Church History

Church History


St. Mary the Virgin is Buckland’s only church, and continues to represent the Church of England with a full programme of weekly services and activities. The Parish of Buckland is currently within the Deanery of Reigate, the Area of Croydon and the Diocese of Southwark. Buckland is twinned with St Michael’s Betchworth, which appeared in the 1995 film ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ and our Rector covers both parishes. Buckland and Betchworth join with Charlwood and Sidlow Bridge (shortly to be joined by Leigh and Brockham) to form the ‘Upper Mole Group’ of rural churches.

Early History

The first mention of a church in Buckland is the Domesday Book of 1086. It is possible that before the Norman conquest the Manor of Buckland formed part of the Chertsey Abbey Estates, which upon the Norman invasion was deprived of its possessions and sacked, its’ various manors being distributed amongst William’s supporters.

The advowson or patronage remained in the hands of successive Lords of the Manor:

1231-1293 John de Wauton
1293-1342 Guy Ferre, Eleanor Ferre and her second husband John de Warrenne
1349-1567 The Earl of Arundel, and successive holders of the title Earl of Arundel
1567-1639 Ralph Dallender, his son William, and his son Ralph

In 1639, the advowson passed to All Souls College Oxford and successive Rectors from 1639 to the present have been appointed by All Soul’s College Oxford.

Interior – note the paintings over the arch to the nave and behind the altar, now gone.  Postcard c.1909

1 interior 1909

The Restoration of the Church in 1860

In 1931 Mr Phillip Johnston RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) reported on the church structure in some detail. He stated that ‘it is a common mis-statement, in guide books and county histories that the church was rebuilt in 1860’. In fact, the present church is thought to have been built about 1380 (BPM Jun 1932), as much of what we have now is considered to be of that date. The present timbering of the chancel and nave roof, the lower parts of the nave walls, the ancient north window, the western “legs” of the tower (the great baulks of timber in the rear corner of the church) are the chief examples dating from this period (BPC, Jun 1932). However, during 1860, the church did undergo a large refurbishment, but not total rebuilding.

The timbers of the nave roof which is of braced-collar construction, are of oak, plastered between, while the chancel roof, of the same construction is faced with modern boarding. The fact that these roofs are still in position is an argument for the walls being still the original 14th century walls, refaced externally with flint pebbles to a large extent in 1860. Before the restoration, the external walls were smoothly plastered.

The bell-tower has a shingled spire, and internally is a structure of 14th century oak, except for the eastern supports in the church. It was retained as too solid to justify removal, and the huge Western baulks that form the legs, with their arched braces, are fine pieces of medieval carpentry. Johnston says ‘one may be permitted to praise the winding wood stair of Mr Woodyer’s 1860 design, that leads to the ringing chamber’.

The chancel probably was rebuilt and the nave walls were partly refaced, but their lower parts are ancient, being faced with large irregular stones (believed to be Bargate sandstone) and smaller rubble, roughly coursed. All the dressing of doors and windows are of Bath stone dating from 1860, but the windows are copies in Bath stone of three ancient mid-14th century window surrounds that were here up to 1860. The restoration in 1860 did not increase the size of the church in either length or breadth, except for the vestry, which replaced a lean-to structure over a vault on the north side.

In the ‘restoration’, Johnston states that the architect, Henry Woodyer destroyed a 15th century 2-light window in the south wall of the Nave, and he rebuilt the south entrance porch and doorway, destroying a barge-boarded medieval porch and the old doorway. He also removed a 14th century priest’s doorway on the south of the chancel. These early features can be seen in the painting by John Hassell in 1823, reproduced with the permission of Surrey History Centre.

2 Buckland Church 1823 hassell

Buckland Church in 1823. Watercolour by John Hassell, reproduced with permission of Surrey History Centre

The font was referred to by Manning & Bray in 1818 as the ‘old octagonal font in storage’, and so pre-dates this period. It is made of various colours of marble. It is suspected that the ornate octagonal ‘spire’ cover was the later work of Hardman in 1860. The ‘eagle’ brass lectern is dedicated to the Reverend George Slade and dated 1905.

Nairn & Pevsner (1971) and Blatch (1997) refer to St Mary’s as ‘one of Woodyer’s best achievements’, and ‘Victorian Church building at its best’. Woodyer incidentally was the most prolific church builder in Surrey, designing St. Martin’s Dorking amongst many others. The rebuilding work was done by Mr William Shearburn, Builder of Dorking, under Woodyer’s supervision (Atkinson, 1971). There is a note in the register mentioning the complete restoration of the church and rebuilding of the chancel in 1859-60, at a cost of £2,253, the whole of which was raised by private subscription.

During the works, ‘Mr Field’s Barn’, the black towered barn adjacent to Street Farm to the west of the pond, was used as a church, much of the necessary adaptation being paid for by the Churchwardens (recorded in the minutes of a vestry meeting on 13 April 1860). However the tower on the barn is not a bell tower but a water tower, which for many years served as the major water source, filled from the same natural spring that filled the village pond. The barn is now a private house.

