is affixed to the South end of the ‘under-standing’ of the Table.

To the West, of the chancel, on the South wall in the nave between the two windows, is a marble tablet that reads:
In loving memory
23rd November 1896 – 18th February 1976
Archaeologist and Historian

Found in the vestry, there is a small wafer box made of glass with a silvered metal top, the underside of which is guilded. The box measures 4ins by 3ins (10cm by 7.5cm) and 1in (2.5cm) deep. Inscribed on the lid is the following:
Dedicated by
St. John’s Fellowship
in the memory of the late Vicar
1932 - 1933

(For further details on non-military memorials see Fact Sheet Memorials of St John the Divine, Felbridge, SJC07/02iii, and for further details on the War Memorial and credence tables see Fact Sheet War Memorials of St John the Divine, Felbridge, SJC07/02v.)

This is by no means a complete history of St John the Divine, Felbridge, and there is still more information yet to be discovered or uncovered. However, it is hoped that this Fact Sheet gives the reader a general view on the history of the church, its vicars, and the monuments and memorials dedicated to some of the people of Felbridge that have been erected over the years. Further information is available on some of the areas covered and has been detailed in separate Fact Sheets, their references quoted where appropriate.

My thanks are extended to Rev Stephen Bowen for replying to my lengthy e-mails and for his over-view on Latin and Greek translations, and corrections of biblical text references. Also to Alec King and Dennis Webb for their help on the Latin and Greek front, Donald Thorpe for his unexpected and timely information on the Foljambe family, Rev Anthony Hardy for his general information on all things ecclesiastical and Ann Morley for her information on the needlework and hangings of St John’s.

Universal Dictionary
Buildings of Surrey by N Pevsner
Notes of St John’s Church by U Lambert, 1925, SHC 3924/11/57
Brief history of St John’s Church,
Victoria History of Surrey, SHC
Notes by Ivan D Margary, FHA
The Ivan Donald Margary Trust Fund, FHA
The Felbridge Chapel, SJC 05/00, Fact Sheet FHA
St Michael & All Angels,
Sir George Gilbert Scott,
Bishop’s Court Palace,
The Bells of St Leonard’s,
The silver of St John’s, SAC vol.12p71, SHC
Jackson’s Silver and Gold Hallmarks by I Pickford
A Complete Guide to Heraldry by AC Fox-Davies
Felbridge Parish & People, 2000, FHA
Roof Reports from the Parish News, Sept 2000- July/Aug 2002, FHA
Bequest boosts church, EGC, 21.9.00, FHA
The Holy Bible, British and Foreign Bible Society, 1966
Latin and Greek translations supplied by Rev SG Bowen, A King, D Webb and D Thorpe
Burial register for St John the Divine, Felbridge, FHA
Notes from Donald Thorpe re the Earl of Liverpool, FHA
Crockfords Clerical Directory, 1874, 1913, 1934, 1952, 1962, ESRO
Crockfords Clerical Directory, 1917, 1929, 1933, 2002, Lambeth Palace Library
Alumni Cantabrigienses by J A Venn, Lambeth Palace Library
Kelly’s Directory, 1887, ESRO
Presentations to the Rev. J and the Misses Thorp, Local Newspaper article, 1914, FHA
Death and Funeral of Rev. John Thorp, Local Newspaper article, 1915, FHA
Clara Cooper,
Rev Albert Sidley, Death of the Vicar of Felbridge, Local Newspaper article, 1933, FHA
Tributes to Mrs Elsie Brigstocke, Parish News, June 1976, FHA
Rev W H Hewitt, Felbridge Vicar’s Life, Local Newspaper article, 7/10/33, FHA
New Vicar of Felbridge, Local Newspaper article, 1933, FHA
American Vicar at Felbridge, Local Newspaper article, 1967, FHA
Letter from R E Theobald, Parish News, Jan. 1956, FHA
Vicar’s Letter, Parish News, July 1961, Sept. 1961, Oct. 1961, FHA
Induction of a New Vicar, East Grinstead Courier article, 19/9/68, FHA
New Deacon Ordained, Local Paper article, 31/13/70, FHA
Caught in motion by S Dalton
Farewell to the Boffs, Parish News, May 1979, FHA
Letter from Steyning, Parish News, May 1979, FHA
Curate Takes the High Road, Local Newspaper article, no date, FHA
Profile of Stephen Bowen, Parish News, September 1988, FHA
Letter from Tim Neale, Parish News, July/Aug 2002, FHA
Notes and Photographs of the bombing, 28/8/40, by Mrs Hewitt, FHA
£9,500 New Vicarage Ready, Local Newspaper article, 1965, FHA

SJC 07/02i