A History of the County of Surrey: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
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Odetone and Wodeton (xi cent.); Wodetone, Wodinton and Woditon (xiii cent.); Wodeton (xv cent.); Wodyngton, Wootton, and Wotton (xvi cent. and onwards).
Wotton parish is bounded on the north by Effingham and Little Bookham, on the east by Dorking, Capel, and Ockley, on the south and west by Abinger. It formerly had a detached portion on the Sussex border, now attached to Abinger (see Abinger parish). The parish is still over 6 miles long from north to south, and never more than a little over a mile broad, and in places less. It contains 3,782 acres of land and 14 of water. The church is 3 miles west-by-south of Dorking, and 9 miles east-by-south of Guildford. The Redhill and Reading branch of the South Eastern Railway and the road from Dorking to Guildford pass through the north of it. Two branches of the Tillingbourne rise in the northern slopes of Leith Hill, and run first from south to north and then east to west towards the Wey, uniting at Wotton House. The streams on the other slope of Leith Hill run to the Arun. The parish has the usual apportionment of soil in this part of Surrey. The northern boundary is on the summit of the chalk, here 577 ft. above the sea, the parish then crosses the Upper Green Sand and Gault; the church, manor-house, and such compact village as exists are on the Lower Green Sand, and it reaches across this soil on to the Wealden Clay. It is now purely agricultural and residential, but iron mills, a wire mill, and perhaps gunpowder mills formerly existed in it. (fn. 1)
The most striking feature of the parish now is undoubtedly the natural beauty which makes it the favourite resort of all lovers of the picturesque near London. The traveller, on foot or horseback (the road is not one for wheels), passing from the chalk country sees in front of him an ascending mass of broken sand hills, thickly planted with conifers and other trees upon their northern side. Leaving Wotton House on the right a bridle road leads through a forest of beeches alongside a succession of trout-pools, up the valley where John Evelyn first began the ornamental planting of his brother's grounds. Friday Street Pond, an old millpond with a cluster of cottages by it, is a Swiss lake in miniature. Passing on by another hamlet, King George's Hill, so named from a now extinct public-house, the path leads out on to the heather-covered common of Leith Hill. A view opens gradually to the west, as the ground ascends, but it is not till the traveller reaches the southern brow of the hill that the panorama bursts suddenly upon him. The summit of Leith Hill is the highest spot in the south-east of England, 967 ft. above the sea. The tower, which is not on exactly the highest point, but somewhat south of it, was intended to bring the height up to 1,000 ft., and has more than done so. It was built by Mr. Richard Hull of Leith Hill Place, in or before 1765, who acquired from Sir John Evelyn of Wotton the top of the hill, part of the waste of the manor of Wotton. (fn. 2) Two rooms were fitted up in it by Mr. Hull, and a staircase led to the upper room. Mr. Hull, dying in 1772, was buried under the lower room, by his own direction. A stone in the wall of the tower used to record the fact. After his death the tower was uncared for and became ruinous and a haunt for disorderly characters. In 1796 Mr. Philip Henry Perrin of Leith Hill Place repaired it and raised it a few feet, adding a coping, but built up the door, filled up the interior for half the height with earth and stones, and left the upper part a mere shell. In 1864 Mr. W. Evelyn of Wotton again repaired it, built the upper room, added a battlement, and made the top accessible, first, by means of a turret and staircase, then, when that was closed for a time, by an outside wooden staircase, and then by the turret stair again. The view from the top of the tower is more comprehensive than that from the hill, looking over the trees to the north, which obstruct the latter. The ground falls very abruptly to the south, giving a peculiar impression of height above the Weald below. The greater part of the county of Sussex, much of Kent as far as Ashford, Essex, the Laindon Hills, Middlesex, St. Paul's Cathedral, Highgate, Hampstead, and Harrow, Hertfordshire, Dunstable Down in Bedfordshire, the Chilterns in Buckinghamshire, Nettlebed in Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Hampshire, Inkpen in Wiltshire, and the sea through Shoreham Gap, are visible in clear weather. (fn. 3) But though the view from the tower is necessarily the most extensive in Surrey, those from the western parts of Leith Hill are more picturesque, looking as they do over the more broken foreground afforded by Holmbury Hill. The small ditches round the tower, sometimes ignorantly mistaken for an ancient encampment, were made by the Royal Engineers, who were encamped here in 1844, correcting the Ordnance Survey. The cottages near the foot of the hill are collectively known in the neighbourhood as The Camp.
In addition to the ground near the top of the hill, there is a very large extent of open country, covered with heather and conifers, in Wotton parish. The part on the east side of the parish is called Broadmoor.
A fine polished neolithic flint found near the tower is preserved at Leith Hill Place. The present writer has found a very considerable number of flint flakes and a few implements not very far from the tower. In Deer Leap Wood, to the north of Wotton House, in what was part of the park attached to it, is a mound with traces of a double ditch round it. The mound is about 12 to 14 ft. high, and about 90 yds. in circumference. It seems to have been dug into, but no record of exploration is to be found. It is marked as a barrow on the 6-in. Ordnance map.
At the southern foot of Leith Hill, a jar containing about thirty gold coins of Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Elizabeth was found in 1837. The coins are at Wotton House.
Tillingbourne, or Lonesome, as it used to be called, or earlier still Filbrook Lodge, is the property of the Duke of Norfolk. The present occupier is Mr. Sidney Ricardo. The original house was built by the side of the valley, which runs northward from near the tower towards Wotton Hatch, in 1740, by Theodore Jacobsen, a Dutch merchant resident in England. A stream was artificially diverted to form what is now a picturesque waterfall, and a fountain and other ornamental waterworks were made in front of the house. These, with part of the garden, mark its former site. The original house was neglected, and by 1845 had become ruinous. It was pulled down before 1855, but a steward's house on the estate, lying a little farther north, was let as a gentleman's house, and has been enlarged to form the present Tillingbourne House.