Church Windows

The description of the windows commences at the back of the church (west), progressing clockwise to the right:

West Windows (rear of church)

3 West window



The West Windows are the work of Hardman of Birmingham from 1860, depicting St Matthew the man, St Mark the lion, St Luke the ox and St John the eagle.


West Wall (illuminated light-box)

On the wall at the back of the church is a restored illuminated panel, 4 West Wall Light Boxpresented to the church by Dr Mitchell of Penn Cottage, Buckland and restored by Mrs Philippa Martin of Redhill. Stored in the cellar of the Old Rectory in Buckland, over 600 fragments of glass were wrapped in newspapers from September 1941 and rediscovered in 1993. On 5th May 1941, a bomb dropped in Buckland, and several church widows were damaged, this obviously being one of them. After research, the glass proved to date about
1850 and was the work of Hardman of Birmingham, like many of the other windows. The restoration was completed in June 1994 (BPM, Mar 93, Sep 1994).

North Window (opposite the main door)5 North W

These windows are believed to be the oldest in the church, dating from the 14th century. One depicts St Peter (Sanctus Peteus) in blue and yellow robes holding the ‘keys of heaven’ in his hand. The second depicts St Paul (Sanctus Paulus) in red and white robes holding the ‘sword of the spirit’. Nairn (1971) considers this glass as ‘about the best in the country’. During the war, these two windows (plus the small window above the pulpit) were removed for safe keeping, being replaced in 1945 (BPM, December 1945).

North Central Window

6  North central W



This Hardman design of 1860 depicts two events from the gospel, the woman washing the Lords’ feet and the Supper at Emmau


North Window (above the pulpit)

7 North W above pulpitThe window above the pulpit is a small fragment of a 15th century window, depicting the Virgin Mary with the Child Jesus in her arms. In her left hand she holds a goldfinch (often reported incorrectly as a dove, the traditional emblem of the Holy Spirit). The goldfinch, when pecking at thistles for seeds, was thought to ‘feed on thorns’, and so became a symbol of the Crown of Thorns and the Crucifixion. Pattie Vigers (BPM, Mar 1991) explains that the only carving in this country thought to be by Michelangelo, the ‘Taddei Tondo’ in the Royal Academy, shows the same symbolism. The child St John is holding a goldfinch, and the carving is dated 1504-5. This window is constructed using ‘silver stain’, a method discovered in the early fourteenth century of staining glass using an oxide or chloride of lime, which resulted in only yellow and golden hues.

 East Window (front of church, above altar)

8 East window

The East window above the altar was also refashioned but was destroyed by a bomb blast in 1941. Miss D M Grant designed it in remembrance of those from Buckland who lost their lives during the war. The designer’s own interpretation (BPM, Oct 1967) of the window design is detailed overleaf.

“The subject of the window is the Ascended Christ, with special reference to St Mary, our patron saint. The main theme starts in the centre pane and traceries (above it) with God the creator. The symbol used is the hand of God. Below the Hand is the ray extending down to the Dove, a traditional symbol of the Holy Spirit. The figure of the Ascended Christ is seated on a rainbow with his feet on the world, and surrounded by seraphim (in red) and cherubim (in blue) and four beasts who represent the four Evangelists. Underneath are the words ‘I am He that liveth and was dead. Behold I am alive for evermore, Amen’ (Revelations 1.18). In his left hand, Christ holds the bible with the two Greek letters Alpha and Omega on it – the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. This relates to the description of our lord in Revelations 1.11; ‘I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last’. Beneath is the Cross, the symbol of sacrifice, and at its’ base is the pelican, pecking herself to feed her young.

The pelican is an old symbol of the Lord shedding His blood for the life of the world. Behind this illustration are the walls of the Holy City that enclose the Kingdom of Heaven and underneath are the words ‘Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a Crown of Life’ (Revelations 2.10).”

The left hand light of the window contains the Annunciation with the words ‘Hail Mary, blessed are thou among women’ (Luke 1.28). The right hand light shows her entering the promised inheritance. Here also is the figure of St Michael, who fought the forces of evil and expelled them from Heaven.

Ruth Spreckley, a former parishioner, recalls her father William, then Churchwarden, helping layout the design of this window on their kitchen table in 1945! Below the window and behind the altar is the reredos, a plaster rendition of the True Vine, in gold on a blue background, its colours and form complementing the chancel-ceiling vault decorated with tracery and shields with fleur-de-lis at the panel junctions.


South windows in Chancel

The two roundels over the choir stalls depicting a monk and a knight saying their prayers date from 1933.

South Window near font

The windows on the south side of the nave contain the dove, the symbol of the Holy Spirit and the nativity. These were supplied by Hardman of Birmingham for the reconstruction of the church in 1860.

The Bells

In 1548, the Buckland bells are mentioned in an inventory, as ‘three bells in the steeple and a handbell to be kept until the Kinges majesties pleasure be further known.’ The king at the time was Edward VI. In 1860, the newly-rebuilt St Mary’s states that the church has ‘a ringing chamber in the tower where there are five bells. The fittings throughout are of English oak.’ Now we have six bells, and the tenor bell is 6 cwt.

