West Clandon Parish Church
A Guide to the Parish Church of St Peter and St Paul West Clandon
The Church is normally open to visitors when Clandon House is open on:
Sundays 12.00 – 4.00 pm
Tues, Wed & Thursday 10.00am – 4.00pm
(all timings approximate)
A free guide is available outlining its history and main features.
Access is normally through the North Door being closest to the path leading up from Clandon House.
The Font is both the main physical entry to the church and the entry point to the Christian life. This is made of Purbeck marble and dates back to 1150 – 1220. After baptism the water, which has been blessed, drains away directly into the earth. The pillars are modern, but the wooden cover dates from the 17th century.
The Incumbents Board: moving clockwise round the church we come to the incumbents’ board. The first Rector Richard deBoclynton seems to have been a rather unruly character. In addition to his alleged livestock larceny, he appears to have been absent in 1297 because the Rector of East Clandon apparently carried out his duties. This dereliction of duty seems at that time to have been rather common. Richard de Weston, the son of the Lord of the Manor, became Rector in 1349. One Rector was at some time Domestic Chaplain to the Duke of Gloucester and a further two were Archdeacons. Henry Slyfield (1545) and William Slyfield (1575- 1588 ) were probably sons of the Lord of the Manor at that time. Thomas Russell (1788-1822) was a member of a very important Guildford family and was the older brother of John Russell, this country’s foremost pastel artist. John Wenham (1852-1872) has a window dedicated to him, as does Edward Curry (1940-1949). Richard Swanwick Hartley (1918), who was a Naval Chaplain, has a triptych in the chancel dedicated to him by his family.
3 The Curry Memorial Window: the first window we come to is a two lancet window. This depicts the Annunciation with the Angel Gabriel facing the Virgin Mary to whom he is giving a blessing. It is in memory of F Edward Curry (Rector 1940–1949) and his wife and was installed in 1964.
4 Bed or Grave Board: this recently restored bed board along with two others, yet to be restored, had stood outside in thechurchyard for around 150 years. There are very few left in Surrey due to their exposure to the weather. This particular family were very poor, continually in receipt of finance from the Overseers of the poor who, with the Rector and Churchwardens, looked after the villagers in need. The boards would have been made by the village carpenter, gravestones being unaffordable.
5 The Onslow Family Heraldic Window: this window was placed in the West wall in 1730 and glazed with the various coats of arms of the Onslow family, tracing their history from Henry III onwards. The family motto is “Semper Fidelis- Festina Lente” ( “always faithful-onward slow”, a pun on the name On-slow). The family crest appearing on many of the coats of arms includes a Chough, a black bird with red legs. On a number of these crests can be seen the coronet of either a Baron or an Earl. The glass is thought to have come from Cranleigh church.
6 The Onslow Pews: these pews or stalls were the gift of an 18th century Earl of Onslow. They are beautifully carved with cherubs’ heads, acanthus leaves and cockle shells. It is not known where they came from but they are thought to date from 1770.
7 The Clandon Legend: over the North door is a wooden carving. The first story about it tells of a dragon living beyond the cottages opposite the church which terrified everyone going along what was then called Back Lane. One day a soldier, who was a deserter from the army and condemned to death, was passing through the village with his dog. Hearing about this dragon he offered to set his dog onto the dragon and then kill it if he could be given a pardon. Everyone was so pleased about this that they got him to slay the dragon which he did with the aid of his dog in a field called “Dead Acre” and he then became a free man. Most people prefer this to the alternative explanation ( the triumph of good over evil, the lion overcoming the dragon or serpent in the Garden of Eden) and so the dragon has become the symbol of West Clandon. The original medieval carving, probably a pew end, was stolen some years ago.
8 The Bread Shelves: the benefaction board on the North wall provided for sixpenny loaves to be given to the poor and to be paid for out of the property of John Bone who owned a business and land in the village. The shelves beneath were to hold those loaves. Sixpenny loaves hardly sound generous until you realise how expensive corn was during a long period of agricultural depression and the operation of the Corn Laws in the early 19th Century. These shelves are thought to be unique.
9 Roof Timbers Spanning the Nave: engraved into one of these beams is the date 1716. Just before the Christmas Service in that year the roof of the nave fell in, probably as a result of water rotting the beam ends at a point next to the tower. Due to the span of the beam, it was necessary to splice new timber at the rotten end and tie new and old timbers together with iron bands.
10 The Tower Room: this room, recently re-furbished, was originally built in the 13th century, either as a manorial chapel or as a defensive facility. The stained glass window was placed there in memory of the 3rd Earl who died in 1870 and his wife who died in 1830 by their daughter Cynthia in 1877. The room is at present used as a small meeting room and for the Sunday school.
