A History of the County of Surrey: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
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Merstan (xi cent.); Mestham and Merstham (xii cent.); Meyrstham and Merystham (xiv cent.)
Merstham is a village 3½ miles north-east of Reigate, 8 miles south-by-west from Croydon, on the road between the two. The parish is bounded on the north by Coulsdon, on the east by Chaldon and Blechingley, on the south by Nutfield, on the south-west by Gatton, on the north-west by Chipstead. It measures 3 miles from north to south, and 2 miles from east to west, and contains 2,015 acres.
In 1899 (fn. 1) a small readjustment of boundaries was made between Merstham and Gatton, part of each parish being transferred to the other. Merstham is in situation one of the typical parishes of the southern side of the chalk range. The parish runs from the chalk across the Upper Green Sand and Gault, into the Lower Green Sand, the outcrop of the Gault being unusually wide. The church and old village stand on the Upper Green Sand, at the foot of the chalk. The chalk is generally here crowned with an unusual thickness of clay with flints, but in the southern escarpment the chalk is on the surface.
Alderstead Heath is still an open common, and Worstead Green, or Wood Street Green, as it was anciently called, is a long strip of roadside waste. The Wellhead, at the foot of Church Hill, was a valuable spring feeding one of the branches of the Mole, but has been much diminished by the workings of water companies and by the railway tunnel. An intermittent burn used to issue from the foot of Merstham Hill in wet weather, as at Croydon, on the other side of the chalk. But though both still flow occasionally, the water companies have permanently lowered the level of water in the chalk and interfered with all such natural overflows.
The Merstham quarries are in the Upper Green Sand formation, and though the parish was and is agricultural for the most part, the stone quarries are the most striking industrial part of Merstham, particularly on account of the general scarcity of good building stone in the county.
The Upper Green Sand yields stone of varying qualities throughout the whole of the outcrop of the bed. Lingfield had its quarries at the time of the Domesday Survey, but Godstone and Merstham have been more famous since as sources of supply. It is often called firestone, for it used to be in request for the beds of furnaces, especially in glass-houses. In West Surrey the same stone is called Malm stone. It is a calcareous sandstone, containing green silicate of iron and plates of mica. It is very differently judged by different authorities as a building stone. It in fact differs in quality. It is quite soft when first dug, and requires seasoning, and must be laid as it lay in the quarry, if it is to last. Stone from the Merstham quarries was used in 1259 for the king's palace at Westminster, and in 1359 for Windsor Castle; (fn. 2) also for Old St. Paul's and London Bridge. The Reigate stone frequently mentioned as employed at Windsor and Westminster, and by Henry VIII at Nonsuch, was of the same kind, and no doubt some of it of the same Wealden origin, for John and Philip Prophete, who supplied the stone in the 14th century, were masters of the quarries at Merstham. (fn. 3) Stone is still worked here.
Ironstone was found on Merstham Manor as early as the 14th century, and in 1362 the Earl of Arundel asked permission of the abbot to work it. (fn. 4) In a lease at Lambeth (fn. 5) of 1396 it appears that the iron was at Charlwood, land at Charlwood being in Merstham Manor. It could not occur in Merstham parish itself, for geological reasons.
The chalk at Merstham has also been long famous for its lime. The lime produced is not quite equal to the Dorking and Betchworth, but superior to the Guildford product. The lime used to be extensively used as manure, and is still so employed. Cement is also now made from it.
The mineral works at Merstham helped to bring about improved means of conveyance. The mediaeval line of carriage was by cart to Battersea for conveyance by water to Westminster, and to Kingston for water carriage to Windsor. In both cases the line lay over a fairly dry and hard country. (fn. 6) In 1807 the high road to Croydon was improved by Act of Parliament. (fn. 7) This road, new for a great part of its course, avoided the steep hill into Reigate, which was descended by the Reigate and Sutton road, and also the steeper portion of the Merstham hill, passing by the depression near the west end of the church, cutting off a little of Gatton Park, and entering Reigate over Wray Common.
Before this road was made, a railroad, worked by horse traction, and following the same depression in the chalk, had been laid down, connecting Merstham with Croydon, and, by a branch, with Wandsworth. This was opened in 1805, and was perhaps the earliest public railroad in England. Similar lines in the north were used only for particular collieries or mines. Though the Merstham stone and lime works were intended primarily to benefit by the line, it took goods of any ownership or description. Fullers' earth from Nutfield (q.v.) was conveyed upon it; but through the cost of carriage and transhipment into the trucks, and further removal from the trucks and carriage at the other end, it was said to offer no great saving of expense. The mistake lay in not continuing the line, as was once suggested, to reach the Wey and Arun Canal in West Surrey, and so communicate with the southern coast. Also allowance was not made for the fact that there was no great quantity of goods to furnish a return traffic from the Thames to Merstham.
The line was taken over at last by the London and Brighton and South Eastern Companies, whose joint line runs upon part of it, but near Merstham the old railway is still visible in an inclined cutting. The rails, of course, have been removed.
The Locomotive Engine Railway was opened in 1842. Merstham Tunnel, now doubled, is a wellknown feature of the line. There is a station at Merstham.
