A History of the County of Surrey: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
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The parish of Shere is midway between Guildford and Dorking. The village is 6 miles east of the former, and 6 miles west of the latter. The parish is bounded on the north by East Clandon and West Horsley, on the east by Abinger, on the south by Ewhurst and Cranleigh, on the west by Albury. It is about 4½ miles from north to south, and from 2 to 2½ miles from east to west, and contains 6,400 acres of land and 12 of water. The Tillingbourne stream runs from east to west through the northern part of it. The soil exhibits the usual characteristics of a parish south of the Chalk. The northern part is Chalk, on the downs, and the parish extends southward over the Upper Greensand and Gault, and the Lower Greensand, which forms the largest portion; but it does not quite reach the Atherfield and Wealden Clays. Ewhurst and Cranleigh on the Clay, parishes of a later date, (fn. 1) were no doubt partly in the original parish of Shere. There is an ancient and picturesque mill at Shere, and in the hamlet of Gomshall a tannery and a brewery. Iron was once worked in Shere. (fn. 2) The parish is now, however, essentially agricultural, the land in the valley between the chalk downs and the sand hills being fertile. The only special industry is the raising of watercresses in ponds fed from the Tillingbourne. Great quantities of this are grown, and sometimes sent away to great distances. The downs to the north are mostly open grass, or wooded, and rise to 600 or 700 ft. above the sea, while to the south are great expanses of open heather and firwoods on the sandhills, Hurtwood Common, and parts of Holmbury and Ewhurst Hills, at an elevation of more than 700 ft. in their highest points. Part of Albury Park is in the parish. The road from Guildford to Dorking goes through the northern part of the parish; the Redhill and Reading branch of the South Eastern Railway runs nearly parallel to it. Gomshall and Shere station was opened in 1849. In Gomshall is a Congregational chapel, founded in 1825.
No important discoveries of prehistoric remains seem to have been made in the parish. Neolithic flint implements, however, occur near Holmbury Hill, but five parishes were formerly so closely intermixed here that it is difficult to assign the discoveries to any one.
Shere has often been called one of the most beautiful villages in England; certainly few can surpass it in Surrey for a combination of those qualities that go to make up the ideal village. It lies in the valley of the Tillingbourne, immediately beneath the Albury Downs, sheltered from the north by the hills, and bounded on the west by the beautiful domain of Albury Park. Happily the presence of the Duke of Northumberland's seat at Albury Park, and the wise action of other local landowners, have operated to keep the speculating builder at arm's length, and such additions as have been made to the old village in recent years have not seriously detracted from its charm. Shere is, therefore, the haunt of painters, many of them residents in and around, and samples of their handiwork may be inspected in the ancient Black Horse Inn, the building itself being partly of 16th-century date, with a great open fireplace under an arched beam, and other ancient features. In front of this inn are two old elms, and the view looking past them to the church, with its tall timber spire and lych-gate, is far-famed.
Aubrey mentions 'the extraordinary good parsonage house,' which still remains at the western end of the village, near the stream, although no longer used as the rectory. It is an ancient timber-framed building, as to which Aubrey repeats a tradition that it was built upon woolpacks, 'in the same manner as our Lady's Church at Salisbury was;' (fn. 3) and in his day the house was 'encompassed about with a large and deep moat, which is full of fish.'
When every other house or cottage is old and interesting it is difficult to mention all, but a few may be singled out as presenting specially noteworthy features, or as typical of the others. The large number of ancient cottages is perhaps accounted for by the statement that Aubrey makes, that there was here a very ancient manufacture of fustian. Another cause certainly was that such important families as the Butlers, Earls of Ormond, the Audleys, and the Brays, had their mansions in Shere, and gave employment to lesser folk in their neighbourhood.
One or two of the houses in the village retain their ancient bargeboards to the gables. These are variously treated: one, which might well be of 15th-century date, or even older, being pierced with trefoils; another is foliated, with the points of the cusping rounded so as to give a continuous wavy line. In Shere itself a very old cottage in Lower Lane shows a joist-board (i.e. a moulded board covering the projecting ends of the joists carrying the upper story) of late 15th-century character. There is also an old house, long and low, with an overhanging gabled wing on the right, and a hippedroof wing to the left end, on which side is a particularly fine chimney, with crow-stepped base and a massive stack of flues having a diagonal member on each face of the square, with a good head and base mould. The half-timber front is now hidden by rough-cast. Another old house on the road to Gomshall is noteworthy for an overhanging gable, and for the fact that the spaces between the timbers are filled with flints, instead of plaster or bricks. Most of the other old houses in the village are covered with rough-cast, which is coloured locally in a pleasant shade of buff. (fn. 4)
Wolven's Farm, which lies some miles to the east of Albury village, is a fine example of the 17th-century brick house, with panelled chimneys, mullioned windows with leaded lights, and a double-storied porch with a brick pediment to its upper window. In this and other details the house closely resembles Crossways Farm, Abinger, about 2 miles distant.
Local tradition says that Hound House, in the royal manor of Gomshall in Shere, was named from the keeping of the king's hounds there, but there is no record of it apparently. It is, however, known that hounds were kept here about 1800, and some old stone kennel troughs have been found.
Holmbury St. Mary is the name now given to the two hamlets of Felday in Shere, and Pitland Street in Shere and Abinger, which were erected into an ecclesiastical parish, made up from portions of Shere, Ockley, Abinger, Ewhurst, Cranleigh, and Ockham, 28 September 1878. The schools (Church of England) were built in 1860 and enlarged in 1900. There is a Congregational chapel.