Tanhurst, on the south-western slope of Leith Hill, late the residence of Mrs. Cazalet, formerly of Greenhurst, Capel, is the property of Lady Vaughan Williams, wife of Lord Justice Williams and daughter of the late Mr. Edmund Lomax. Before 1795 it was bought by Mr. William Philip Perrin, owner also of Parkhurst (see Abinger) and Leith Hill Place. The next owner was Sir H. Fitzherbert, during whose ownership the eminent Sir Samuel Romilly rented the house up to the time of his death in 1818. It was bought by Mr. E. Lomax (see Shiere) in 1827. (fn. 4) Mr. Lomax, who was twice married, died in 1839, and left Netley in Shiere to Mrs. Fraser, Parkhurst in Abinger to Mrs. Scarlett, children of his first wife, and Tanhurst to Lady Vaughan Williams, daughter of his second wife. Lord Justice and Lady Vaughan Williams reside at High Ashes on the same property.
Jayes Park, close to Ockley Green, is the seat of Mr. Henry Lee Steere, lord of the manor of Ockley, but this house is in Wotton. Jayes was the seat of the Steere family for many generations. Mr. Lee Steere, who died in 1784, left it to the son of his daughter and of Mr. Richard Witts, Lee Steere Witts. On reaching his majority in 1795 he assumed the name of Steere, and the family have resided ever since at Jayes.
The schools were built in 1852, rebuilt in 1874, and enlarged in 1885.
The ecclesiastical parish of Okewood formed from Wotton, Ockley, and Abinger in 1853 is a district formerly very difficult of access owing to the clay lanes. In addition to the parish church there is a Congregational chapel and a national school built in 1873.
Hale House, containing some old parts, is the property of Mr. H. Lee Steere of Ockley, and the residence of Mr. Henry P. Powell. This is no doubt the place belonging to Edward de la Hale (died 1431), who restored Okewood Chapel (vide infra). In the Ockley Court Rolls, 1648, it appears that a Mr. Steere had lately built a good house at Hale, of which part remains in the present house.
Redford is the seat of Lady Abinger. Leith Vale was the seat of the late Miss Cooper Brown (ob. 1907), who was for many years churchwarden of Okewood.
According to Domesday, Harold held WOTTON T.R.E., and at the time of the Survey Oswald, an Englishman, held it. (fn. 5) It is noteworthy that in 1086 Richard de Tonbridge, the ancestor of the Clares, Earls of Gloucester, who afterwards held Wotton in chief, was already holding there one hide of Oswald. (fn. 6) Richard is known to have gained possession of other parts of Oswald's land, and he even sublet some of Oswald's former possessions at Mickleham to him. (fn. 7) The overlordship of Wotton seems to have always afterwards been with the honour of Clare. (fn. 8)
The first immediate lord of whom there is mention is Ralph de Camoys, who owed one knight's service for Wotton to the honour of Clare, (fn. 9) and in 1235 made a grant of land in Wotton, (fn. 10) while in 1241 he was definitely reported to be seised of the manor. (fn. 11) It is known, however, that in the reign of King John one Ralph de Camoys claimed that part of the vill of Tansor (Northants) had been granted to his grandfather by Roger de Clare (fn. 12) and it is possible that Wotton may have been granted at the same time. In 1259 Ralph died, leaving Ralph his son and heir aged forty. (fn. 13) The younger Ralph was succeeded some twenty years later by his son John, (fn. 14) from whom Wotton apparently passed to the family of Fancourt, probably by sale, since the impoverishment of the Camoys family at that date is a matter of common knowledge. (fn. 15) Walter de Fancourt was seised of the manor in 1280, (fn. 16) and presented a priest to Okewood Chapel in 1290. (fn. 17) In 1306 Matilda his widow, who had married one Henry le Perkes, (fn. 18) claimed dower in the manor of Wotton from William le Latimer, into whose hands it had by that time passed. (fn. 19)
William le Latimer died in 1327, (fn. 20) leaving William his son and heir, aged twenty-six. (fn. 21) This William survived his father only eight years, (fn. 22) and during the minority of his son, another William, the manor seems to have been in the custody of Thomas Latimer, (fn. 23) who was probably uncle to the heir. Thomas, possibly in return for his custodianship, retained the manor during the term of his life; at his death in 1356 it passed into the possession of William, (fn. 24) who was then twenty-six years old. William conveyed it to trustees in 1377. At his death in 1381 (fn. 25) he left Wotton by will to his cousin, Thomas de Camoys, (fn. 26) who presented to the living in 1382. (fn. 27) Thomas enfeoffed certain trustees of the manor, who curiously enough bore the same surnames as those to whom William Latimer had released in 1377. (fn. 28)
Thomas de Camoys died seised in March 1422, (fn. 29) and Hugh his grandson and next heir survived him only five years. (fn. 30) Wotton, however, is not mentioned among Hugh's possessions at his death. Roger lord of Camoys, probably a younger son of Thomas, was in possession shortly after the death of Hugh, (fn. 31) and in 1429 he released all his rights in the manor to Thomas Morestede. (fn. 32) The dispersion of the Camoys' lands after the death of Thomas de Camoys is well known, (fn. 33) and its occurrence immediately before the Civil War, which wrought so much confusion in landed property, increases the difficulty of tracing them.
According to Manning and Bray, (fn. 34) who give a contemporary court roll as their authority, Wotton was held by Sir William Estfield in 1444. In 1479 Stephen Middleton was in possession, and some five years later it was held by Humphrey de Bohun. (fn. 35) Sir David Owen, a natural son of Owen Tudor, married as his first wife the heiress of the Bohuns of Midhurst, (fn. 36) and Wotton perhaps passed to him with his wife or was bought by him, for it became his property, and he left it to Henry son of his third wife Anne Devereux, (fn. 37) and after him to his son John by the same wife. Sir Owen died in 1542. John held courts from 1548 to 1553. (fn. 38) His son Henry held courts in 1568 and 1579, when he and Elizabeth his wife conveyed the estate to George Evelyn of Long Ditton, (fn. 39) in whose family it has since remained.