Close to the station is a place called Battle Bridge, originally in Gatton, about which traditions, incapable of verification, have gathered, concerning a defeat of the Danes. It is perhaps worth mentioning that there is an Ockley Wood in the east part of Merstham parish. But the great defeat of the Danes in 852, 'hard by Ockley Wood,' was no doubt at Ockley in West Surrey.
Neolithic flints are not uncommon about Merstham. They are very common about Redhill and Reigate, and precise attention to parish boundaries is not paid when flints are picked up.
The trace of greatest antiquity, perhaps, in the parish is connected with communications. An ancient trackway is to be observed along the chalk downs, which, crossing Gatton Park, enters Merstham and is used for some distance as a footpath, but appears in traces only south of the church. The line seems to continue, generally in use, into Chaldon parish, where it was called Pilgrim Lane. This is no doubt part of the old cross-country communication west and east along the Downs, but it is not until it reaches Chaldon that it used to be called the Pilgrims' Way. On the Ordnance map, however, and elsewhere, it is so called from West Surrey onwards. (fn. 8)
The village is picturesque, and stands on a hill or plateau at some elevation above the railway and the surrounding valleys. A few old-fashioned cottages remain, notably the half-timbered blacksmith's forge (now converted into a modern house), probably of the latter part of the 15th century, with a projecting upper story, and massive curved braces and story posts. (fn. 9) Much rebuilding, including the Feathers Inn, and the development of a picturesque building estate, in which are many well-designed houses, has taken place within recent years.
Close to the church is Merstham House, the seat of Lord Hylton. At Alderstead, ¾ mile to the north-east, is a picturesque farm-house, which preserves a few old features. There were ancient manor-houses here and at Albury in this parish.
At Albury Farm, south of the village, are well-marked remains of a moat which surrounded the destroyed manor-house of Albury.
South-west of the church is Court Lodge Mead, where traces of the terraces of the old manor-house garden are still visible.
There are numerous gentlemen's houses about Merstham. Merstham House, the property of Lord Hylton, is at present occupied by Mr. Andrew Walker; Battle Bridge House is the seat of Mr. Richard Trower; the Gables, of Mr. Frederick Adams; Ockley House, of Mrs. Pelley.
The property called Netherne—'Lez Nedder' in 1522—has been acquired by the Surrey County Council for an asylum; the quit-rent of 11s. 1d. recorded in 1522 was enfranchised from the present lord by the council.
A school (national) was established in 1849. A School Board was elected in 1889, which took over and enlarged the National School. The present building was erected in 1898.
South Merstham is an ecclesiastical parish made in 1898 out of Merstham parish and a portion of Gatton. The church (All Saints) was built that year. It is of brick in 13th-century style, and when completed will include chancel, nave, transepts, and spire. The chancel and transepts and one bay of the nave are completed at present. The basin of the font is a Tridacna Gigas shell brought from the Philippine Islands by Mr. William Willox. Battle Bridge is in the part of Gatton transferred to Merstham and included in this district.
A rental of Merstham of 1522, (fn. 10) and a map in Lord Hylton's possession, of 1760, show that the parish was much subdivided into small holdings in open fields about Ashted Hill and also elsewhere. About Worstead Green were many cottages which have disappeared. Townend Meads are marked in the Ordnance map west of the village. Towney Meads seems to be their usual name, but the rental of 1522 calls them Townman Meads; obviously the meadows of the villani. Both 'Common Fields' and 'Cotman Mead,' with several 'shots' in each, appear in the 1522 rental.
There is no Inclosure Act, but William Jolliffe, who bought the manor in 1788 and died in 1802, consolidated the holdings in large farms as leases fell in; a process completed after his premature death caused by an accident. (fn. 11)
The earliest mention of MERSTHAM (Mearsdethan, x cent.; Mersthan, Domesday Survey; Mesham, xiii cent. and later) occurs in 675, when Frithwald, subregulus of Surrey, and Erkenwald, Bishop of London, granted 20 hides there to the abbey of Chertsey. (fn. 12) In 947 20 hides were bestowed by Eadred upon Oswig his minister, (fn. 13) while the grant to Chertsey was confirmed in 967 by Edgar, and again in 1062 by Edward. (fn. 14) Some of this property came ultimately into the possession of the abbey of Christchurch, Canterbury. According to Dugdale, who prints a charter to that effect, the manor was granted to the monastery by Athelstan, more usually known as Lifing, Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1018. (fn. 15) At the time of Domesday Survey it was held by the archbishop for the clothing of the monks, (fn. 16) and after the separation of the lands of the archbishop from those of Christchurch, (fn. 17) it remained part of the abbey estate until the beginning of the 16th century. (fn. 18) In 1539 Thomas, Prior of Christchurch, surrendered Merstham Manor to Henry VIII, who granted it to Sir Robert Southwell, Master of the Rolls, and Margaret his wife, in exchange for the rectory of Warnham in Sussex, which the king then bestowed upon the abbey in fee. (fn. 19) Sir Robert died before his wife, who married William Plumbe and held the manor jointly with her second husband for the term of her life. (fn. 20) In 1569 her two sons Francis and Robert Southwell alienated the reversion to Thomas Copley, (fn. 21) who apparently entered into immediate occupation of the house, for a complaint was raised by William Rychebell to the effect that Copley had turned him out, seized his household goods, and spoiled his crops. Rychebell, who had married Alice, the eldest daughter of Christopher Best, (fn. 22) pleaded that the estate, excepting the courts leet and rents of assize, had been let to his father-inlaw for a term of fifty years, and that he himself now held the lease 'by good law.' (fn. 23) The result of his petition does not appear. In 1584 Thomas Copley died in Flanders seised of the reversion, bequeathing it to his wife Katherine for her life. (fn. 24) In 1604 William Copley, son of Thomas, conveyed the property to Nicholas Jordan and John Middleton. (fn. 25)