This neighbourhood was formerly one of the wildest in Surrey. Sheep-stealers, smugglers, and poachers found a refuge in these remote hills. Some of the cottages have, still existing, very large cellars (excavated easily in the sandy hill), which are far too large for any honest purpose, and were no doubt made for storing smuggled goods till they could be conveniently taken on to London. Of late years the picturesque neighbourhood has attracted many visitors, who have built large houses. Joldwyns is the seat of Sir William Paget Bowman, bart., Holmbury of Mr. W. Joynson Hicks, Holmdale of Mr. Barlow Webb, Aldermoor of Mr. H. T. Willis, R.A., Hurtwood Cottage of Mr. Frank Walton, R.I., A.R.A. These houses are all included in the modern extension of Abinger, but belong to this district, the church of which is in Shere.
Peaslake is a hamlet of Shere, lying at the bend of the valley between Holmbury and Ewhurst Hills, which shared formerly the inaccessibility of Felday and its wild character. It has been more recently brought into the circle of civilization, and a road from Ewhurst, practicable for wheels, has been brought into it since district councils were instituted. It was formerly accessible from the north, but was on the edge of the accessible country with no real road beyond. A Working Men's Institute was erected in 1891 by the Misses Spottiswoode of Drydown, in many other ways benefactors to the neighbourhood. Of late years several new houses have been built. Peaslake School was founded by Lord Ashcombe, Mr. Justice Bray, the Misses Spottiswoode, and others in 1870.
At Shere the principal residents, besides those already named, are: at Burrows Lea, Sir Herbert Barnard; at Ridgeway, Lady Arthur Russell; at Hurstcote, Mr. Somerset Beaumont; at Shere Lodge, Miss Locke King; at Hazel Hatch, The Hon. Emily Lawless; and at Burrows Cross, Mr. Benjamin W. Leader, R.A.
It is not right to dismiss the parish of Shere without mentioning that it was the birthplace, ultimate home, and deathplace of William Bray, the county historian, who was born here 1736, and died 1832. He completed and supplemented the already voluminous labours of Manning, and if slips and omissions do occur in their work it is difficult to over-estimate their industry and care, and their general accuracy is wonderful, considering especially the absence of those catalogues, indexes, and printed calendars which aid the modern topographer and genealogist.
There are four manors in the parish of Shere or Shiere, viz., Shiere Vachery, (fn. 5) Shiere Ebor, Gomshall Netley, and Towerhill. The two former are moieties of the original manor of SHIERE, which, under Edward the Confessor, had belonged to his queen, Edith. She held it till her death, when William I appropriated it, together with all her lands. (fn. 6) In 1086 the king held it in demesne, but William Rufus granted it to William de Warenne when he endowed him with the earldom of Surrey. (fn. 7) The overlordship continued with the successive Earls of Surrey, of whom the manor was held as of Reigate Castle. (fn. 8)
The actual tenant early in the 13th century was Roger de Clare. (fn. 9) In 1243–4 he conveyed the manor to John son of Geoffrey, a younger son of Geoffrey Fitz Peter, Earl of Essex, in return for a life-rent paid at Shere Church. (fn. 10) In 1246 John de Gatesden, who had apparently acquired this rent at the same time as the manor of Lasham, (fn. 11) remitted it to John son of Geoffrey. (fn. 12) The manor, having passed from John to his son and grandsons, (fn. 13) was divided into moieties at the death of Richard son of John. (fn. 14) The one moiety, Shiere Vachery, was assigned to his sister Joan Butler; the other, afterwards known as Shiere Eboracum or Ebor, to his nephew Richard de Burgh, Earl of Ulster. (fn. 15)
SHIERE VACHERY descended at Joan Butler's death to her son Edmund Butler, (fn. 16) who was succeeded by his son James, first Earl of Ormond, and his wife Eleanor. (fn. 17) Their son James, Earl of Ormond, inherited Shiere, which descended from him to his son James. (fn. 18) The latter's son, the 'White Earl,' (fn. 19) granted it to his son James, (fn. 20) whom Henry VI created Earl of Wiltshire in 1449 in reward for his fidelity to the interests of the house of Lancaster. He succeeded his father as Earl of Ormond, and was beheaded after Towton in 1461. Shiere, being thus forfeited to the king, was granted by him to John, Lord Audley in 1467, (fn. 21) in tail male. Nevertheless, John, brother of the late earl, was restored as Earl of Ormond, although apparently not to his estates. He died in 1478. His brother Thomas, also attainted after Towton, was restored in blood by the first Parliament of Henry VII, and in 1486 granted the manor to Sir Reginald Bray, kt., reserving to himself the right of easement when staying within the lordship of Shiere. (fn. 22)
Sir Reginald Bray, statesman of the reign of Henry VII, was Lord Treasurer of England, director of the king's great building operations at St. George's Chapel, Windsor, and at Westminster, but especially notable as being, with Cardinal Morton, probably the true author of Henry's successful policy. Lord Audley was, however, in actual possession of Shiere Vachery, and gave compensation to Sir Reginald Bray in the form of an annual rent of £10. (fn. 23) He died in 1491, and was buried in Shere Church, and his son James, Lord Audley, received the profits of the manor in 1497, whilst encamped with the Cornish rebels at Blackheath. (fn. 24) He was leader of the rebellion, and must have marched through Shere on his way with the insurgents from Guildford to Kent. Consequently the manor was again forfeit to the Crown, but seems to have been restored to Sir Reginald, who had perhaps a lawful claim from the Earl of Ormond's grant, and was Henry's chief supporter, and most trusted servant. He had no children, and left this manor, among others, by will, in 1503, to his nephew Edmund Bray, (fn. 25) summoned to Parliament as Lord Bray in 1529. From him Shiere Vachery passed by sale, in 1535, to his brother Sir Edward Bray. (fn. 26) He died in 1558, and his son Edward in 1581. Reginald, son of Edward, was baptized in 1555, and his eldest son Edward, baptized in 1580, (fn. 27) died seised of Shiere in 1635. (fn. 28) His son Edward was dealing with it seven years later, (fn. 29) and in 1676 Edward Bray, his wife Susan, and their son Edward were in possession. (fn. 30) Edward Bray the elder was buried at Shere in 1679. Edward the son was also buried there in 1714. In 1723 Edward and Benjamin Bray his surviving sons were owners of the manor. (fn. 31) Benjamin died unmarried. Edward had an elder son George in holy orders, who was succeeded in 1803 by his brother William, the historian of Surrey. His great-grandson, Sir Reginald More Bray, Judge of the High Court, is now owner.
