Guided Tour of the Church
Jesus has been found worthy of greater honour than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honour than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. .
Follow the links on the right for more detailed information about the church Windows and Brasses, and the Monumnents inside the church. There is also a detailed list of the gravestone inscriptions in the Church Graveyard.
Outside the Church
The church has been known as St John the Baptist since Norman times, but the earlier Saxon church may have also had this dedication.
You see a building much as it would have looked in the 15th Century, especially the castellated north chapel, chancel and lower two sections of the tower 13th century tower. Although the church appears old, the brick parts of the nave is Georgian constructed in 1793 and much of the remaining structure rebuilt by the Victorians in 1901.
The church is surrounded by the graveyard which has been closed since 1861. The oldest gravestone is dated 1742 however for every one you see there are probably several hundred unmarked burials.
Enter the church by the main entrance into the porch.
The Porch and Nave
The modern porch was added in 1995/6 and includes a meeting room (named the Selwyn Room after our Patron, Selwyn College Cambridge) and toilet facilities.
Enter the church through the church west door. The main body of a church has elm pews for some 140 people, with a maximum capacity of some 230 in all areas. In front of you is the chancel arch which dates from the 13th century and beyond that the altar and large east window. Our tower is somewhat unusually positioned to the north of the nave, the base of which is part of the Lady Chapel. Many of the marks and scars on the stonework have been retained as they reveal the development and changes that have occurred over the years.
The nave was substantially rebuilt in brick in 1793 however the lower part of the left hand (north) wall and east wall of the nave have significant parts of the original 11th century structure. Above the 13th century chancel arch notice the old roof lines which indicate the development of the nave between 11th and early 13th centuries. The whole floor of the church was until 1793 some 18ins lower than it is now.
Much of the nave was rebuilt again in the restoration of 1901 however the brick Georgian structures were retained rather than trying to recreate the lost medieval building. The 15th C roof beams were reused and the plastered ceiling removed to reveal the mortises cut in the roof beams. Some of the old woodwork was retained and formed into the dado rails and other parts.
In the 15th century it was the fashion to divide the nave and chancel by a screen, called a Rood. Evidence of the screen and loft can be seen on the underside of the chancel arch and by the blocked up doorway adjacent to the chancel arch just above the tower arch. A modern (1930) reconstruction of the rood screen was repositioned behind the altar in 1988.
All ancient glass was destroyed in 1793 and all present stained glass is 20th century.
There are Rolls of Honour to the War Dead of the First and Second World Wars,
There are four large 19th C burial hatchments of the Grantley family high up on either side, and a large royal George III Achievement of Arms hung on the east wall. On the west wall is a charming wall tablet, the inscription and side columns of which are missing (possibly that of John Caryll D1612). There is a painted wooden panel onto which the names of all the incumbents of the Parish have been recorded. There are also two large reproduction religious paintings; The Madonna on the Rocks and The Vision of St Helena. The pulpit is early 20th centruy carved from walnut.
Lady Chapel (North Chapel) and Tower Base
Enter the Lady Chapel through the plain 12th C pointed arch. You are now standing in the tower base. An empty 16th C tomb of an unknown person is against the west wall. The stairway in the corner leads to the ringing chamber where 8 bells are rung, however look at the rope marks above the eastern arch to realise that before 1751 for many years they were rung from floor level.
The font is a reconstruction of the original Norman cup shape bowl and earlier stem and base, based upon fragments found buried beneath the floor in 1901. The band of ribbed work on coarse grit stone may date to pre-conquest times being one of the oldest surviving elements of our church. The font canopy is a copy of the Madonna & Child in Bruges.
What appears to be evidence of a door below the window on the north tower wall is rather confusing. Whilst there was a door and porch in this position, what you see is a reconstruction of pieces of the chapel priest's door which were found buried below the floor and positioned here in the restoration of 1901. Even accounting for the floor being 18ins lower, it is still set too low in the wall.
Look above the arch to the nave and see clear evidence of a 15th C passage to the rood loft.