Two years later the manor was sold by these to John Hedge, (fn. 26) who settled it upon his son Anthony 16 December 1619. John Hedge died in the following January, and a few months later the manor was re-settled by trustees upon Anthony on his marriage with Margaret Fountayne. (fn. 27) In 1650, Merstham was held by another John Hedge, presumably his son. (fn. 28) By 1673–4 the manor was divided between two coheiresses, Jane the wife of Henry Hoare and Mirabella the wife of John Gainsford, junior, (fn. 29) and as Jane was daughter and co-heiress of John Hedge (fn. 30) it seems probable that Mirabella was her sister. John and Nicholas Gainsford sold Merstham 30 May 1678 to Sir John Southcote, (fn. 31) who died seised of property in Merstham in 1685. He left everything to his wife Elizabeth, (fn. 32) who died in the following year and was succeeded by her eldest son Edward. (fn. 33) A partition was made between Sir Edward Southcote and Henry Hoare in 1705, by which the manor and some of the lands were ceded to the former, and the remainder of the property was retained by Hoare. (fn. 34) The manor was first mortgaged in two moieties, and then sold in successive portions to Paul Docminique and to his son Charles, (fn. 35) who died without children in 1745, his cousin Paul Humphrey inheriting the property. Paul Humphrey also died without issue, and the manor passed into the possession of his sister Rachel and her husband John Tattersall. (fn. 36) They too left no children, and the estate devolved upon John's brother the Rev. James Tattersall, who, dying in 1784, left the estates for sale. (fn. 37) They were purchased in 1788 from trustees by William Jolliffe, who was succeeded in 1802 by his son Hylton. Hylton Jolliffe died without issue in 1843. His nephew Sir W. G. H. Jolliffe, bart., (fn. 38) was created Baron Hylton and held the manor until 1876. His heir the second baron died in 1899, and his son the present Lord Hylton is lord of the manor. (fn. 39)
William Jolliffe, after his purchase in 1788, built what was called the Great House, west of Merstham Street. This was pulled down in 1834 and the remains sold to Lord Monson for building Gatton Park. The present Merstham House is what was called the Cottage, built by the Rev. W. J. Jolliffe, father of the first Baron Hylton, and subsequently enlarged. (fn. 40)
There are three grants of free warren to the Abbots of Christchurch in their demesne lands at Merstham, the earliest from Henry II, and the two others bearing the dates 1316 and 1364. (fn. 41) The prior had a prison (fn. 42) at Merstham, and kept a strict watch over his rights there. In 1335 in a case depending on a writ of right, granted at the petition of John Passelew, the suitors had assumed to themselves the right of giving an award before the process had been begun by the prior's bailiffs, to whom the writ was addressed, and the prior wrote indignantly that this was done 'in prejudice of us and infringement of our position which is not to be patiently borne.' (fn. 43) On another occasion a special representative was sent to the court as the abbot understood that 'certain matters of high import' were impending. (fn. 44)
A mill worth 30d. at Merstham is mentioned in Domesday, (fn. 45) and in the conveyance to Thomas Copley two water-mills and two horse-mills are spoken of. (fn. 46) One water-mill also went with the moiety of the manor which was owned by Henry and Jane Hoare in 1705. (fn. 47)
In 1348 Alexander Hanekyn was granted licence to alienate some 28 acres of meadow, woodland, &c., to the Prior of Christchurch for the sustenance of seven chaplains to celebrate divine service daily in the chapel of St. Thomas the Martyr, to pray for the souls of Edward II and his ancestors. (fn. 48)
At the beginning of the 14th century the reputed manor of ALBURY (Aldebury, Aldbury, xiv–xvi cents.) was held of the Prior of Christchurch by Sir Edmund de Passelew or Passelee, together with his son John, for service of 16s. a year and suit of court every three weeks at Merstham. Sir Edmund also held 40 acres of land in Merstham parish jointly with his second wife Margaret. John de Passelew inherited the manor at his father's death about 1327, (fn. 49) and in 1339 he conveyed all his right in it to Richard de Burton, (fn. 50) transferring to him an annual rent of 20 marks from John le French, who held the tenement of Albury on a seven years' lease from the preceding year, 1338. (fn. 51) It seems that either this lease was renewed or else John le French acquired the manor in fee, for we find later that Nicholas le French granted the manor for eight years at a rent of 50s. to Fulk Harwode, who in 1365–8 conveyed his right to Nicholas de Lovayne. (fn. 52) It does not appear who next succeeded as lord of the manor, but Manning and Bray, quoting the Court Rolls of Merstham, say that Albury was held by John Timperley, (fn. 53) who in the reign of Henry VI was granted licence to impark 40 acres of wood, 100 of land, 80 of pasture, and 30 of meadow in Merstham, with 'pales and ditches.' At the same time Timperley received a grant of 'waif and stray,' of free warren in all his lands in Merstham, (fn. 54) with the further privilege that he should not be 'put on assizes, juries, &c.' (fn. 55)