Wotton House, the home and birthplace of the famous John Evelyn, is built, like so many old houses, in a hollow. There is nothing visible in the present rambling and irregular building of older date than the close of the 16th century, and even such parts of this date as remain are so surrounded by later additions as to be distinguished only with difficulty. Besides rebuildings and extensions of the 17th and 18th centuries, the east wing, which had been destroyed, was added on an enlarged plan by Mr. W. J. Evelyn in 1864. Thus, although the core of the house is ancient, but little remains visible externally of the house in which John Evelyn lived, and which he helped to render famous by the beautiful gardens, largely of his own creation. These in part remain, although greatly altered in later times. Fortunately two drawings, still at Wotton, from John Evelyn's own hand, give a minute record of the house, with its moat and artificial waters, as they appeared in the middle of the 17th century. (fn. 40) In Abbot's Hospital, Guildford, is a poor oil painting of Wotton House from the north of about the same date. The Elizabethan house, apparently, was of brick, with tiled roofs—pantiles in some cases —mullioned windows, and tall stacks of chimneys. It was built in a rambling fashion with long ranges of stabbling and outbuildings, including a dovecote. It was surrounded by a moat which was enlarged into a swan pool in the rear of the house, and the view of the garden front shows a low terrace wall following the moat, with some little summer-houses, a rustic temple, and a formal flower garden. There is also a large oriel window with a high leaded roof projecting over a stone entrance doorway, marked on the drawing, 'Hall dore to the Garden.' Among the many treasures in the present house is the Prayer Book used by Charles I on the scaffold. There are also the MSS. of John Evelyn and a Bible of three volumes filled with notes. In the library his large and curious collection of books remains, many of the bindings displaying his device of intertwined palm, olive, and oak branches, with the motto, 'Omnia explorate, meliora retinete.' Kneller's fine half-length portrait of John Evelyn is in the drawing-room, together with his son and Mrs. Godolphin, his 'deare friend,' whose worthy life' he has 'consecrated to posterity.'
There are several ancient houses of minor importance in the parish; one with gables and stone-mullioned windows, set in an old-world garden at a corner of the high road, is specially noteworthy.
There was a mill at Wotton in the time of Domesday, which reappeared among the possessions of William le Latimer in 1337. It does not seem to occur elsewhere. It was possibly on the site of the old disused mill-dam at Friday Street, or on the stream higher up, where an old dam, now cut, and former pond are visible. The mill (this or both these) at Wotton was afterwards used for manufacturing purposes of different kinds.
The manor of GOSTERWOOD (Gostrode, xiv cent.) in Wotton should probably be identified with the hide of land in Wotton which was held by Corbelin of Richard de Tonbridge at the time of the Domesday Survey. (fn. 41) In 1280 Nicholas Malemayns acquitted Henry de Somerbury of services which were exacted from him in connexion with his free tenement in Wotton. (fn. 42) Henry died seised of this tenement in 1317, and it is recorded that he did suit for it at Nicholas Malemayn's court at Ockley. (fn. 43) In 1337 another Henry de Somerbury, who died in that year, had this holding in his possession; it then appears as 'Gostrode in the vill of Wotton.' (fn. 44)
From that time the material for the history of Gosterwood is scanty. In 1527 Robert Draper and Elizabeth his wife conveyed it to Henry Wyatt and others, and it is then for the first time called a manor. (fn. 45) Richard Hill died seised of it (fn. 46) in 1550, leaving it to his son Edmund, who was still holding it in 1574, (fn. 47) when he settled it on his wife Catherine Brown. This son Richard conveyed it in 1593 to George Evelyn, in whose descendants it has remained.
LEITH HILL PLACE
LEITH HILL PLACE is in the outlying part of Ockley, which was inclosed in Wotton and added to this parish in 1879. It is traditionally the head of a manor, but this is erroneous. It stands in the manor of Wotton, and not in the manor of Ockley, as other outlying parts of the parish were.
The house was a gentleman's house of very considerable antiquity, to judge from the sketch of its old state furnished by Mr. Perrin to Manning and Bray's history. The sketch was dated 1700, and shows a 16th-century front upon probably an older house. There was a secret chamber in the wall, usually called a priest's hole, only accessible by a trap-door, but this has now been opened into the adjoining room.
The builder is unknown. The site of the house was originally called Welland, but Leith is mentioned among the properties which fenced Ockley churchyard in 1628. In 1664 Mrs. Mary Millett, widow, of Harrow, Middlesex, settled Leith Hill Place on herself for life, with remainder to Henry Best of Gray's Inn. Katherine daughter and heir of Henry Best married Henry Goddard of Richmond, co. York. In 1706 they sold to John Worsfold of Ockley, who sold it to Colonel Folliott, (fn. 48) afterwards General Folliott, who was a justice of the peace resident in Ockley parish as early as 1728. (fn. 49) He altered the house of Leith Hill Place to its present form. His admission as a tenant of Wotton Manor is not on record, as the court rolls are not complete so early. Two acres of the waste were granted to him in 1742. He died in 1748, his only child Susanna having died in 1743. (fn. 50) In 1760 John Folliott, his heir, alienated Welland to Richard Hull, who built Leith Hill Tower in 1765, receiving a grant of the Tower and 4 acres of waste. (fn. 51) In 1777 Richard Hull alienated to Harry Thompson. (fn. 52) In 1788 Thompson's heirs alienated to Philip W. Perrin, owner and resident at Parkhurst. During his ownership the house was let as a school. Mr. Perrin died in 1824, and his heir was Sir Henry Fitzherbert, who sold in 1829 to John Smallpeice, who conveyed it in 1847 to Josiah Wedgwood, a descendant of the great Wedgwood and cousin and brother-in-law to Charles Darwin. His daughters Miss Wedgwood and Mrs. Vaughan Williams reside there now.