The manor-house, certain lands, and the advowson of the church at Cranleigh were sold owing to a family quarrel between Sir Edward (who died in 1581) and his stepmother, Jane daughter of Sir Matthew Brown. Sir Edward resided at Baynards (q.v.).
At the time of the partition of the lands of Richard son of John, his nephew Richard de Burgh, Earl of Ulster, received a moiety of Shiere, (fn. 32) which ultimately became the manor of SHIERE EBOR or EBORACUM. This descended to William, Earl of Ulster, whose daughter Elizabeth married the son of Edward III, Lionel, Duke of Clarence, (fn. 33) and then, through the marriage of their daughter Philippa with Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March, to Roger, Earl of March, who was declared heir to the throne in 1385. (fn. 34) The moiety passed to his daughter Anne, to whose son Richard, Duke of York, it owes the name of 'Ebor.' The Duke of York seems to have held this manor jointly with his wife Cecily, and with her conveyed it to Sir Thomas Brown and other trustees in 1448–9, (fn. 35) perhaps in trust for some of his very numerous family. However, after the death of Richard and the accession of his son to the throne as Edward IV, Sir George Brown, son of the original trustee, released all right in the manor to Cecily, (fn. 36) who continued to hold it till her death in 1495, (fn. 37) when it descended to Henry VII as heir of Edward IV. (fn. 38) During the reign of Henry VIII, Shiere formed part of the dower of his successive queens, (fn. 39) until, after the execution of Katharine Howard, he granted it with other lands to John Cokk of Broxbourne. (fn. 40) The latter conveyed it in 1544 to William Fitz William and his wife Joan, (fn. 41) who alienated it to Sir Edward Bray in 1548. (fn. 42) Thus for a short time the manors of Shiere Vachery and Ebor were owned by one lord, who also possessed Gomshall Netley and Towerhill. He bequeathed Shiere Ebor to his fourth wife Mary, (fn. 43) who married Edmund Tilney, Master of the Revels to Queen Elizabeth. (fn. 44) After her death the manor passed to Edward Bray, grandson and heir of Sir Edward, (fn. 45) who sold it in 1609 to William Risbridger, perhaps a descendant of the William Risbridger who under Henry VIII had held demesne lands of Shiere in lease. (fn. 46) John Risbridger died holding the manor of Shiere Ebor and a tenement called Shiere Farm in 1631. (fn. 47) The manor remained in this family till 1754, when William Risbridger sold to William Wakeford. In 1761 it was conveyed to Thomas Page, (fn. 48) who sold it in 1771 to William Bray, (fn. 49) who subsequently succeeded to Shiere Vachery. Since then the two manors have followed the same descent. The land is still called 'The Queen's Hold.'
About 1276 the original manor of Shiere had appurtenant to it six and a half fees. Of these fees there were some at a distance (e.g. Benetfield, co. Sussex, and Lasham, co. Hants (fn. 50) ). View of frankpledge was a privilege claimed by John son of Geoffrey, (fn. 51) and at the division of the manor was assigned to the Butlers, who held it once a year. (fn. 52) Both Shiere Vachery and Ebor had court baron, (fn. 53) and the lords of Shiere Vachery were granted a market on Tuesdays and an annual fair in 1309, (fn. 54) and free warren in 1330. (fn. 55)
The manor of GOMSHALL lies on the Tillingbourne to the east of Shere village. In early times it was royal demesne. Earl Harold had it, and after the Conquest King William held it in demesne. Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, wrongfully annexed half a hide which had belonged to this manor to his manor of Bramley. (fn. 56) It is mentioned with lands granted to the Earl of Warenne in 1154 and 1155–6. (fn. 57) He probably resigned Gomshall with his other English lands to Henry II, (fn. 58) who granted it in moieties to Robert de Wendenale and to William de Clere. (fn. 59) Under Richard I William Malveisin's lands in Gomshall were escheat to the Crown, (fn. 60) and they or others appear to have been given to the Dapifer of Ponthieu, (fn. 61) Ingram de Fontains, who held one moiety of the manor, while William Malveisin had the other. (fn. 62) Ingram's lands were escheat to the Crown in or before 1194. (fn. 63) Richard I granted the manor in moieties to William de Es and Alan Trenchmere. (fn. 64) The moiety of William de Es became the manor of Gomshall Netley, and the other was known later as Gomshall Towerhill. (fn. 65)
GOMSHALL NETLEY, the moiety of Gomshall granted by King Richard to William de Es, (fn. 66) was held in 1217 by Eustace de Es, (fn. 67) and in 1233 passed from him to Sir Matthias Besille, kt, (fn. 68) who granted it to the abbey of Netley, co. Hants. (fn. 69) Thus it came to be called Gomshall Netley. In the Taxation of 1291 £10 is returned as the abbey's annual income from 'Gomshall Grange.' (fn. 70) In 1332 the Abbot of Netley's tenants in Gomshall complained that he had exacted other services from them than he ought, since they were tenants in ancient demesne. (fn. 71) After the suppression of the abbey Henry VIII granted to Sir Edward Bray the reversion of Gomshall Netley at the termination of a seventy years' lease, which John Redforde and his wife Thomasina had obtained from the abbey in 1502. (fn. 72) Since this time it has descended in the same family with Shiere Vachery, and is now in the possession of Mr. Justice Bray.