Quoting the same Court Rolls, Manning and Bray say that Timperley conveyed the manor of Albury to John Elingbridge, who settled it upon his second wife Anne, the daughter of John Prophet and widow of Ralph St. Leger. (fn. 56) This John died in 1473, and was succeeded by his grandson Thomas, who died in 1507 leaving one daughter, Anne. A son John was born to him posthumously, but died in the same year. (fn. 57) Anne, who then became heiress of the estates, afterwards married her guardian, John Dannett, (fn. 58) knighted in 1529, who marshalled a muster of thirty-eight men from Merstham, reviewed in 1539. (fn. 59) Albury remained in the possession of the Dannetts until 1579, when it was sold by Leonard Dannett and Christiana his wife to John Southcote, one of the judges of the Queen's Bench. (fn. 60) Southcote died in April 1585, and Albury was settled upon his son John and his wife Magdalen, one of the daughters of Sir Edward Waldegrave. (fn. 61) Apparently the estate was sequestered by the Crown under Charles I, for two-thirds of it, with several other estates, were regranted in 1633–4 to John Southcote and Edward his son, recusants, at a yearly rent of £100. (fn. 62) John Southcote lived until January 1637–8, the manor having been settled in the preceding December on his grandson John, (fn. 63) and it remained the property of this family (fn. 64) until 1727, when it was sold to Paul Docminique. (fn. 65) It eventually became the property of William Jolliffe and was united to the manor of Merstham (q.v.), Lord Hylton being the present owner.
The site of the old manor-house is marked by a moated inclosure.
According to Manning and Bray, who quote deeds in the register of the Dean and Chapter of Canterbury, the reputed manor of ALDERSTEAD was held by the Passelew family about 1287. (fn. 66) In the 13th century it was in the possession of Sir Robert Passelew, whose wife Christiana or Custance held it in dower after his death, and at the beginning of the following century their son Sir Edmund granted the reversion to Robert, his son by his second wife. (fn. 67) In 1335 this Robert complained that his step-brother John, then lord of Albury, had broken his close, mowed his grass and carried it away with other of his goods. (fn. 68) Nothing further is known about this estate until the 15th century, when according to Manning and Bray, who quote Court Rolls of Merstham, William Best died seised of it in 1487. Richard Best was holding in 1522, (fn. 69) and in 1572 and 1587 it appears as the property of Nicholas Best. Another Nicholas Best died and was succeeded in 1670 by his son Nicholas. In 1678 it was sold to Joseph Reeve, who bequeathed all his estates to his only son John, making provision for his daughter Sarah, (fn. 70) who eventually succeeded her brother. She married secondly George Ballard, and in 1749 her eldest son by him sold the estate to Samuel Nicholson. By 1773 it was in the possession of Sir James Colbroke, who died in 1761. His brother Sir George conveyed it to Lord Newhaven. The manor then became the property of John Lefevre, who bequeathed it to his son-in-law Shaw, who took the name of Lefevre and was holding the estate in 1808. (fn. 71) The Rev. W. J. Jolliffe, second son of Mr. Jolliffe who bought Merstham, bought Alderstead between 1820 and 1830. He died in 1835. His son was the first Lord Hylton, and Alderstead, which was always held of Merstham Manor, was united to it by him in 1843. (fn. 72)
In 1522 Sir John Leigh held CHILBERTON (Chylbertons) as a manor of the Prior of Christchurch. (fn. 73) According to Manning and Bray, Henry Drake conveyed it to William Franke in 1625. In 1658 he by will devised it to his youngest son William. In 1677 he and his son conveyed it to William Bowman, who in 1710 left it to his youngest son William. In 1735 Benjamin Bowman conveyed to Charles Docminique, from whom it passed to the Tattersalls and so to the Jolliffes with the main manor. (fn. 74) It is called 'the reputed manor of Chilvertons,' but a court has been held for it in recent years. The manor-house, on the west side of Merstham street, is little more than a cottage, with the date 1598 upon it. In 1905 it was bought by Mr. Paxton Watson, who has carefully restored the house.
In the rental of 1522 and the Court Rolls, NORTH and SOUTH WORTH appear as holdings in Merstham Manor. It is possible that an error has been made in treating Orde, in Reigate Hundred, in the Domesday Survey, as Worth in Sussex, counted in Surrey by error or by an indeterminate boundary. It is at least equally probable that this Worth, now commonly called The Wor, is meant.
The church of ST. KATHERINE stands in a strangely isolated position on the Brighton road, at some distance from the village, upon a green knoll surrounded by tall old elms. A modern lych-gate gives access to the churchyard from the east, and broad gravelled paths lead to the south porch, with long flights of steps from the south, rendered necessary by the steep pitch. The churchyard, which has been extended towards the south within the last half-century, and must now be one of the largest in the county, is very nicely planted and carefully tended. It contains a few old and many modern tombstones. The ground rises above the church to the north, and falls rapidly to the southward, and the whole hill is formed of the Merstham stone, lying beneath the chalk, from which the church, with many other local buildings, has been built.