The reputed manor of ROOKHAM (Rokenham, xiv cent.) in the parishes of Ockley and Wotton may be connected with the grant of two crofts made by Thomas de Rokenham to his son John in 1314. (fn. 53) These lands evidently passed to the Newtimber family in the same century, for in 1399 Robert Newtimber conveyed to trustees a messuage and two curtilages, with other lands and tenements at Rookham, which were said to have formerly belonged to John de Rokenham. (fn. 54) In 1418 the trustees of Thomas de Pinkhurst, whose family had held property in Rookham for some years, (fn. 55) released his lands to Robert Newtimber. (fn. 56)
Apparently Rookham passed from the Newtimbers to the family of Hale, (fn. 57) since in 1537 Thomas Bourgh, grandson of Elizabeth sister of Henry at Hale, granted out rent from lands called Rookham and Newtimber in Ockley and Wotton. (fn. 58) From him the estate passed to John Caryll, who in 1560 made a settlement of the 'manor of Rookham' on his son Thomas. (fn. 59) It seems probable that the manor soon afterwards ceased to exist as a separate entity; for in 1610 a certain John Hayne died seised of 'lands called Frenches, late parcel of the tenement called Rookham in Wotton.' These lands are stated to have comprised 18 acres in extent. (fn. 60) Hayne also held lands in Ockley called Millmeades, alias Ruckingham meades, but in the Ockley Court Rolls of 1648 William Hayne holds these of Ockley Manor, while Rookham in Wotton is unmentioned; they were not therefore part of this manor and are still included in Ockley Manor.
Rookham is a farm south of Okewood Hill, just north of the Sussex border, upon the edge of the detached part of Wotton parish now added to Abinger, east of Ockley. Rucknam Mead and the old Ruckenham contributed to the repair of Ockley churchyard fence in 1628. (fn. 61)
WESTLAND was in Wotton, Abinger, Cranleigh, Albury, Ewhurst, and Wonersh. The courts were held at Okewood Hill in Wotton. In 1424–5 John Newdigate was owner, and granted a lease of it. (fn. 62)
In 1494 John Newdigate conveyed it to Ralph Leigh of Paddington in Abinger, (fn. 63) with which it passed to Sir Edward Bray. It was separated after his death (1558), being the jointure of his widow Jane. Their son Sir Edward, his son Reginald, and Lady Bray conveyed the reversion to Thomas Godman of Letherhead. In 1601 he conveyed it to John Aleyn, whose son Henry conveyed to George Evelyn of Wotton. (fn. 64)
The church of ST. JOHN THE EVANGELIST is not mentioned in Domesday, but from certain evidence in the existing structure it was probably standing in the 11th century. It is most beautifully situated on the summit of a steep ridge, its east and south sides overlooking a beautiful green valley and the hillside opposite, which has all the appearance of the wild down-land country of Sussex or Dorset, with patches of bracken and blackberry bushes and clumps of fine park-like trees, many, no doubt, of John Evelyn's own planting. In the hollow behind this hill, to the south east, lies Wotton House. The churchyard is surrounded by noble trees—here, again, in some cases, of Evelyn's planting. Two grand old beeches, with wide-spreading boughs, that formed a conspicuous feature, immediately to the north-east of the church, have unhappily been cut down within recent years; other fine beeches are to be seen to the west of the church, and there is a very beautiful avenue of limes and horse-chestnuts leading to the south porch. The churchyard contains a number of old wooden 'bedheads,' and a number of curiously-carved 18th-century head-stones, some table-tombs and other memorials ancient and modern, among the latter being many stones to the family of the late Sir Edward VaughanWilliams. The most interesting of the older monuments is a beautifully-carved urn, of white marble, bearing cherubs' heads, which marks the grave of William Glanville nephew of John Evelyn, on the north side of the churchyard.
The church is largely covered with ivy, especially the tower; and however picturesque the covering, it is much to be regretted, as causing slow but sure injury to the fabric, and hiding interesting features and marks of age. The walls are for the most part constructed of hard yellow Bargate stone rubble, still covered generally with a thin coat of ancient plaster or mortar, with dressings of Bargate stone and firestone. The modern parts are faced with the same rubble and with dressings of a ruddy sandstone and Bath stone, the vestry on the north being of old red brickwork. The roofs are still covered with Horsham slabs, except the porch and vestries, which are tiled. From the flat conical roof of the tower rises a picturesque square wooden superstructure, also covered with a flat-pitched conical roof.
In plan the church consists of a western tower, 11 ft. from east to west internally, by 15 ft. from north to south; nave, 33 ft. long by 18 ft. wide; chancel, 19ft. long by 15ft. wide; a short aisle opening by a single arch from the north side of the nave at its eastern end, 17 ft. 6 in. long by 13 ft. 6 in. wide, and communicating with the Evelyn Chapel, on the north side of the chancel, 19 ft. long by 14 ft. 6 in. wide. From this again a comparatively modern door opens into a second mortuary chapel recently turned into a parish room for vestry meetings. On the south side of the tower is an exceptionally roomy porch, rebuilt, but upon old foundations, and a modern vestry on the south side of the chancel. With all these alterations and additions, the plan of the simple tower, nave, and chancel of the early church remains.
The walls of the nave are of exceptional height (over 18 ft.), and they and the lower part of the tower are in all probability of pre-Conquest date; other indications of this period being the huge stones of which the quoin on the north-west of the nave and the piers of the tower arch are constructed. The plain, rude arch itself, of exceptional height and of flattened horseshoe outline, springing from a point about 6 in. within the line of the jambs, with rudelychamfered imposts, returned at the ends, is quite consistent with this early date. Both arch and piers are square-edged. The comparative thinness of the east and west walls of the tower (2 ft. 4 in.), taken with their height, and the piers and arch being built of through stones—all tooled with the pick, instead of the axe or chisel—are other indications of the early date claimed, which may well be about 1050. The upper courses of stones in the piers are in Bargate stone, all the rest being in firestone. (fn. 65) In the south wall of the tower, to the west of the later doorway, is a small early window, now blocked, unfortunately invisible on the outside owing to the ivy. The north and south walls of the tower are considerably thicker than the east and west—over 3 ft. on the north and 3 ft. on the south—and there is a set-back of a few inches at a height of about 8 ft. from the floor. As usual in early towers, there is no staircase. The upper windows are plain, square-headed openings, much hidden by the ivy, but perhaps of 13th-century date.