The old manor-house was separated from the manor about 1640. It is a farm, usually called King John's Lodge, and stands opposite to the modern house of Netley. It is largely of 16th-century date, and possibly occupies the site of the Saxon aula. This house has a fine chimney, rising from the ground with a stack of diagonally-placed flues on its flint and rubble base. At either end of the front is a projecting gabled wing, that on the left having some good square and circle pattern-work in its timber construction, resembling that at Great Tangley in Wonersh parish. The upright timbering of the main portion between these wings seems to indicate a date early in the 16th, or possibly late in the 15th century, the pattern-work in the wing being nearly a hundred years later. Modern windows and other injudicious alterations have somewhat altered the ancient character of this house, but the old door, with a flat-arched head, still remains in the left wing.
GOMSHALL TOWERHILL. Alan Trenchmere possibly held his moiety for life only, (fn. 73) for by 1205 he was succeeded by William de Braose, who had a grant of it in tail. (fn. 74) William's family was starved to death, and he himself driven into exile by John; he died abroad, and John evidently gave his moiety of Gomshall to Peter de Maulay. (fn. 75) William's son, the Bishop of Hereford, took part in the civil war against John, and extorted the restoration of the family estates to himself in trust for his nephew. (fn. 76) After his death this manor was granted to Rowland de Bloet. (fn. 77)
In 1218 Reginald Braose, the bishop's younger brother, had the manor, (fn. 78) from which his widow claimed dower in 1230, (fn. 79) and William Braose was holding it in 1281, (fn. 80) and conveyed it to a sub-tenant, John Savage. William Braose was still living in 1311, when John Savage died, leaving a young son, Roger, (fn. 81) who, having been imprisoned for felony in Newgate, broke prison and forfeited his estates. (fn. 82) In 1332 the king committed the custody of the manor to John Pulteney, Lord Mayor of London, who did the customary service for it to John de Ifield. (fn. 83) A year having elapsed, the manor was restored to the overlord, John de Ifield. (fn. 84) At John's death the king granted this manor for life to Eleanor, Countess of Ormond, (fn. 85) then lady of Shiere, and obtained from John of Ifield's heirs a release of their rights in it. (fn. 86) At her death Edward III granted the custody of the manor to Peter Atwood for life, (fn. 87) and, subsequently, to Thomas Stowes. (fn. 88) In founding the abbey of St. Mary Graces near the Tower of London in 1376 the king endowed it with the reversion of this moiety of Gomshall. Hence it obtained the name of Gomshall Towerhill. (fn. 89)
In 1539, after the dissolution of the abbey, the king granted Gomshall Towerhill to Sir Edward Walsingham, (fn. 90) who conveyed it to Sir Edward Bray in 1550. (fn. 91) In 1589 it was granted as 'concealed lands' to Walter Coppinger and others. (fn. 92) It was, however, restored to its former owners, for Sir Edward Bray conveyed it to trustees for the use of his wife Mary for life, with final reversion to his grandson and heir Edward in tail male, (fn. 93) and since that time it has remained, with Shiere Vachery, in the Bray family.
In 1086, when Gomshall was royal demesne, the villeins there were exempt from the sheriff's jurisdiction. (fn. 94) Both Netley and Towerhill had court baron. (fn. 95) Eleanor Countess of Ormond had view of frankpledge in Gomshall Towerhill. (fn. 96) In 1281 William Braose was granted free warren there. (fn. 97)
It is apparently the land in Wotton called 'Sudtone' which the Bishop of Bayeux had rated in his manor of Bramley. (fn. 98) It was subsequently associated with Holehurst or Holdhurst, in Cranleigh, a parish nonexistent in 1086 (Holdhurst Manor extends beyond Cranleigh parish), and Sutton was called Holdhurst at Down, or the manor of Downe, to distinguish it from the rest of Holdhurst in the Weald. (fn. 99) It may once have been held with the rest of Holdhurst (see under Cranleigh), but Richard Hill died holding Downe in 1551, and his son Edmund Hill was in possession in 1554. (fn. 100) He was alive in 1582, and Richard Hill his son, who married Elizabeth daughter of the first Sir Richard Onslow of the family in Surrey, was in possession c. 1586. (fn. 101) Richard conveyed it in 1595 to Ralph Hill. (fn. 102) He conveyed it to Edward Allford, who sold it to William Leigh of Abinger and Thames Ditton in 1609. (fn. 103) From this family it was conveyed, c. 1620, to Oliver Huntley, who sold it in the following year to Richard Holman. The latter conveyed it to Henry Hilton in 1636. (fn. 104) The Hussey family seem to have acquired an interest in Sutton as early as 1646, when Sir William Smyth, bart., and his wife Mary, whose interests were possibly derived from Henry Hilton, transferred their rights in onethird of the manor to Peter Hussey. (fn. 105) Thomas Hussey of London, who is said to have acquired the whole manor, was buried at Shere in 1655. He left a son Peter, who was visited at Sutton by John Evelyn, August 1681. (fn. 106) He died 1684, and his son Peter (who died in 1724 (fn. 107) ) left a daughter Mary, who in 1720 married Edward Bugden. Before 1728 Sutton was sold to Edward Pike Heath. His niece Frances married the Hon. Henry Knight, and they sold it to Mr. Edmund Shallet between 1750 and 1761. (fn. 108) Mr. Shallet was sheriff of the county in 1758. His daughter married Caleb Lomax. For the later descent see under Wotton.