This stone is, externally and internally, the most conspicuous of the materials used in the building. In the original dressings and walling it appears throughout, mixed in the latter with flints from the chalk, and only partly replaced in the former by Bath stone in modern restorations. All things considered, the old stone has not weathered badly. The south chapel and parts of the chancel are faced with ashlar in this stone. The roofs of the nave and south chapel are covered with stone slabs, probably dug from the neighbouring hills, and like those known as Horsham slabs, the chancel, north chapel, and porch being roofed with tiles, and the aisles with lead. The well-proportioned timber spire is shingled.
The church consists of nave, 42 ft. 8 in. by 19 ft. 9 in., with aisles about 1 ft. longer by 7 ft. 9 in. wide, having a good sized porch 10 ft. by 8 ft. 3 in., and a western tower 15 ft. by 14 ft. 9 in., with walls no less than 4 ft. 6 in. thick, chancel 30 ft. 6 in. by 19 ft., north (or Albury Manor) chapel 21 ft. 10 in. by 15 ft. 8 in. and south or St. Katherine's (or Alderstead Manor) chapel, 19 ft. 9 in. by 11 ft. At the west corner of the north aisle vestries have been built within recent years. The whole building is of exceptional height and dignity for a Surrey church.
Probably the predecessor of the present church, that mentioned in Domesday, or one built, perhaps, towards the end of the 11th century, consisted of a nave of the same size, with a shorter and narrower chancel. These, with the exception of the angles of the nave walls, were swept away in the closing years of the 12th century, when a complete new church, substantially that which exists, took the place of the primitive building, the fine massive tower of three stories, the nave arcades of three bays, the lofty chancel arch, and parts of the chancel being the most prominent of the features of this period. The date may be set down at about 1200, but there are points in the work—such as some voussoirs with enriched cheveron ornament now lying loose—which suggest a slightly earlier date. In the case of the particular detail referred to, however, it may be that the stones belonged to a doorway inserted in the early nave wall (about 1180) before the aisles were thrown out. (fn. 75) The south porch and north and south chapels were added, and the aisles and chancel greatly altered at various dates between c. 1390 and c. 1500. It is a debatable point whether the aisles were not widened, as well as heightened, in this later period. From the presence of a piscina of the earlier period in the south chapel it is possible that there may have been a smaller chapel on this site, rebuilt in its present form c. 1500; or perhaps the piscina was removed from the end of the south aisle when the new chapel was built. The church has passed through several 'restorations' of more or less destructive character between 1840 and the present time, and the tower was repaired in 1908. The tower is of great architectural interest, and the shingled spire with which it is crowned, probably a century later in date, forms a beautiful finish. Square at the eaves, it is splayed off to an octagonal plan above. Beneath the eaves is a corbeltable, which originally perhaps supported a low parapet, as at Witley, the corbels being all of the same general design—a sort of billet set within a broad hollow, crowned by a quirked bead. Below this there are in each face of the top stage three lancets under conjoined hood-mouldings, the centre lancet a mere recess that has never been pierced. (fn. 76) The string-course upon which these lancets rested is at present of moulded form, but the mouldings appear to be in 'Roman' cement, and the original section was probably a semi-octagon. The lancets themselves have been a good deal repaired in stone and cement except on the north side. In the middle stage is a single lancet of similar design, which originally had a label, also standing upon a string-course of semicircular section; and another lancet appears in the upper part of the bottom stage. In the two upper stories there are plain quoins, but in the lower are wide buttresses of shallow projection, two on the west face and one on the south, but none on the north; in addition to which a small buttress-like projection occurs at the eastern end of both north and south sides. In the bottom stage on the west side is a three-light tracery window of 15th-century date standing upon a string-course that has been cased in cement. Below this is a very beautiful and interesting doorway, 4 ft. 6 in. wide in the clear, somewhat injured, together with most of the other stonework, by retooling in about 1840. In design it is unusual, consisting of a pointed arch of two orders under a label, the outer order chamfered and the inner having a dog's-tooth moulding on the angle, resting on a nook-shaft, within these being a third order consisting of a trefoiled arch, with a bold roll-moulding continued down the jambs. The shape of the trefoil is peculiar, the head being a broad horse-shoe in shape, and the sides flat curves of much smaller radius. The label terminates in the heads of a man and a woman, and is of a section which suggests a 14th-century restoration—possibly when the window over it was inserted, but the heads appear to be original. The mouldings of the capitals and bases to the shafts also appear to have been re-cut, and the sill was probably lower originally. (fn. 77) The oak door is coeval and still retains its beautiful wrought-iron scrollwork, hinges, straps, and key-plate, the C-shaped curves of the hinges and the ends of the scroll-pieces in the upper part of the door terminating in dragons' heads. The latch-handle and the bottom hinges are plain work of the 14th or 15th century. The tower arch is of pointed form, chamfered, and has semicircular responds. There is now no staircase visible, and it is doubtful if one ever existed, but in Cracklow's view (c. 1824) there are indications of what may have been a staircase in the south-west angle.