Looking towards the chapel altar, approach through the opening cut into the tower base when the chapel was built in the 15th C, see also the pointed arch cut at this time into the chancel. Note the small corbel carved as a face on the eastern side of the arch. The chapel has been known as the Lady Chapel since 1901 but it has no traditional dedication, no burials have taken place in it, and it was possibly a Guild Chapel for the weavers of Wonersh in the 15th century.
The structure of the chapel and tower were substantially repaired in 1901, including renewal of the ornamented roof with carved bosses, reconstruction of the altar area and the windows. The altar is the old 18th century altar from the chancel and is built across and above the old sacristry, part of which has been filled in. The small plain deal table, generally used today as the altar table, was originally the chancel altar in the apse of the 1793 reconstruction.
The stained glass windows are by Archibald Nicholson. The east window is his earliest work dated 1902 and shows Christ with St George and St Alban. It has a military theme and there is a connection the adjacent brass wall plaque on the north wall. There are two smaller windows also by Nicholson in the north wall. There are two large sombre paintings, copies of sections of Virgin & Child from The Vision of St Jerome, and Virgin & Child from Virgin with John the Baptist & Mary Magdalene.
Notice the graceful old perpendicular niche and image bracket, which it is thought originally contained an image of the Virgin Mary, now containing a statue of a Madonna as the “Second Eve”. The 13th C “Leper Squint” pre-dates the chapel and gives site to the chancel altar.
Chancel & Sacristry
Enter the chancel along the altar rail. Immediately adjacent to the altar rail and on either side, protected beneath carpet, are the 16th brasses with Effigies to the Elyot families. On the right Thomas Elyot and his wife Alice date possibly 1407. He was Filacer (Keeper of the Files) for Surrey and Sussex and Clerk of the Peace for Surrey. They lived in Green Place. On the left side Henry Elyot (d1503?), his wife Johanna with 12 sons and 11 daughters. There are also two small rectangular 16th C brass plates in the sacristry floor.
In the central aisle is a modern brass in memory of the first vicar whose Patron was Selwyn College Cambridge.
The chancel was restored in 1901 to what was considered to be its original size of the 13th C. The roof was replaced on the lines indicated in the old Norman west wall; the north and south walls are mainly original and note evidence of other lancet windows high up in the structure. The east wall was constructed in 1901 on the foundations of the old wall and the window copied from old documents.
Remember that the floor was originally 18ins lower than at present and note the passage to the old “sacristry or crypt” that leads through the north wall. Note the “leper” squint in the north wall and the squint to (what was) the south chapel on the south wall. The three arch Sedilia and Piscina date from 1901.
The stained glass in the east window dated 1915 is by Archibald Nicholson and illustrates the Te Deum.
The ceiling is elm, divided up in ribs with carved, painted & gilded bosses at the intersections. There is a single 15thC mortised and grooved beam now part of the chancel roof that is thought to have originally been part of the old rood loft.
The oak choir and clergy stalls date from 1906 and “the motif of their design was to illustrate the Psalter”.
The screen against the east wall was placed between the chancel and nave as a rood screen in 1930, but was repositioned behind the altar in 1988. The crucifix, originally on top of the screen, is now mounted on the west wall.
Vestry (South Chapel)
Cross the chancel into the vestry through the archway cut in the 15th C. The wooden screen is 15th C made up from remains of the two side screens in 1901.
This area is now used as a vestry, but was originally built in the 13th or 14th C as a chapel or chantry. It became part of the south aisle from the 15th C when it was known as the Tangley Chapel (or Chancel). It was destroyed in 1793 and replaced by a mausoleum for the Grantley family. In the rebuilding of 1901 the coffins and tombs were cleared and the small arch to the nave cut through in 15th C style.
The pipe organ was built 1885 by T C Lewis. It was given to the church in 1901 and is positioned on top of the Grantley tomb; the main Grantley tomb was moved outside and can be seen in the NE part of the churchyard. The oak partition was constructed from the old Grantley Pew.
There is an altar tomb of Richard Gwynn dated 1701 in the south corner of the vestry which is delicately carved with heraldry. Set into the floor are Grantley, Chapple & Caryl tombstones.