There was a house at Sutton of considerable size, which was pulled down by Mr. Edmund Shallet Lomax, son of Mr. Shallet's daughter and heir, when he built Netley (see above), but the remains of the walled garden and some other fragments are conspicuous upon the left-hand side of the road leading from Gomshall station towards Holmbury St. Mary.
There was a second WESTON Manor, to be distinguished from that in Albury, near the parsonage house of Albury, but lying in a detached part of Shere parish, and called Weston in Shere. In the Weston genealogy taken, it is said, from the College of Arms, (fn. 109) a Thomas de Weston, living c. 1305, and his son Thomas are described as lords of the manor of 'Weston in Shire.' It would seem that the family must have been early divided, for others are described as of 'Weston in Albury.' (fn. 110) William Weston held it of the abbey of Netley at his death in 1483. (fn. 111) Edmund Pope, a descendant, no doubt, of Joan wife of Thomas Pope, (fn. 112) sold it in 1540 to John Risbridger of Albury, (fn. 113) whose son John sold it the same year to Thomas Baker. (fn. 114)
In 1621 it formed part of the portion of Mary daughter of George Hyer on her marriage with Robert Boothby. (fn. 115) In 1709 William Boothby conveyed it to George Wheeler. (fn. 116) Dr. William Shaw purchased a moiety from Bridges Baldwin and his wife Frances in 1746. (fn. 117) Dr. Shaw's son sold the manor in 1804 to the Hon. Robert Clive, a younger son of the first Lord Clive (who died in 1833), who improved the house. (fn. 118) The house was at one time the residence of Elias Ashmole the antiquary. The manor seems to be non-existent, and the house is pulled down.
In the Domesday Survey two mills are mentioned at Shere. (fn. 119) In the 13th century there was still a water-mill there. (fn. 120) It formed part of the rents granted to Richard, Earl of Ulster, being held by William, Earl of Ulster, in 1334, when it is described as 'two watermills under one roof.' (fn. 121) It is mentioned again in 1382. (fn. 122)
One mill is mentioned in Gomshall in 1086. It was probably on the site of Netley Mill. In the 13th century there was a water-mill belonging to 'Estcourt' in Gomshall. (fn. 123)
The church of ST. JAMES lies somewhat to the east of the village street. It is mentioned in the Domesday Survey. (fn. 124)
The church is second to none in Surrey for beauty and antiquarian interest. Its situation, on a bank above the stream, which flows on its northern side, with a screen of tall young elms between, and a background of more ancient trees, and the wooded hillside, is very lovely; and the churchyard, not too trim or level, with a number of ancient monumental stones and a few wooden 'bed-heads,' bounded by a low stone wall, with a modern but picturesque lych-gate on the west, makes a charming setting.
The church is built of Bargate rubble, with ironstone rubble, flints, and miscellaneous materials, some probably derived from Roman buildings on Farley Heath, the dressings being of Bargate stone, firestone and clunch, and the south and west porches are of brick and timber. The modern vestries on the north of the nave are built of stone and brick. The roofs are tiled, except that of the south aisle, which is roofed with Horsham slabs, and the spire is covered with oak shingles. (fn. 125) A good deal of the original thin coat of yellow plaster remains on the walls. Few churches in Surrey have survived the era of destructive restoration with such small loss to their antiquity as Shere; indeed, what mischief has been done is traceable to the 'churchwarden' period or even earlier; the exception to this observation is the incongruous group of vestries built against a blank, and probably very early, wall on the north of the nave.
The plan offers many interesting problems. It consists of a nave, 40 ft. 9 in. long, and 18 ft. 6 in. wide at the west, widening out to 19 ft. 6 in. at the east; a broad south aisle, 45 ft. 9 in. by 16 ft. 3 in.; a central tower, with floor-space of about 15 ft. square; a chancel, 32 ft. long by 19 ft. 2 in.; a south chancel, opening out of the chancel, tower and south aisle, 36 ft. long by 16 ft. 9 in.; a shallow transeptal recess on the north of the tower in place of the original transept; and west and south porches, with the modern vestries, before alluded to, on the north of the nave. In addition, there would appear to have been in the mediaeval period an anchorite's cell on the north side of the chancel.
The oldest part of the church is the north wall of the nave, but whatever original features, in the shape of windows or door, it may have possessed, have been obliterated, and therefore its date is somewhat a matter of speculation. If not earlier, it may date from the last quarter of the 11th century. To this nave a tower was added, probably on the site of the earlier chancel—as at Albury, hard by—in about 1150. The internal square of this is almost exactly the same as at Albury, and it has on its north side, in the middle stage, a very similar round-arched window, with two sub-lights, originally divided by a small column, as in that tower. On the south side is a single-light opening of the same date. Three unusually wide and long round-headed openings occur above a string-course, or set-off, in each face of the bell-chamber, and over these there was, perhaps, in the first instance, a low parapet, corbelled out, inclosing a squat, pyramidal roof, both features giving place at a later period to the timber spire. Parts of one of the first tower arches can be traced on the south side. Owing to the failure of the crossing arches because of the weight of the top story, these arches, early in the 14th century, were replaced by wide and lofty pointed ones on the east and west, and by smaller ones on the other sides. The first arches were circular and probably of two orders, with a hood-moulding. The great thickness of these tower walls—4 ft. on the ground—is noteworthy.
The circular stair at the south-west angle of the tower, originally external, is now, of course, within the aisle. It retains two loopholes for lighting, and a small door with a pointed arch. On the southern side the head of one of the original flat buttresses appears above the roof, beneath the string that runs below the bell-chamber. The whole tower was probably completed soon after 1150.