The nave arcades are of about the same date (c. 1200) and the same general design, and of two chamfered orders and a label of semi-octagonal section, but the piers on the north side are of octagonal plan, while those on the south are circular, the moulded capitals also being of different design; and on the north there is a square western respond, while on the south it takes a semicircular form, there being at the east end no responds, but corbels of heavy design, on the north octagonal, and on the south semicircular. (fn. 78) Above the arcades is a clearstory in which are quatrefoil and trefoil windows—some of the quatrefoils 'lying on their sides'—set in tall, splayed, round-headed internal openings, four on each side, over the columns and responds. (fn. 79) The chancel arch is very wide and exceptionally lofty, the half-columns of its jambs being somewhat out of the perpendicular, giving the acutely pointed arch a slightly horse-shoed form. This arch is of two orders with unequal chamfers, and retains a good deal of its original colour decoration in patterns. The capitals are very curious, being of an irregular outline, not semicircular on plan, but waved in form and having a tall bell, upon which are three separate sprays of peculiar foliage resembling the classical acanthus. These so closely resemble the carving on the stone seat-elbows in the chancel of Chipstead Church and a scallop-shell ornament on the chancel arch piers at Letherhead—both works of the same date—as to render it almost certain that all were carved by the same hand. (fn. 80) Taken with the palmbranch foliage at Reigate hard by, they point to the influence of Eastern art through the Crusades. In the chancel itself the only traces of the work of this 1200 period are the partly destroyed blind arcades in the eastern part of the south wall and the beautiful double piscina. The wall arcades are lofty, with plainly chamfered arches, and resemble those in the chancel of Merton Church, and a group of other examples in Surrey and Kent. One capital of the shafts between the blank arches remains on the south side, circular in form and of good moulded section. (fn. 81) The piscina, which is certainly one of the best remaining of an early series in Surrey, (fn. 82) has a 'shouldered' head, boldly moulded, a credence shelf, and two drains in the form of projecting bowls beautifully carved in undercut foliage of a somewhat uncommon type. The small plain piscina in the south chapel, with projecting chamfered sill, is of the same period. It is almost triangular, with arched sides, measuring 12 in. wide by 7 in. and 4 in. deep. Part of a lancet window of this date remains in the west wall of the north aisle, beneath a modern two-light opening. The corresponding two-light opening in the south aisle is an insertion of c. 1340.
The two-light window, inserted perhaps in the place of an earlier lancet, in the wall-arch on the south side of the chancel, with cusped heads and a pointed quatrefoil under an inclosing arch, dates from about 1340, and is the only other feature of that period. To c. 1390 the porch in the end bay of the south aisle may be ascribed. It has a lofty outer archway of pointed form under a square label, with plain heater-shaped shields within quatrefoils in the spandrels, the jambs having a shaft with capital and base and good mouldings, repeated on the inner side. The doorway within is a plain example of the same date, and in the side walls, set very low down, are quatrefoil windows. The porch would appear to have been higher originally, and perhaps had a parvise over it. An image niche over the entrance is blocked by a sundial. This porch should be compared with the south porch of Oxted Church.
Slightly later, about 1450, the north and south aisles were remodelled if not rebuilt on a wider plan, and to this date may be ascribed the windows and other features. The south aisle has square-headed two-light windows in its south wall, while those in the north aisle are of three lights under pointed segmental heads. The north chapel, perhaps dedicated to St. Mary Magdalen, was probably also built at this time, and has similar windows to those in the north aisle. In its north wall is the arched tomb recess of John Elinebrygge (Elingbridge), 1473. (fn. 83) To the same period belongs the very large and handsome east window of the chancel. It is of five lights, doubled in the head, in which two quatrefoils of the width of the lower lights are placed. The arches dividing the north chapel from the chancel are of very unequal spans and coarse design. The south chapel, which appertained to the manor of Alderstead, and is dedicated to St. Katherine, dates from c. 1500. It is faced externally with ashlar, has a small priest's door in the south wall, with four-centred arch, the jambs and head of which stand out from the wall in an unusual manner; and right and left tall two-light windows with moulded jambs and square heads, having four-centred arches to the lights. Its east window of three lights under a pointed head is of more ordinary type. On the east wall to the left inside are the remains of an image niche with a good deal of ancient red colour, and there are other indications that this wall was richly decorated with a reredos of carved stonework, and coloured and gilt. The arches between the south chapel and chancel are of the same period, and are more elaborate than those on the opposite side; the pier and respond have attached shafts, quatrefoil fashion, alternating with hollows, the capitals, bases and arches being characteristically moulded. The same inequality of span is observable in these as in those opposite, the smaller arch to the west being doubtless reduced in span in order to minimize the thrust upon the east wall of the nave. The arches at the east end of the aisles opening into these chapels are of four-centred form, set very high up on moulded corbels, and belong to the dates of the chapels respectively; that to the north having two hollow-chamfered orders and the southern plain chamfers.