A peculiar and very puzzling feature is the blocked arch in the west wall of the tower, corresponding to that in the east wall. It is a few inches north of the centre of the tower, and while the piers have chamfered imposts similar to those of the eastern archway, the arch itself is obtusely pointed. This, however, may be due to its crown having been reset at the time when it was blocked up and the early 13th-century window inserted within it. The puzzle is into what this arch originally opened; and as all traces above ground of the building have vanished, the suggestion can only be offered tentatively that a porticus, such as has been found in this position at St. Peter's, Barton-on-Humber, and other pre-Conquest churches, may have stood here on the western side of the tower. A little excavation would throw light on the nature of this annexe.
The two buttresses at either disengaged angle of the tower appear to be ancient features modernized, excepting, possibly, that on the south face, which may be original, but here again the ivy prevents any examination. The north wall of the nave is blank for more than half its length, but a careful search might disclose an original window behind the plaster.
The south porch, which is built against the wall of the tower, is modern in its present form, but is upon the lines of an older structure. The well-known reference in Evelyn's Diary to his having been instructed in the rudiments of learning from the age of four years by one Frier by name in the porch of Wotton Church, applies in all likelihood, not to the predecessor of this porch, but to the tower, which is spacious, and forms a sort of porticus, or lobby, to the nave.
In the south wall of the tower, within the porch, is a very remarkable doorway. It is wide, with a pointed head of somewhat distorted shape, and of two orders with a hood-moulding and shafts to the jambs. The hood-moulding has a member of pear-shaped section, and there is another such member in the outer order, flanked by quirked hollows. The inner order has a chamfer on the edge, but projecting from its angle, worked on the face of the chamfer are a series of minutely-carved little busts, each only about 3 in. in height, representing laymen and ecclesiastics, four on either side of the arch. The bottom one on each side is a modern restoration; the others appear to represent a pope (with the tall extinguisher-shaped head-dress of the period), a king, a priest, a nobleman, a queen (with crown and wimple), and a pilgrim. The voussoirs on which these are carved are of green firestone, and the alternate voussoirs are chalk, the sandstones alternating in the outer order. The impost moulding is carried round the chamfer, and forms the abacus of the shaft capital. This is circular with moulded upper part and necking, the intervening space being filled with vertical concave flutings, in this detail and the alternation of the arch stones recalling the south arcade of the nave at Aldingbourne Church, Sussex—work of the same date c. 1190–1210. The shafts have moulded annulets and bases. (fn. 66) The inner jambs and arch of the doorway appear to have belonged to an earlier opening, the arch being semicircular and a good deal worn, but it is possibly of the same date as the outer arch. A hideous cast-iron gate, apparently put here at the restoration of 1858, disfigures this curious and beautiful doorway, and every time it is opened cuts into its arch-stones.
Of the original chancel arch, destroyed in the same disastrous period to make way for the present wide and lofty arch, no very full information is attainable, but it would appear to have been a narrow, square-edged opening, perhaps not more than 6 ft. in width, and, flanking it on either side, tall pointedarched altar recesses were found, of which the outline of half of the arches can still be seen. They were then blocked up so that the original depth, which was probably not more than a foot, can only be guessed.
The church seems to have been largely remodelled, the chancel practically rebuilt, and the aisle with its chancel or chapel added on the north side about 1210. The existing triplet of lancets in the east wall of the chancel is entirely modern, replacing a three-light probably of the 14th or 15th century, but portions of the original group of three lancets that preceded this were found in the wall at the 1858 restoration. In the south wall of the chancel is a small sedile under a plain, pointed arm, and in the southern part of the east wall a simple piscina, both of c. 1210. Above the sedile is a two-light window, a pair of lancets, under one arch internally, worked in firestone, and now opening into the modern vestry. These are shown in an old engraving of the church prior to 1858. Beyond them, to the west, is a single lancet, shown in the same engraving, beneath which, and divided from it by a sill transom, is a wider square or oblong opening rebated for a shutter, which is one of the best instances in Surrey of the low side window. Unfortunately the firestone of this and the lancet window over it was exchanged for Bath stone at the 'restoration,' at which time the low side window was brought to light and unblocked. (fn. 67) There is now no iron grate in the opening, and the present shutter is modern and fanciful in design.
The chancel of c. 1210 opened to the north chapel by a wide pointed arch, which, since about the beginning of the 17th century, has been blocked up and used as a screen for displaying the monuments of the Evelyn family within the chapel. This arch is of two orders, with narrow chamfers to arch and piers, and with an impost moulding of very peculiar section carried round the chamfers, the piers standing upon a moulded plinth similarly treated. In the restoration of 1858 the blank wall within the arch was filled with tracery in stone and marbles of very inappropriate character. The arch that opens from the nave into the aisle is of the same date and character, and its imposts are of the same section. There was a third arch of this period between the aisle and the eastern chapel of which the outlines are still traceable in the wall. Possibly it showed signs of failure or was inconveniently large, for at about the same time that the arch in the chancel was blocked up this was partly filled in, and a small arch, preserving something of the character of the original, but clumsily imitated, was inserted within it, the older imposts redressed, or copies of them, being used.
The chapel beyond has two blocked lancets in its northern wall and three in the east, all of c. 1210, and the latter are particularly good and well-preserved examples of the period. They are rebated externally for a wooden frame, and have obtusely pointed external heads, with the internal splays radiating equally round the jambs and heads—a mark of early date. The central lancet is slightly higher than the others. In the western part of the north wall of this chapel is a small square recess, perhaps an aumbry, but it is simply chamfered without any rebate. There is above this, and beneath the sill of the lancets, a stringcourse of semicircular section, which is also carried along the walls of the aisle. Instead of being mitred where it jumps to a higher level here, the horizontal portion of the string-course is butted up against the vertical strip in a very unusual manner. In both the north and west walls of this aisle is a lancet of similar character to the foregoing, and, in the western part of the north wall, a nicely-proportioned doorway of two chamfered orders. All the masonry in this chapel and aisle is in the original firestone, delicately tooled with a broad chisel, and with extremely fine joints.
