Thoreseley (xiv cent.).
Thursley was originally a part of the parish of Witley.
The length of the old parish was about 6 miles from
north to south, about 2 miles wide in the northern part,
tapering to the south and inclosing the town of
Haslemere in an elbow at the extreme south. The
boundary was here altered in 1902, by order of the
Local Government Board, 7 March 1902, part of
Thursley, covering 392 acres, which had been much
built over by the extension of Haslemere, being
transferred to Haslemere parish.
The area of the parish is now 3,986 acres, 1,202 of
which are heath land, and 29 water. The parish is
traversed throughout its length by the London and
Portsmouth road, which rises in easy slopes for over
2 miles from Thursley Common to the top of
Hindhead, 903 ft., or by another survey 895 ft., above
The road winds below the top of the hill along
the edge of the great hollow called vulgarly the
Devil's Punch Bowl. The old name was Haccombe,
i.e. Highcombe, Bottom. The old road was higher
up the slope near the top; it can still easily be seen.
The stone marking the site of the murder of a sailor
of name unknown, by three fellow travellers in
September 1786, is now by the side of the new road.
But the crime was committed upon the old road,
which was diverted in 1826. The murder is further
commemorated by a tombstone, with a bas-relief of
the act, in Thursley Churchyard. The perpetrators
were hung in chains on a gibbet by the side of the
road, pictures of which exist. The whole district
was formerly extremely wild and dangerous. Pepys
travelling in Surrey in 1668 engaged a guide to
conduct him over the road from Guildford to
Petersfield. This was a mere track. A properly
metalled road was made first in accordance with an
Act of Parliament of 1749 for completing the road
from Kingston to Petersfield. The road which
branches off from Hindhead to Haslemere and into
Sussex, to Midhurst, was made at the same time. The
view from Hindhead challenges comparison with any
in the south of England. Though not so extensive
as that from Leith Hill, which including the Tower
is 60 ft. higher, the foreground is more broken and
diversified. The whole western half of the South
Downs lies in front to the south, the Hampshire
chalk hills to the west, the whole country to the
Thames Valley is overlooked northwards. The
advanced position of the hill, jutting out southward from the Green Sand range of Surrey, yields
a view eastward along the middle of the Weald,
with the Leith Hill range on one hand, the South
Downs on the other, and Crowborough Beacon,
in Sussex, appearing in the blue distance beyond.
Till some forty years ago the spot was still desolate.
The 'Royal Huts,' the old inn, was the only house
except two or three cottages which stood near it.
Since then, Professor Tyndall having led the way,
many houses have been built, but not on the top
of the hill, and not generally in Thursley parish.
The summit, and all the beautiful open common
to the north, has been preserved as open space, by
the purchase of this part of the waste of the manor
of Witley, from the representatives of the late Mr.
Whitaker Wright, by subscribers for the Commons
Preservation Society (1905). Thursley is still a
purely rural parish; there is a small village near the
church, and a small collection of houses at Bowlhead
Green, where a Congregational chapel was built in
1865. The picturesqueness of the parish is not
exhausted with Hindhead. The view from the
churchyard westward is very fine, and the valley of
Cosford is very beautiful.
The soil is the Lower Green Sand almost entirely;
the parish merely touches the Atherfield and Wealden
clays on part of its south-east border. The Hammer
Ponds, which formerly worked iron forges and a furnace
owned by the Smiths of Rake, Witley, are partly in the
parish. On the common, but in Frensham parish, are
the curious conical sand-hills called the Devil's Jumps.
They are natural, not, as has been supposed, barrows.
Neolithic implements have been found, an axe-head by
Mr. Iolo Williams, now in the Charterhouse Museum,
some arrow-heads and flakes, also in the Charterhouse
Museum. The farm near the church seems to belong
to the 16th century in the back part and interior.
The principal landowners are Mr. R. W. Webb
of Milford House, Witley; the Earl of Derby,
Captain Rushbrooke of Cosford, Mr. Yalden H.
Knowles, and Mrs. Gooch.
There has never been a separate manor of Thursley,
but the manor of Witley extends over the parish.
In the 16th century tenants of Witley Manor were
holding lands at Jordans, Robyns, Bagleys, and elsewhere in the 'hamlet' of Thursley. (fn. 1)
The church of ST. MICHAEL,
THURSLEY, was originally a chapel-of-ease to Witley. The mother church
is mentioned in Domesday, but this is not, making
it a matter of doubt whether there was a chapel on
the site prior to about 1100, which is the approximate date of the earliest features in the existing
building. There are a number of 18th and 19th-century monuments in the churchyard, among which
is the famous 'sailor's tomb,' mentioned above.
The church is constructed of Bargate stone rubble
with Bargate stone and chalk dressings in the old
parts. The same rubble, with dressings of Bath stone
and some red brick, is employed for the new work.
Before enlargement there was a nave 38 ft. 3 in. by
21 ft., and a chancel 18 ft. by 16 ft. 9 in., separated by
an arch, and with a porch on the south of the nave.