The aisle roofs are modern, but those of the nave, chapels, and chancel are mainly composed of the old timbers, the chancel roof being ceiled with plaster over the timbers, but showing one tie-beam and moulded wall-plates as evidence of antiquity. The north chapel has a roof with tie-beams, and octagonal king-posts having curved braces to the principal and ridge. The porch roof has trussed rafters of good design. Except in the aisles, which are covered with lead, the pitches of the roof are somewhat steep. Oak parclose screens of 15th or early 16th-century date have been destroyed within the last fifty years, but fragments of one have been made into a lobby to the priest's door. (fn. 84) All the seating in the body of the church, the quire fittings, pulpit, &c., are modern. Besides the painted patterns on the chancel arch and the colouring still visible on the east wall of the south chapel, there are traces of extensive figure paintings in the nave. On the north-west column is a cross patée, no doubt a consecration cross, about 6 in. in diameter; and on the same column is a female figure wearing a hat and wimple. These date from about 1200. On the corresponding pillar on the south side was a figure of a bishop, in the attitude of benediction; on the east face of the chancel arch pier on the south side was a painting of the Blessed Virgin and Child; and along the whole of the south aisle traces of painting were visible, among which is said to have been a representation of the Martyrdom of St. Thomas of Canterbury and other scenes, of which a man drawing a sword was the most distinct figure. It seems likely that the story of St. Katherine, the patroness of the church, was here represented. Mr. Reginald Palgrave, writing in 1860, says:—'If this be so the easternmost compartment represents the first act of her martyrdom, when an angel descending from heaven broke in pieces the instruments of torture. The figures to the right . . . with hands uplifted, and faces upturned, would form the astonished spectators of the miraculous interposition; more in the centre appears the persecuting tyrant Maximin, distinguished by a crown and shield. The centre compartment is sadly destroyed; but the forms of a colossal Virgin and Child are just traceable. The third division . . . would represent the saint's death by beheading, if the soldier drawing his sword may be thus interpreted.' (fn. 85) All except the first-named fragments have disappeared during the last forty years. Cracklow, writing in 1824, states that there were formerly 'some exquisite devices in stained glass, of which only a few fragments' were then remaining. There are still in the east window of the south chapel figures of the Blessed Virgin and Child, St. Peter, and another saint. In the chancel and other windows the modern stained glass is of poor quality, but in the nave some glass recently put in is of better design and colouring.
The font, of Purbeck marble, in good preservation, dates from the end of the 12th century. It has a square body, with a circular basin, and elegant trefoil leaves filling the spandrels on the top. The sides, which overhang, have a shallow round-arched arcade, and rest upon a central drum and four angle-shafts, the whole standing on a moulded base and square moulded plinth. Altogether it is an exceptionally good example of a common type; cf. Beddington, Great Bookham, Frensham, and Mickleham.
The oldest monument is a sadly mutilated stone effigy of a civilian, said to be that of Nicholas Jamys, mayor and alderman of London, and father to the first wife of John Elingbridge. Its date has been placed between 1420 and 1430. When this was discovered, in about 1800, it was lying face downwards, the back of the slab forming part of the chancel pavement. It is described at that time as having the hands raised in prayer, and bright scarlet colouring on the robes, both of which details have disappeared.
There was also a bird with outspread wings at the feet, and the head was supported by two angels, but these have been almost destroyed by the ill-usage that the effigy has received. It would seem that the figure was habited in a scarlet alderman's gown bordered with fur, which can still be seen at the foot, and a very interesting detail remains in the gypcière, attached by straps to the waist girdle and hanging from the right side. This effigy now rests upon a very richly carved frieze or cornice, which itself lies loose upon the pavement of the north chapel. This, although its history is uncertain, may well have formed the cornice to the wall-tomb belonging to this effigy. It is about 18 in. high and 9 ft. in length originally, the upper part moulded, and the lower most beautifully carved with an undercut vine trail, a fine vigorous piece of work. In the middle is a demi-figure of an angel with curly locks, in alb and apparelled amice holding a plain ridged heater-shaped shield; while at the left end is sculptured an heraldic casque bearing the crest of an eagle or falcon, perched upon a cap of maintenance, perhaps with reference to the deceased having filled the high office of mayor of London. Other fragments which may have formed part of this tomb are lying on the floor of the north aisle to the westward, and among them the richly-carved voussoirs of the 12th-century doorway above noticed. The tomb probably stood either in the western part of the north chapel, against its north wall, or else in the sanctuary of the main chancel.
In the chancel is a small brass to John Ballard and his wife. He is in civilian dress, and the wife in the ordinary costume of the period. The black letter inscription reads:—
'Hic jacent Iohēs Ballard qui obiit xxio die marcii Anno d[omin]i Mill[essimo] CCCCLXIIJo, Et Margareta ux[or] ei[us] qor a[nim]abz [prop]icie[t] de['] ame['].'
On the high tomb in the recess in the eastern part of the north chapel, under a segmental moulded arch, is the following brass inscription in black letter:—
'Hic jacet Iohēs Elinebrygge armiger qui obiit viijo die Februarii Ao dñi MoCCCCo LXXIIj. Et Isabella uxor eius que fuit filia Nichi Jamys quonda['] Maioris et Alderman['] London['] que Obiit viio die Septembris Ao dñi MoCCCCo LXXIIo et Anna ux[or] ei[us] que fuit filia Joh[anne]s Prophete Gentilman que obiit [blank] Ao dni Mo CCCCo [blank] quoru['] animabus ppicietur Deus.'