9 Bellringers c1880

Buckland Bellringers c. 1880

J Warner & Son recast the treble and second bells in 1860, and the same company replaced the third in 1892. The fourth, fifth and sixth bells were recast in 1900, from a pattern inscribed “W Eldridge made mee – 1681” and rehung in an iron frame. The tower contains traditional peal boards celebrating peals rung by teams in 1887, 1888, 1898 and 1906, and a peal book recording all peals rung in recent years. The bells were extracted, restored and re-hung in 2005. Ringing still continues with a small band of regular ringers for most Sunday services, and practices on Friday evening: new members always welcomed.


Atkinson, E.A., 1971. The Church of St Mary the Virgin, Buckland, Surrey. 38 pp. Surrey History Centre. Blatch, M., 1997. The Churches of Surrey. 228pp. Phillimore.
BPM – Buckland Parish Magazine, published monthly since 1926, and online since January 2003*.
Docking, J. & Euston, J, 2007. The Story of Buckland Village School 1822-1981. ISBN 0 9554350 0 5
Ferns, D.C., 1999. Buckland 1000-2000: A village history of Buckland, Surrey. ISBN 0 9535919 0 5
Manning & Bray, 1804-1812. History of Surrey (5 volumes).
Nairn, I. & Pevsner, N., 1971 (2nd ed.). The Buildings of England: Surrey. 600pp. Penguin.

Acknowledgements to John Waters for his photographs of the Church windows, to Margery Saunders for the loan of the postcards.

The Rectors of Buckland

Rector Date Instituted PATRON (advowson)
Hubold de Stanton, William Franc 1308 Guy Ferre
Lupard, Stephen 1312 Guy Ferre
Registers lost 1346-66
de Peytoe,  William 1352 Earl of Arundel
Pynnore, John 1387 Earl of Arundel
Vyne, John 1392 9th Earl of Arundel, John Fitzalan
Sparve, John 1396 9th Earl of Arundel, John Fitzalan
Netelham, Richard 1397 9th Earl of Arundel, John Fitzalan
Mory, Adam 1400 9th Earl of Arundel, John Fitzalan
Taylor, John 1406 9th Earl of Arundel, John Fitzalan
Registers lost 1415-1446
Philpott, Robert 1446 9th Earl of Arundel, John Fitzalan
Godale, Robert 1453 Eleanor, Countess of Arundel
Ryegate, Henry 1478 11th Earl of Arundel, William Fitzalan
Registers lost 1492-1500
Nores, John 1500 12th Earl of Arundel, Thomas Fitzalan
Wigan, Edward 1513 12th Earl of Arundel, Thomas Fitzalan
Davies, Richard 1517 12th Earl of Arundel, Thomas Fitzalan
Wylford, John 1521 12th Earl of Arundel, Thomas Fitzalan
Harryngton, Clement 1536 13th Earl of Arundel, William Fitzalan
14th Earl of Arundel, Henry Fitzalan
Steward, John 1550 Henry Lloyd
Rowley, Richard 1584 Henry Lloyd
Registers lost 1643-1644
Percival, Anthony, M.A. 1674 College of All Souls, Oxford
Howell, George, M.A. 1675 College of All Souls, Oxford
Priaulx, Peter, D.D.  * 1700 College of All Souls, Oxford
Owen, Timothy, B.D. 1713 College of All Souls, Oxford
Eyre, Robert, D.D.  * 1723 College of All Souls, Oxford
Price, Salisbury, D.D. 1775 College of All Souls, Oxford
Rugge, Gulielma, M.A.  * 1776 College of All Souls, Oxford
Spence, Oliph Leigh, M.A., B.D.  * 1786 College of All Souls, Oxford
Bertie, Willoughby 1796 College of All Souls, Oxford
Hulse, Thomas LL.B.18361853 1883 College of All Souls, Oxford
Hotham, William Francis, M.A. 1853 College of All Souls, Oxford
Slade, George Fitz Clarence, M.A. 1883 College of All Souls, Oxford
Wetherfield, Samuel, M.A. 1905 College of All Souls, Oxford
Dunk, Herbert Walter, M.A. 1925 College of All Souls, Oxford
Sanders, Arthur Henry Whipple, M.A. 1937 College of All Souls, Oxford
Westrup, George Allan, M.A. 1951 College of All Souls, Oxford
Barlow, Montague Michael, M.A. 1959 College of All Souls, Oxford
Stephens, Robert Charles, M.A. 1967 College of All Souls, Oxford
Montague , William John, M.A. 1974 College of All Souls, Oxford
Gould, John Barry 1987 College of All Souls, Oxford
Bailey, Stephen John 1995 College of All Souls, Oxford
Coslett, Carol 2008 College of All Souls, Oxford

Dates in italics are approximate (after Atkinson, 1971 with updates)