Rising out of the centre of the nave, was—and
happily still is—a slender timber bell-turret, with
graceful shingled spire standing upon four enormous
baulks of moulded timber, which rest upon the nave
floor, and are tied together with braces. The
whole turret closely resembles that of the west end
of Alfold Church in this neighbourhood, and the two
were doubtless erected, about 1500, by the same
St. Michael, Thursley: Plan as before the Enlargements of 1860, etc.
Until about the year 1860 the proportions of the
simple early building of about 1100 remained unaltered, save for the addition of this timber turret and
spire (which, however, made no alteration in the
area occupied by the nave and chancel); at that time
the church received its first enlargement by the
addition of a short aisle and a vestry on the north of
the nave; new windows were inserted in the west
and east walls and on the south of the nave, and the
church was reseated, a gallery being retained at the
west end. In 1883–4 the nave was lengthened
westwards, and a transept, baptistery, and porch added
on the south of the nave, the additions involving the
removal of the old west wall and part of the south
wall. The accompanying plan, drawn with the help
of one taken before the 1860 alterations, shows some
of the ancient features that still remain, as well as
those that have been removed in the successive
Chancel Arch, Thursley (Furniture Omitted)
The turret and its spire are shingled, and on the
south side of the former is a large old sundial, in
place of a clock, bearing the inscription, 'Hora pars
vitae.' The body of the turret has been heightened
3 ft. Its timbers are remarkably massive as seen from
within the nave. Four huge uprights, worked with
a series of hollow chamfers, and measuring on the
square about 2 ft. 6 in., rise from the nave floor, and
great arches of oak spring from them and span the
nave. These arches, which are four-centred or
elliptical in outline, have a hollow chamfer on the
edges, and between them are two other arches of
similar shape, but rising from a beam on either side
(north and south), carried by a low four-centred
The nave retains only one of its original windows,
a small round-headed opening, somewhat widely
splayed, in the eastern part of the north wall. It
was preserved when the church was enlarged, and
now looks into the aisle. Originally there was a
similar window to the westward and a small door
between in this wall, probably matched by others in
the opposite wall; and in the west end the outline
of a round-headed opening was noticeable until the
last extension. The south wall seems to have been
altered about the middle of the 13th century, when
a lancet and doorway took the place of the earlier
features. Later still, perhaps in the 15th century,
a two-light opening was inserted in the eastern part
of the south wall, destroying another early window,
and this and a similar insertion in the east wall of the
chancel seem to have been fitted with wooden frames
in place of the stone tracery early
in the 19th century.
The chancel arch, built of hard
chalk, is of mid-13th-century date.
Its piers are square to a height
of 4 or 5 ft. from the floor, and
then rise in two chamfered orders,
with pyramidal stops at the base,
the chamfers continuing without
any break round the arch. This
arrangement suggests that there
was originally a low screen standing in the opening. There are
at present the lower parts of a
15th-century screen, which has
been deprived of its traceried
upper half. The arch should be
compared with one of similar
date and character in West Clandon Church, near Guildford. In
the north-east angle of the nave
is a moulded bracket of black
marble which looks as if it had
carried the beam for the rood,
independently of the low screen.
The north wall of the chancel
is strangely devoid of features,
there being no window, door, or
aumbry therein. There is a break
in the wall horizontally near the
top, which is much thinner. In
the south wall are two lancets of
about 1250, the openings of which
appear to have been widened at
some time, and the western, which
was a low side window and has
had its head raised since Cracklow's view of 1823
was taken. In the eastern part of the same wall is
a small piscina of 1250.
Both in the nave and chancel the roofs are mostly
ancient, the timbers of black oak, very massive and
in good preservation; some of the beams are of
unusual size for so small a building. There are some
slight remains of plain 15th-century seats, worked in
with new material, in the chancel.
The font is the original, a large circular tub-shaped
block of hard Bargate stone, brownish-orange in
colour, and quite plain save for a band of cheveron
or arrow-head ornament incised round the rim, and
a little lower down a projecting moulding of circular
section, which may have served the practical purpose
of giving a grip to the chain or rope by which this
huge block was hoisted about between the quarry
and the church. This font appears to belong to an
early group in Surrey and Sussex, in which are
comprised Tangmere (with a circular moulding),
Alfold, Yapton and Walberton, the last two showing
similar incised ornamentation to the rims.
Of the three bells one is mediaeval, with an undecipherable black-letter inscription, the others are
Among the church plate is a cup of 1662 and an
old pewter plate.
The registers date from 1613, which leads to
the inference that it was a separate parish in fact; it
had churchwardens of its own, but up to the middle
of the 19th century it was usually held with
Witley. (fn. 3)
A chapel at Thursley was taxed with
Witley in 1291. (fn. 4)
It is said to have
been erected into a separate parish in
1838, (fn. 5)
and the benefice is still in the gift of the vicar
The Font, Thursley
Henry Smith's Charity applies to
Thursley. Moon's Money, a charity
of unknown origin, was applied to
the maintenance of the workhouse.