The nave, prior to 1858, had in its south wall a window of two lancets under one pointed internal arch, which still remains, towards the western end. Eastward of this was a three-light opening of 15th or 16th-century date, with a square head and hood-moulding; and beyond this to the east was another three-light window, transomed, under a segmental arch, and apparently of late 17th-century date. The two large windows of 13th-century design in the eastern part of the south wall replace those last described.
To the end of the 17th century belongs the brick vestry, or mortuary chapel of the Evelyn family, on the north of the chapel proper. It is of thin bricks, and has a circular window in its east gable, and a door between it and the chapel, a modern doorway, lately inserted, being pierced in its northern wall.
The roofs of the nave and chancel are modern and incongruous. The seating, pulpit, font, and all other fittings are also modern, with the sole exception of an interesting oak screen, with bannisters, and iron spikes or prickets for candles at the top, separating the chapel from the aisle. This bears the date 1632, and is almost the only bit of screenwork of its period remaining in Surrey. Within the chapel is preserved a font of white marble, with circular fluted basin on a tall baluster stem of about the same date, but possibly as old as the date of John Evelyn's birth in 1620. Cracklow records that 'in one of the south windows was formerly this fragment in black letter, "Orate pro anima Johannis de la Hale."'
John Evelyn's tomb in the north chapel is coffinshaped and quite plain, about 3 ft. from the floor in the eastern part of the chapel, and his wife's, of the same plain design, is to the westward and close to the south wall. Their coffins are said to be inclosed in these tombs above ground. He died on 27 February in 1705–6, in his eighty-sixth year, and his wife Mary, daughter of Sir Richard Browne, ambassador of Charles I at Paris, on 9 February 1708–9. The inscriptions are upon the white marble covering slabs, and that on John Evelyn's runs thus:— 'Here lies the body of John Evelyn, Esq., of this place … Living in an age of extraordinary events and revolutions, he learnt, as himself asserted, this truth, which pursuant to his intention is here declared: that all is vanity which is not honest, and that there is no solid wisdom but in real piety.' Evelyn's own desire was to be buried 'within the oval circle of the laurel grove planted by me at Wotton,' or, if this were not possible, in this chapel, where his ancestors lay: 'but by no means in the new vault lately joining to it.'
Besides these there are several inscribed ledgers upon the floor with heraldic panels, one, in brass, near the east end, bearing the griffon and chief of Evelyn and the bars and martlets of Ailward with a fine piece of mantling. On the south wall, near its west end, is the beautiful monument of George Evelyn, the purchaser of Wotton, who died in 1603, aged seventy-seven. It is of alabaster, with panels of black slate or 'touch,' on which are the inscriptions, now hardly decipherable, and is divided into three compartments. In the centre, high up, under a circular arch, is the kneeling figure in armour of George Evelyn. Above the cornice is a medallion bearing his coat-of-arms, and a helm and mantling, and the crest of a griffon passant. On the rounded pediments of the side compartments (within which are skulls) are draped urns, and within the recesses below, under heavy entablatures and circular arches, are the figures of his two wives kneeling and facing towards him. Rose, the first, bore him ten sons and six daughters, and Joan, the second, six sons and two daughters, Beneath each figure is an inscription panel, and below is a long panel on which the twenty-four children are carved in low relief, all kneeling; a narrow inscription panel and some carved scrolls and consoles completing the design. The whole monument, an excellent example of the taste of its time, retains the original colouring and gilding.
Adjoining this, to the east, is the very fine monument (alabaster, coloured, with slate panels) of Richard Evelyn, fourth son of George Evelyn, high sheriff of Surrey and Sussex in 1634, and his wife Eleanor Stansfield, with their five children. Richard, the father of the celebrated diarist, died in 1640. Fat nude boys in contemplation support the upper pedimented entablature over the principal cornice, and in the centre at the summit is a draped female figure, blindfolded; other 'virtues' in attitudes of grief flank the boys. Two large and beautiful draped angels, one holding a flaming heart and the other an open book, are drawing back the curtains to display the kneeling figures of Richard Evelyn and his wife. He is habited in the doublet, trunk-hose, and heavy cloak of his time, with his hair falling in curls over a deep collar. He kneels on a cushion with hands joined in prayer before a draped prayer-desk, facing his wife, whose flowing head-dress, falling in long folds behind, and gracefully-gathered gown, are charming examples of the lady's dress of the period. Their three sons and two daughters, in the panel below, kneel on cushions before another desk, the centre figure of the boys being the celebrated John. All the heraldry— which includes a very fine coat with mantling and a helm bearing the griffon crest in the panel at the top— and the smaller architectural ornaments, such as the consoles and scroll-work at the bottom, are models of delicate and spirited carving, and the figures of the angels and the husband and wife are among the best of that age. The original colouring is very perfect.
Opposite to these is the monument of Elizabeth Darcy, daughter of Richard Evelyn, who died in 1634. It is in the same taste as the foregoing, and probably by the same sculptor, who may well have been the celebrated Nicholas Stone. The bust of the lady, weeping, looks out from a curtained recess, and below her is the recumbent figure of her dead babe in its cot.
On the south side of the chancel is a tablet to Dr. Bohun, 1716, presented to the living in 1701 by John Evelyn. The inscription tells us that he left the sum of £20 for the poor of Wotton, and a similar sum for the decoration of the altar. He is described by Evelyn as 'a learned person, and excellent preacher.' Elsewhere in the chancel and nave are a number of later 18th and 19th-century monuments, and in the brick mortuary chapel of the Evelyns is a large white marble monument, by Westmacott, to the memory of Captain Evelyn, who died in 1829, bearing a striking inscription by Dr. Thomas Arnold of Rugby.
On the jambs of the door in the north aisle are a few early marks, such as a small cross.
The registers of baptisms and burials date from 1596, and of marriages from 1603.