The 12th-century transepts may have been roofed with span roofs at right angles to those of nave and chancel (before the aisle was thrown out); or, which seems on the whole the more probable, with span roofs set parallel to the axis of nave and chancel, as at St. Mary's, Guildford. In either case there would appear to have been apsidal ends to these chapels as at Guildford, and there may have been an apse to the chancel itself. Certain ashlaring with a curved face, built in as old material into the 14th-century chancel, may well have formed part of the destroyed apses. Among the few relics externally of this 12th-century work, besides the tower, are the bases of the two flat and narrow pilaster buttresses, on the south side, the western at what would have been the west end of these transepts or chancel aisles, and the eastern at the chord of the apse. These are composed of different kinds of stone—clunch or firestone, and Bargate stone—as though they had been altered and perhaps heightened at a later date. Another very remarkable survival consists of the curiously-shaped rafter-ends—a roll set within a broad hollow—almost unique in their way, in the piece of roof over this portion: this roof being in itself evidence for the second theory as to the original form taken by these chancel aisles. The fine marble font and south doorway are also of this period, but perhaps of slightly later date, c. 1170. This doorway, the most beautiful of its period in Surrey, (fn. 126) must have been originally placed in the unpierced south wall of the nave, and shifted out to its present position, when the aisle was built, in about 1200. It shows very few traces of having been moved, and all the stones appear to have been correctly rebuilt. The doorway is extremely elegant in proportions and detail, and consists of a circular arch of two orders, with a hood-moulding, the outer order resting upon a Sussex marble shaft with abacus, capital, and base of the same material, the abacus being carried round the inner order, as an impost, and the capitals carved with early stiff-leaf foliage. All the remainder is delicately wrought in clunch, both orders of the arch displaying an enriched cheveron on the face, with a roll moulding on the angle, and a plain cheveron on the soffits. The enriched cheverons have foliage patterns within them. The hood-moulding has a small half-moon sinking carried as a pattern round its outer member, and at the top a head, now defaced, is inserted. The masonry is fine-jointed and fine-axed, both marks of the date. The dials and other scratchings on the stonework are noted later. On the inside is a plain circular arch, much loftier than that of the outer opening. There must have been a doorway or an arch of this same enriched cheveron pattern at Merstham Church, about 15 miles to the eastward along the same road, judging from the voussoirs now lying loose in the north chapel. (fn. 127)
The next period is that of about 1200, when the aisle was thrown out on the south of the nave, and an arch pierced in what had been the west wall of the south transept or chancel aisle. The three flat buttresses, of three stages, at the west end of the aisle, belong to this date. The west doorway of the nave is of the same period, and has a richly-moulded arch of two orders, acutely pointed, with Sussex or Purbeck marble capitals and shafts to the outer order. The inner order of the jambs is square on plan, with a square capital, this and the other having square abaci and crochet foliage. The arch at the east end of the aisle has two orders, richly moulded, with similar capitals, and among the mouldings of both is the keel-shaped moulding. The jambs, with their delicate shafts, bases, and capitals, are entirely of marble, four shafts to each side. The light and fragile character of this arch gives a clue to the entire disappearance of the corresponding arcade, which has been replaced by the three existing ugly pointed arches on octagonal piers. They are cased all over in plaster, both piers and arches (as was also the arch at the end of the aisle), and possibly the remains of the original work are still in existence beneath the plaster. Three of the lancets of this date remain, two in the aisle and one in the west wall of the nave. They are in Bargate stone, with broad chamfers to the outside opening. A lancet and a curious pointed arched recess (fn. 128) in the north wall of the nave, at its eastern end, are of about the same date. A pair of lancets in the western bay of the chancel aisle, broad openings with flat internal arches, would appear to be later—c. 1250.
At the eastern end of the south chancel south wall is a two-light tracery window of graceful and somewhat unusual design. It is of two trefoiled lights, with a small trefoil in the head, the tracery and arch being worked on three distinct planes: externally there is a hood-moulding of scroll and bead section. The east window of the same south chancel is of similar character and has three trefoil-headed lights, the central wider than the others, the spaces over being occupied by two irregular trefoils and four small quatrefoils within a large circle. There are two coeval buttresses at the south-east angle of the rectangular east end of the south chancel. Probably this square-ended chapel, which is referred to in wills as the Lady Chapel, superseded the apse about 1300, at which date it became necessary to rebuild the tower arches, an additional archway being pierced between the new square-ended chapel and the chancel. The lofty octagonal timber spire—57 ft. in height from the nave floor—a magnificent piece of mediaeval carpentry, was also probably added then or soon afterwards. It would appear to have been covered with lead originally, and retained a part of the ancient lead work until the middle of the last century, together with oak shingles.
These extensive alterations were probably undertaken at the instance of the rich abbey of Netley, to whom the advowson of Shere was sold by Roger de Clare in 1243. To Netley Abbey, therefore, is probably due the rebuilding of the chancel in its present form, with its beautiful tracery windows executed in hard chalk, between 1300 and 1320. (fn. 129) The details of the work show that it was begun shortly after the square east end of the Lady Chapel, and the new windows of the chancel were made to harmonize with the recently completed tracery windows of the chapel. This is very noticeable in the case of the great east window, which, with minor variations, is almost a replica of that in the east wall of the Lady Chapel. Its central light is of ogee form, cinquefoiled, and the side lights have rather ugly flat trefoiled heads with a cinquefoiled figure above, but the same circle, filled with four quatrefoils, which is the chief feature in the other, appears in this window also. The diagonal buttresses of the east wall and the buttress on the north side are of this date. The side windows, of two lights, have tracery of the ordinary net type. A piscina of this date, with ogee trefoiled head and credence shelf, remains in the south wall. In the western bay of the north wall are two curious squints, one with a quatrefoil aperture and the other, close by to the eastward, a square opening. Both communicated with an anchorite's cell, or a sacristy, whichever it may have been, which stood on this side, and was probably built at the same time as the chancel. Its roof was a lean-to, but its area is uncertain. (fn. 130) The oblique squint with the square head must have been used, in any case, for commanding a view of the high altar; while the quatrefoil may have served the purpose of communicating the recluse.