There were three figures above, but that of the husband, who was in civil costume, although described as esquire, has long been lost. The two wives are precisely similar as to figure and costume, and have scrolls proceeding from their mouths, bearing the invocation, 'Sancta Trinitas—Unus Deus—Miserere Nobis.' Beneath is a group of seven daughters, rather quaintly drawn, with 'butterfly' head-dresses, but the corresponding group of sons has disappeared. The front of the tomb beneath the slab is ornamented with four large quatrefoils, containing heater-shaped shields, standing on a moulded plinth. (fn. 86)
A grandson of John, Thomas Elingbridge, is commemorated by a brass effigy, together with that of his wife (originally in the north chapel, but now in the chancel), and the following inscription:—
'Hic jacent Tho[ma]s Elinerugge Armiger alias dict.['] Tho[ma]s Elyngbrigge filius et heres Thome Elinerugge, et Johanna ux[or] ei[us] qui quidem Thomas obit XXVII die marcii Ao d[omini] Mo Vc VII quoru['] a[nim]abus ppicietur de[']. Amen.' (fn. 87)
He is shown as in armour, but with head and hands uncovered, and without spurs, and his wife wears the ordinary dress of the period. Of the four shields of arms which originally lay at the corners of the slab, the lower one on the right only remains: it bears Checky argent and sable, impaling Lozengy and a chief with a saltire with the ends cut off charged with five roundels, which seem to be the arms of Overton.
In the chancel is the brass effigy to Sir John Newdegate, 1498. It is unusually small and the figure, which is badly proportioned, is in armour, the head resting on a helmet. The Newdegate arms are Gules three lions' paws razed or. The inscription, in black letter, runs:—'Hic Iacet Joh[anne]s Newdegate Armiger nup[er] dñs de Herfeld in Co[mitatu] Mid[dx] ql obiit XXIo die mens['] Februarii Ao dñi MoCCCCo LXXXXVIII FAo regni reg[is] Hen[rici] VII, XIIIJ, cui['] a[nimae] [pro]piciet['] de.' The manor of Harefield, Middlesex, was acquired by the Newdegates in the 14th century. They took their name from the village of Newdigate in this part of Surrey, where also they held lands from an early date.
There is also a brass to Peter and Richard Best, two children of Nicholas Best of Alderstead, 1585–7. The figure of Peter, who is represented as a little child in a quaint long gown with a handkerchief tied to his girdle, still remains, but that of his brother was stolen about 1839. It represented a 'chrysom' child. (fn. 88) The inscription, in Roman capitals, runs:—'Here lyeth the bodyes of Peter Best and Rychard Best his brother sonnes of Nycolas Best & Elizabeth his wyfe of Alderstead in ye Parryshe of Merstham in the countie of Surrey wch Peter deceased the xiith day of August Ao D[omini] 1585. And the said Rychard his brother deceased the xxiith of June Ao D[omini] 1587.'
There is a stone let into the east wall of the south chapel which is engraved with the arms and crests of Southcote and Waldegrave, and bears the initials S. M. S., denoting the purchase of the manor of Albury from Leonard Dannett in 1579 by John Southcote. The stone appears to have been shifted from the Albury Manor chapel to that of the manor of Alderstead. A piece of carving from old London Bridge is preserved in the church.
The bells, five in number, are inscribed: 1. Bryanvs Eldridge me fecit 1657; 2. ✠ Sancta Katerina Ora Pro Nobis; 3. Robertus + mot + me + fecit + 1597 O; 4. Pack & Chapman of London Fecit — Nichs Feldwick & Jno Eastland Church Wardens 1774; 5. Bryan Eldridge made mee 1640. Nicholas Best Richard Sharp Chvrch Wardens.
No. 2 is a 14th-century bell, resembling others at Chelsham and Limpsfield.
Among the church plate is a silver cup of 1623 bearing the inscriptions:—'Deo sacrauit & gregi suo dedit 1623;' and 'Tho: Goad Srae Theolae Dr Rector eccliæ pochialis de Mestham Comitat Surrey.' There is a paten of 1714 given by the Rev. Henry Mills, M.A., rector, in 1728. He was rector from 1724 to 1742, and was buried in the chancel. There is also a silver flagon of 1762, the gift of Jer. Milles, D.D., rector, 1763. Besides these there are many modern pieces.
The registers date from 1539, though not continuous at the beginning, and irregularly kept, especially under the Commonwealth. They are printed by the British Record Society.
The right of presentation to the church of Merstham has always belonged and still belongs to the Archbishop of Canterbury. (fn. 89)
The earliest mention of a church there occurs in Domesday. In 1255 dispensation to hold the living of Merstham at the same time as that of 'Gerolweston' was granted at the request of the archbishop to his physician, Master William de Twytham. (fn. 90) In 1294 the parson there was Robert de Segre, (fn. 91) who, having purchased land in Merstham from the prior and several other persons, took possession of it without the king's licence, after the passing of the Statute of Mortmain; the same thing was done by his successor, Edward Dacre, who petitioned for pardon and obtained it at the price of 6s. 8d. (fn. 92)
Under Henry VIII the rectory-house with orchard, garden, and 9 acres of glebe-land was worth £2 14s. 4d. The tithes of grain amounted to £12 3s. 4d. Tithes of pigs and geese came to 6s. 8d. A yearly payment of 16d. was required by the Prior of Christchurch, and 6s. 8d. was due to the Archdeacon of Surrey for procurations, &c. With the rest of the tithes, oblations, &c., the living was worth in all £22 1s. 8d. (fn. 93)
Smith's Charity is distributed as in other Surrey parishes.