The communion plate is chiefly of 17th and 18th-century dates. The oldest piece is a silver paten of 1685, bearing the arms of Evelyn impaling Browne. These were the arms of the celebrated John Evelyn and his wife. He was not then the owner of Wotton House, as he did not succeed his elder brother George till 1699. Another paten, inscribed: 'The gift of Lee Steere Steere, Esq[uire] To the Parish of Wootton,' is probably of the date 1724. A third dates from 1857. There is a cup of 1753, and a handsome silver flagon of 1706, tankard-shaped, with a high lid, and bearing the arms of Evelyn and Browne as on the paten of 1685, encircled by stiff feathering, with the inscription: 'The Gift of Mary Evelin, widdow of John Evelin Late of Wootton Esq.' It was presented in memory of her husband, who died in 1705.
The pierced cast-bronze plate, now used as an almsdish or collection-plate, is a beautiful but very unsuitable ornament of the church, being adorned with figures of nude gods and goddesses riding on dolphins and sea-monsters. It is a recent gift to the church.
The bells are three in number, the first inscribed:— ✠ORA MENTE PIA PRO NOBIS VIRGO MARIA. The second has: ✠ ✠ ✠ O ✠ ✠ IOHANNES CHRISTI CARE DIGNARE PRO NOBIS ORARE. Both are of the latter part of the 14th century, and Mr. Stahlschmidt considers that they were cast by a Reading or London founder. The third bell, by Richard Eldridge, bears the inscription: OUR HOPE IS IN THE LORD 1602 RE.'
The ancient CHAPEL of ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST, OKEWOOD, is practically shut in by a small oak wood, except on the south side. It is perched upon the top of a hillock, round which winds a tiny stream, and is approached on one side by a rustic bridge. The churchyard is very picturesque, and contains many old trees, and some cypresses of more recent growth. There are a few wooden 'bed-heads' and a number of 18th-century headstones and table-tombs. The chapel itself is most picturesque, especially as viewed from the south-west or south-east, and is built of local sandstone rubble, plastered with the original coat of yellow-coloured mortar, the windows and other dressings in the old part being in hard chalk and firestone, the roofs covered with Horsham slabs, diminishing in size towards the ridge, and the wooden bell-turret at the west end being of oak boarding, crowned by a squat spirelet of oak shingles. The modern parts are quite in keeping with the old.
The plan, as originally built in about 1220, was a simple parallelogram, of nave and chancel, under one roof, without structural division, 56 ft. 6 in. long by 20 ft. wide internally, the side walls being 2 ft. 6 in. and the east and west 3 ft. in thickness. There were, till the modern alterations, a door on the north and four lancet windows, the same number and a priest's door on the south, while in the west wall were a door and window of three lights, and in the east wall another three-light window of 15th-century date. In the western part of the south wall is a rudely-formed window of 18th-century date. (fn. 68) The original roof, with massive tie-beams and wall-plates, still remaining, is probably of the later period; the popular tradition being that Edward de la Hale, whose brass remains in the chancel, in thankfulness for the escape of his son, who, while hunting in the forest, was attacked by a wild boar and nearly killed, founded the existing chapel on the site of the averted tragedy. This, however, is an incorrect version, as there is a record of the presentation of Sir Walter de Fancourt to the chapel in 1290, and there can be no doubt that the little chapel had then been standing for some seventy years. What is fairly certain is that Edward de la Hale endowed the chapel with lands, re-roofed and repaired it, and put the windows and a doorway in the end walls. In the early years of the 18th century, about 1709, the chapel is recorded to have fallen into a condition of dilapidation, when it was repaired, and a number of rough buttresses added (some of which still remain), by the care of two neighbouring yeomen, Mr. Goffe and Mr. Haynes, who sold three of the bells to help the work. John Evelyn is stated to have had a hand in an earlier reparation. (fn. 69) His representative, the late Mr. W. J. Evelyn, restored the building in 1867, and it was further restored and enlarged at his cost by the addition of a north aisle and a vestry in 1879. Although this extension was necessary, and was carried out with unusual respect for the ancient windows, door, &c., which were rebuilt in the same relative positions in the new wall, it is to be regretted for the unavoidable destruction of some very interesting early wall-paintings found on the walls and window-splays.
The south wall shows the original work, particularly in a pair of well-preserved lancet windows in the chancel. Beneath these on the inside, and apparently originally round the entire chapel, is a string-course of keel or pear-shape section. The windows have peculiar heads internally, i.e. straight-sided, or triangular, instead of arched, as in the chancel of Chipstead Church, Surrey, of slightly earlier date. They are rebated externally to receive the glass. There is a good piscina near to these with a credence shelf over, beneath a trefoiled head. It has two drains, dished in a square form. The opening is bordered by a bold bowtel moulding between two hollows, and is 1 ft. 8 in. wide, while that of the credence niche over it, which is simply chamfered on the edges, is only 1 ft. 5½ in. in width. There is also a small plain piscina of the first period in the south wall of the nave, beneath a lancet window and a square aumbry, of like date, originally in the north wall of the chancel, and now in the north aisle.
The ancient doorway and lancet windows of c. 1220, re-set in the rebuilt north wall, are good examples of their period. The north doorway, which retains its ancient oak door, and the priest's door on the south, now opening into the vestry, are plain to the point of rudeness. The western doorway, of c. 1430, within a modern porch, is wide and low, with a four-centred arch, which, with the jambs, is simply moulded. The door, of wide oak boards, with plain strap-hinges, is coeval, and the east and west windows, with cinquefoil-headed lights under square heads, also of the later date, are of the plainest character. In the flooring of the chancel and modern north chapel are a number of stone 'sets,' alternately white and yellow, apparently part of an ancient floor.
The arcade, of three arches in the nave and of two in the chancel, with a wide pier marking the junction, is, of course, modern, as are also the east and west windows of the aisle. The large raking buttresses on the south, east, and west sides date from the 18th century; and between the two on the east wall a sexton's shed has been inserted. There is a small modern gallery at the west end, and above this rises the bell-turret, also of modern date, which, with its silvery oak shingles, makes a very pleasing feature.
The main roof, as before mentioned, is ancient, that of the aisle being, of course, new; the seating and all other furniture being likewise modern.