Slightly later again, in c. 1330, the north transept was shortened and brought to its present form of a mere recess between the enlarged buttresses of the tower, which at this time superseded the flat buttresses of c. 1150. The beautiful four-light window, of flowing tracery, executed in hard chalk, which has weathered admirably, has no hood-moulding externally, unlike the others, and bears other traces of different handiwork, although the design has been kept in harmony with the chancel windows.
The church of the middle of the 14th century remains substantially unaltered, save for the insertion of windows in the nave and the rebuilding of the porches. A three-light window, in the west wall of the aisle, of handsome character, with a deep hollow and recessed tracery, dates from the last quarter of the 14th century. Another, of two lights, with a square head, in the west gable of the nave is of an ordinary 15th-century type; and a third, in the south wall of the aisle, of three lights, with an ugly flat segmental head, is dated by the inscription on a brass remaining in the south aisle: 'Pray for the soullis of Olever Sandes and Ione his wife, ye which made this wyndow and this auter, which Olev' dyed ye VII. day of Novēber, ye yer of Our Lord mvxii, on whos soll Jhũ have m'cy.' There was another window, of later date, high up in the north wall of the nave, near its eastern end, but this has been renewed in a quasi-13th-century style in recent years. The window in the south aisle to the east of that of 1512 is a two-light nondescript opening, originally a lancet, with a square mullion and jambs, probably of 18th-century date, to which period the quaint external door to the gallery with its flight of steps, to the east of the south porch, also belongs.
From the churchwardens' accounts (fn. 131) we learn that, in 1547, the porch—probably that at the west end— was renewed, and in spite of modern patchings the substance of this remains. The fine panelled door of the inner doorway, well studded with nails, and having a good key-plate, bears in the upper part a small shield of arms—two bends and a canton, impaling a bend—with the date 1626. At the northwest angle of the nave is a huge tapering brick buttress, erected in the 18th century.
The ancient oak roofs, of plain character, remain throughout. Those of the chancel and Lady Chapel are of trussed collar construction. The interesting detail of the rafter ends of 12th-century date on the south side has been above noticed. In the tower is a fine bell-cage, probably as old as the 14th century, although altered in 1895 to admit two new bells. The doorway to the tower stairs has a door made up of the carved rails of some 17th-century pews. Of the chancel screen, concerning which we have the testimony in the churchwardens' accounts that it was made in the eighteenth year of Henry VII, there are no remains, but in Brandon's Parish Churches (fn. 132) it is described as then (1848) in existence—'a plain Perpendicular rood-screen with its doors.' No other ancient woodwork or mediaeval fittings remain, except the very interesting chest now in the south porch. (fn. 133) It bears a general resemblance to the one at Godalming, especially in the stop-chamfered framed ends, and the lid works with a pin-hinge. There is an elaborate locking arrangement, and inside are remains of two hutches for money and valuables. The date is about 1200, and it belongs to a group of early 13th-century chests that were probably made in obedience to the command of Pope Innocent III, to collect alms for the help of poor Crusaders.
The church must have been at one time rich in colour, judging from the fragments of wall-painting that remain. Practically all has been destroyed except a very graceful spray of vine pattern, painted in dark red on the soffit of the arch to the chancel east window.
In several windows there are remains of ancient glass, of 13th, 14th, and 15th-century dates. In the south aisle one of the lancets has some good square quarries of green glass, with a rose or cinquefoil within border-lines, coeval with, or only slightly later than, the early 13th-century opening. Another variety is diamond-shaped, with grisaille foliage patterns. In the quatrefoils and interspaces of the Lady Chapel and chancel east windows are the evangelistic symbols, the arms of England, Butler, Warenne, and Clare, and other ornaments contemporary with the early 14th-century stonework. These are some of the best of the little ancient glass left in Surrey. Other windows retain red roses, the Lancastrian badge, probably placed here by James, the second Earl of Ormond, in whose family the manor of Shiere was vested in the 15th century. The device of the Brays, who afterwards succeeded to the estates—the bray, or flax-crusher—appears on the quarries of another window. (fn. 134) In the great east window the lower lights are filled with good modern glass.
The ancient floor levels appear to have been preserved, together with a good deal of old stone-paving. There are two steps at the eastern tower arch, another at the access to the sanctuary, and two to the altar platform in the Lady Chapel. From the churchwardens' accounts we know that besides this altar and that of the high chancel there was an altar to St. Nicholas (perhaps that in the south aisle), and images of St. Anthony, St. Roche, St. John the Baptist, and our Lady of Pity.
Close to the west respond of the aisle arcade stands the beautiful font of Purbeck marble, mounted on a stone base-block and step. Its date may be either that of the south doorway—c. 1170—or of the aisle —c. 1200—probably the former. The upper part of the bowl is square with three scallopings, beneath which it changes into a circular form of a bold round section, and the parts left at the angles are carved into the foliated capitals of the four corner-shafts, which, with a stout central drum, support the bowl. These rest upon a continuous base-moulding, which has a deep hollow between two round members, and is carried separately round the shafts and drum. (fn. 135)
The oldest monument is a small brass to Robert Scarclyff, rector, 1412, in mass vestments. In his lengthy will, preserved at Lambeth, he directs that his body be buried in the chancel of 'Schire' Church, to the south-west of the tomb of Master John Walter. (fn. 136) He leaves special vestments to this church, and a picture, with a representation of the Trinity, the Blessed Mary, and St. Christopher in four divisions, to stand at the Lady altar. There are also bequests of various kinds to the poorer parishioners and others, and the residue of his effects were to be divided among poor couples of Shere, and in marriage portions for poor maidens of the parish.
