St Mary's the Virgin, Horsell, Surrey

When I visited the church it was locked up tight but I have delved into the local library and come across some interesting stuff.

From the outside the church looks very nice but there seems to be a lot of dissension in most of the books I found. The church was largely renovated by the Victorians ("A sorry mess of restoration and enlargement..." Pevensey says in Buildings of England: Surrey) which "...removed most of the medieval character of the church..." (The Churches of Surrey by Melvyn Blatch). The oak pulpit dates from 1602, however and is hexagonal and was made just before the edict of James I stating that all pulpits should be "...decent and comely...". The church has a very weird spit in it, big enough for an entire cow and, while this isn't odd in itself (apparently) I have a problem imagining someone chucking a barbi mid Sunday service and rotating a bullock slowly over the flames.

There are a couple of monuments of interest. This is agreed by all sources. One on the west wall to Sir John Rose (died 1803) and his wife and the second on the east wall of the south aisle to James Fenn (died 1773) and his wife. Described in The Churches of Surrey thus: "(Rose) The two figures lean on an urn, but in contemporary dress and striking Baroque attitudes; it is by the younger Bacon." and "(Fenn)The two figures facing each other across a table piled untidily with books. Both monuments are old fashioned for their dates."

The churchyard is very striking. It is directly behind the church and very peaceful. Seats are dotted between the trees (of which there are many) and the graves all look well tended. According to Heritage Notes - Horsell Village by Iain Wakeford, "The earliest recorded burials in the churchyard date from 1485...". My favourite gravestone has to be the stile below on which is inscribed "Edith Maud Kelsey the loving wife of Howard Kelsey crossed the stile 16 July 1932 aged 66".

While most commentators appear to be less than flattering, I would be remiss not to include this quote from Hidden Surrey by Christopher Howkins who says "Some references make it sound entirely Victorian, which a lot of it is, but the church as a whole is not as depressing as some books lead us to believe...it hasn't all been vandalised. The Suttons feared this. In 1603 their memorials were inscribed 'Gentle reader deface not this stone.'"

Talking of stone, on the outside of the church, stuck on the wall next to the church hall is a lot of masonary from inside. The plaque reads "These stones formed part of two windows in the original north wall of the nave c1320 & 1450." I was glad it was outside because I got to see it!!

All in all, from the outside anyway, a lovely little church on a gentle little hill. Pity it's crowded in on all sides by buildings...I'm sure it was a lot lovelier in 1602 when the new pulpit arrived.

Old bits of church masonaryStile gravestone

main church page