In the last restoration the walls and window-splays were found to be covered with ancient paintings— figure subjects and scroll-work patterns of unusual excellence—chiefly of the early part of the 13th century, but some of 14th and 15th-century dates. As most of these occurred upon the north wall, they were unhappily destroyed when it was pulled down, but tracings were made which are said to be still in existence. On the north wall were two pairs of large figures, and on the east wall two single figures, two others, with ornamental patterns, being painted over the south door of the chancel. St. George and the dragon, on the south wall, near the west end, of 15th-century date, is mentioned among the destroyed subjects, (fn. 70) and on the eastern part of the south wall of the chancel is still preserved the Visitation, the figures of St. Mary and St. Elizabeth being drawn in coarse red outline, about life-size, with red drapery. At the west end, on the north, west, and south walls, 'numerous small figures, parts of a large subject,' said to have been of 15th-century date, were uncovered, but were not preserved.
In the two lancets on the south side of the chancel are preserved some rare and beautiful fragments of ancient glass. That in the eastern of the two is of early 13th-century date, coeval with the window in which it stands. It is grisaille pattern work, the design being in large diamonds, almost the width of the opening, inclosed in white borders. Sprays of stiff-leaf foliage, with bunches of fruit, fill the diamond spaces, which are a deep, rich grey-green in places. In the western are fragments of two dates, including some very elegant natural leafage of early 14th-century character, and a flaming sun, a rose, and some flowered quarries of the 15th century.
A good late-17th-century chest is preserved in the church.
There are no monuments of special interest or
antiquity with the exception of the interesting brass
to Edward de la Hale, 1431, which lies in the
chancel floor, and is now covered by a trap-door.
The figure is unusually small, only 1 ft. 5½ in. in
height, and has been very delicately engraved. It
shows him in plate-armour, with his gauntleted hands
joined in prayer, a helm of pointed oval shape, a
collar of SS, roundels at the armpits, skirt of taces,
and long-toed sollerets, with one rowelled spur. A
long sword against his left side is slung from the right
hip, and a dagger is suspended on the right side; his
feet rest upon a lion. Above the head is a curved
scroll bearing the words, I[HESU] MERCY, and at the foot
is an inscription plate now set upside down—
Hic iacet Edwardus de la Hale Armig' De Co[mitatu] Surr'
Qui obiit viii0. die mensis Septembr' Anno dñi Millō.
cccc0. XXXI0. Cuius anime p'picietur deus Amen.
The registers date only from 1670.
Of the plate in use at the chapel, the oldest piece, a silver cup, with a disproportionately large and deep bowl, dates from 1794. It bears the usual star ornament, and on the other side are the arms of the Evelyns of Wotton, with the inscription: 'The Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Evelyn of Wotton to Oakwood Church, Surrey, 6 January 1878.' The other pieces are dated 1837 and 1844, with similar ornament, arms and inscription; there is also a brass almsdish.
In the library at Wotton House are preserved some other pieces, replaced by the foregoing, viz.: a plated cup, and a cup, paten, plate and flagon of pewter, the plate bearing the date 1692, which appears from the marks to be that of the other pewter pieces. There is little doubt that they were all provided at the time of the repair of the chapel in 1701.
The one bell is modern.
Wotton Church is mentioned in the Taxation of Pope Nicholas, 1291. William Latimer presented in 1304, (fn. 71) and again in 1305. (fn. 72) In 1306 divers malicious persons broke into the parson's house, and even carried their atrocities to the length of killing one of his servants. (fn. 73) From this time onwards the advowson appears to have followed the descent of the manor. Queen Philippa, to whom the custody of William Latimer had apparently been granted, presented in 1345: (fn. 74) the advowson was granted with the manor to Thomas Morstede in 1429, (fn. 75) belonged afterwards to the Owens, (fn. 76) and passed with the manor to the Evelyn family. (fn. 77)
Edward de la Hale endowed the chapel with lands which in 1547–8 were valued at 120s. 6d. a year. The chapel was suppressed in 1547, (fn. 80) and the lands, chapel and chapel-house granted to Henry Polstede and William More. (fn. 81) The materials of the chapel were valued for sale. A pension of 100s. was granted to the 'chantry priest,' Hamlet Slynn. (fn. 82) The inhabitants petitioned against the destruction of the chapel, and obtained its restoration to them for use as a church. (fn. 83) In 1560–1 a petition to the same effect was presented, reciting the former facts, and adding that the former priest was not then there. Elizabeth granted a perpetual payment of £3 6s. 8d. from the Exchequer to the priest officiating at Okewood, which is still received. (fn. 84)
In 1723 Sir John Evelyn, the patron, and Richard Miller, esq., gave £200 in aid of the endowment. In 1725 Dr. Godolphin, Dean of St. Paul's, and Sir William Perkins of Chertsey, gave £100 each, and in 1741 Mr. Offley, rector of Abinger, left two farms to trustees for the repair of the building, the surplus to go to the curate in charge, provided that he held two services every Sunday. (fn. 85) The conditions were not fulfilled in the latter part of the 18th century, when the services were very irregularly performed. A cottage near the chapel, called Chapel House, is the traditional home of the priest. But there was no later parsonage house till 1884, when the present vicarage was built by Lord Ashcombe. The ecclesiastical parish of Okewood was formed in 1853 of parts of the old parishes of Wotton, Abinger, and Ockley, upon the Sussex border. The chapel was in the outlying part of Wotton, which was united to Abinger civil parish in 1879.
In 1717 William Glanville, nephew to John Evelyn, left by will a rentcharge on a farm near Pulborough to provide 40s. each for five poor boys who, on the anniversary of his death, should attend at his tombstone in Wotton churchyard and repeat from memory the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments, read 1 Cor. xv., and write two verses of the same chapter. The two best performers receive in addition £10 each to apprentice them to some trade. Wotton boys under 16 years old have the first chance, but failing suitable claimants from Wotton, Shiere, Abinger, Cheam, Epsom, and Ashtead parishes, and the tithing of Westcote, Dorking have the next right of competing.
Smith's Charity is distributed as in other Surrey parishes.