Until 1747, when it was taken down and the brass effigy laid on the chancel floor, there was on the south side of the chancel an altar tomb to John Touchet, Lord Audley, who died 20 September 1491. The upper half of the brass, 19½ in. long, showing a man in plate armour, alone remains, together with part of the inscription. At the east end of the Lady Chapel is a small brass to the wife of John Redfford; and one to Oliver Sandes is fixed to the window-sill of the north transept. (fn. 137)
Besides these there is an early 17th-century tablet, with a pediment over it, to the right of the great east window; and in the chancel and Lady Chapel are a few others of no great age or importance. Among these are some monuments to the Brays and Duncombs. Against the south wall of the chancel is a tablet to the memory of William Bray, joint author of Manning and Bray's History of Surrey, who died in 1832, at the great age of ninety-seven.
There are two small dial-marks, 5½ in. in diameter, on the lower stones of the eastern of the two pilaster buttresses on the south chancel wall; and on one of the stones, which is a piece of Reigate or firestone, is a mason's mark, the letter R upside down. On the south doorway, also of the 12th century, are five or six dial-marks, two being very regularly scratched on the stone, and of the same size as those on the buttress. There are also a number of small crosses cut in the jambs of this doorway. The toolmarks on this door are very well preserved.
All the six mediaeval bells mentioned in the inventory of Edward VI's commissioners were recast in 1590, but so badly that, according to the churchwardens' accounts, a suit was instituted against the founder. They were recast by Richard Phelps in 1712, and two new ones have lately been added to the ring.
Curious churchwardens' accounts are preserved, dating from 1500. Copious extracts have been printed from them by Manning and Bray. (fn. 138) The most curious thing recorded in them is the possession by the parish of two bows, which were hired out for the benefit of the rood light. The common idea that every peasant possessed a war bow, and could use it, is untrue. A load of wood was cut, at Vachery, for remaking the rood-loft, in 1506. One entry states that the entire church was re-roofed with 'shingles' in about 1500. By 'shingles' in this instance stone slabs are undoubtedly intended.
The accounts show that there were lights before the rood, St. John, and St. Nicholas, besides the sepulchre light. Church ales were held at Whitsuntide, and in 1504 £1 8s. 8d. was taken for drinking at the feast from visitors from Ewhurst, Wotton, Abinger, and Albury.
The church of ST. MARY at Felday is in the old Shere parish. It was built of local stone and Sussex marble in 1879, at the expense and from the designs of the late Mr. Street, R.A. The style is 13th century. It consists of a nave, side aisles separated from the nave by arcades of three pointed arches, a chancel, and raised north annexe to the chancel. There is a screen at the west end, and a chancel screen of oak. The interior is highly decorated, and there are nine windows of stained glass. There is a turret at the west end, and six bells. The church stands upon a steep declivity, and the fall of the ground has been utilized to introduce two vestries and a sexton's room under the east end. The vestries communicate with the chancel, and the raised north annexe is above them. In the churchyard is a finely-sculptured churchyard cross.
The advowson of the original parish church was in dispute between the Abbots of Netley and the lords of Shiere Vachery from the 13th till the 16th century. Roger de Clare sold it to the abbey in 1243. (fn. 139) In 1244 the abbot had licence to appropriate the church, (fn. 140) and the king confirmed the advowson to the abbey in 1250–1; (fn. 141) but the appropriation was not carried into effect. (fn. 142) In 1253 the abbey is said to hold the patronage 'at the king's request.' (fn. 143) In 1258–9 John son of John, lord of Shiere Vachery, proved his claim to present as lord of the manor, but allowed the abbey to present for one turn. Consequently, in 1277–8, the abbot again brought forward his claim, but failed to prove it; (fn. 144) and for some years the lords of Shiere Vachery continued to present; (fn. 145) but between 1346 and 1366 the abbot presented twice, (fn. 146) after which James, Earl of Ormond, disputed his claim, (fn. 147) but without success, for the abbey presented in 1379–80, (fn. 148) and again in 1390, (fn. 149) and continued to do so till John Lord Audley again claimed the right. (fn. 150) The dispute was only settled when Sir Edmund Bray presented in 1518. Before the next presentation came the abbey was dissolved. The advowson descended with Shiere Vachery till Morgan Randyll bought it in 1677 (fn. 151) for Thomas Duncomb, (fn. 152) who was then rector. It was leased or sold for occasions by the Duncomb family, but remained with them till Thomas Duncomb sold it to John Smallpeice in 1831 (fn. 153) for the Rev. D. C. Delasfone, rector, with which the former sale may be compared. Mr. Justice Bray is the present patron.
There was a chantry of our Lady in Shere Church. In the 14th century the rector was responsible for finding a chaplain at the altar of St. Mary in his church. (fn. 154) The chantry was maintained from the profits of the 'Chantry House,' which was granted after the suppression of chantries to Henry Polsted. (fn. 155) It descended with his manor of Albury (q.v.). (fn. 156)
Early in the 14th century Christine daughter of William 'called the Carpenter' had licence to dwell in Shere Churchyard as an anchoress. (fn. 157)
Mr. Thomas Gatton left £400 in 1758 to educate poor children. In 1842 Mr. Lomax added to the endowment, and a school was established on the scheme of the National Society. The present buildings date from 1877, and were enlarged in 1898.
At some date unknown, but probably before 1714, (fn. 158) Mrs. Charity Duncomb left money invested in land in Cranleigh, bringing in £1 6s. per annum, to provide bread weekly for poor widows.
In 1746 the Rev. George Duncomb left £6 a year out of his freehold in Shere, £1 4s. to buy bread for the poor of Shere, £1 16s. for the poor of Albury, £2 13s. for teaching children, 7s. for the parish clerk.