11 The Organ: the organ dates from 1965, replacing one which occupied a position in the chancel. The original organ replaced a minstrel’s gallery which was demolished.
12 The Aumbry: the hole in the wall beneath the small Norman lancet window is where the sacred vessels were kept in Norman times. Its lockable door appears to have been roughly torn out, leaving the hinge holes visible.
13 Norman Lancet Window: this is the only original Norman lancet window. It would originally have been shuttered and is understood to have been subsequently glazed with medieval glass. This was later replaced in the 19th century with the present glass depicting a standing figure of a young girl with flowing golden hair. Theprovenance of this is unknown.
14 The East Window: before the 13th century, this was a three part lancet window, traces of which can be seen in the plaster work either side of the present window. The stained glass was installed in 1874 and is believed to have been paid for by Lady Onslow in memory of members of the Onslow family who died in the early to mid 19th century. The window shows St Peter holding the crossed keys, St Paul standing with right hand raised, and Jesus the Good Shepherd holding a lamb thus reflecting the dedication of the church to St Peter and St Paul. The whole window was recently dismantled and restored to its former glory, funded by a generous benefactor.
15 The Communion Rails: the rails, made of mansonia walnut, were installed in 1961 in memory of Margaret Tanner.
16 Piscina:this lofty but shallow piscina, possibly used by the priest for washing his hands, is dated around 1330.
17 Small Inset Piscina: this was probably used to wash the chalice and is also dated 1330.
18 Lancet Window: this was originally made of chalk clunch, but subsequently replaced with bath stone and would have been fitted with wooden shutters when it was installed in the 13th century. The female figure represents Hope. The dedication “in memory of a beloved sister, S A H” was probably installed in the latter half of the 19th Century. Its provenance is unknown.
19 Sedilia: this early 13th century seat, recessed into the wall, was for visiting priests and is unusually large for a small church.
The medieval triptych depicts St. Peter and St Paul with St Thomas of Canterbury to whom the parish church in East Clandon is dedicated. Probably this was originally set behind the altar.
20 The Wenham Window: the window depicts the circumcision of Christ. It features Simeon with the Holy Child on his lap, the elderly Anna, Joseph, and the Virgin Mary kneeling. It is in memory of John Wenham (Rector 1852-1872) and his wife Susan and was installed around 1874 when substantial changes were made to the church.
21 Pulpit: this was installed in 1874, replacing the previous Jacobean wooden pulpit. The stone is believed to be French.
22 Pillar Piscina: the piscina by the pulpit is very unusual and there are very few of these in Surrey. It is thought to have been influenced by the Crusades and dates back to the 12th century.
23 Window of three lights and tracery: originally lancet windows dated 1250, this was altered in 1874 with Gothic tracery and the Weston family crest at the apex.
24 Benefaction Board: this is headed by Henry Smith whose enormous charity is still distributing benefits to a large number of worthy causes. The giving of sixpenny loaves of bread shows what was really needed at that time.
25 Pews: the pews were originally much higher than they are now and were provided with doors to keep out draughts, but when gas heating was installed around 1874 exposure to the cold was less. Holes in the top of some of the pews can still be seen where gas lamps were placed. When these pews were originally put in it became necessary to cut back the holy water stoups or basins, thus spoiling these medieval facilities.
26 Doors: the oak South and North doors are identical and are thought to date from the 17th century. Although modern locks have been fitted, the original wooden locks have been retained.
27 Scratch Dials: on the stonework around the South door can be seen what look like sun dials. Because they are on the inside of the building they were almost certain to have been used in some way to indicate the church service times. The most interesting and elaborate dial of those which exist in Surrey is the one outside, high up on the South wall. It consists of several concentric circles and, although the gnomon is missing, it is thought to have both indicated the time of day throughout the year and also the times of the services.
The Church Bells: the wooden upper structure of the tower caught fire in 1913. The heat caused the six bells to melt and they had to be recast in 1914 by a London Foundry after a substantial amount of the tower was rebuilt. Two more bells were added in 1932 making the present peal of eight bells, an unusual number for a small country church.
The West Clandon Tower Clock: the clock is an important part of horological history and by a miracle escaped damage in the 1913 fire. It was made by Thwaites and Reed of Clerkenwell in 1880 and given to the Church by Rector Harkness (1872-82) in memory of his wife. A key part of its mechanism, the “double three legged gravity escapement”, was designed by a Mr Denison, (later Lord Grimethorpe), for the clock which strikes “Big Ben” in Westminster Tower. This separates the clockwork from the pendulum, which is nine feet long, and is driven only by gravity which does not change with weather or friction in the clock. It is therefore very accurate. In 2004 smaller weights wound automatically by electric motors replaced the original three 3/4 ton weights which needed to be lifted from the ground to the top of the tower each week.