A Walking Guide To Our History
It is impossible to say exactly when St. Mary's Church was built, although portions of the building are of venerable antiquity. In 1963 a Roman cinerary urn, dated to 120 -150 A.D. was discovered buried in the Churchyard, establishing that this site has been of religious significance for nearly 1900 years. Evidence of a flourishing community, with no doubt a church or chapel to attend to its spiritual needs, can be found prior to 675 when five dwellings were known to have been given by King Frithuwold (The King of Surrey ruling under King Wulfhere of Mercia) to endow Chertsey Abbey, one of these being the chapel of Torp. Construction of the Norman Arch was started after the Norman Conquest of 1066, as Chertsey Abbey celebrated the rewards it had gained from supporting William the Conqueror. It is thought that Abbot Hugh in 1110 was part of the renewal of St Mary's building. The walls of the Church are of mixed heritage and built of flints and rubble with clunch & sandstone dressings, the roof is tiled. Thorpe, or 'Torp', meaning village in Old English is listed in the Domesday Book of 1086.
The chancel has on either side a two-light and a single-light window with tracery. The single-light windows are in two stages, each traceried.
On the south side (right hand side) of the High Altar there are two graded stone sedilia (seats for the clergy) with ogee arches separated by a shaft with moulded capital and base. The piscina has a double basin with a modern imitation to the other side of the sedilia, but without a drain. Between the two windows in the south wall is a small ancient door (leading to the modern Rutherwyke Room and Parish Office). Round three sides of the chancel runs a string course. All this work, though much lovingly restored, is of 14th century date and may well have been the work of John de Rutherwyke, Abbot of Chertsey, shortly before his death in 1347.
Of particular note is the dramatic East Window, designed and made by the renowned artist Laurence Lee, installed Christmas 1973. From a cluster of lily like blooms in the tracery the eye leads to the main subject, conceived as a mother figure, richly brown adorned with gold stars (The donor being of Orthodox Tradition). This is the Blessed Virgin Mary, bearing the God-Child. The outer lights depict the Annunciation (top left), the Pieta (top right), the Church, (base Left) recording the local foundation of the Abbey of Chertsey, a religious and pupil representing Thorpe Church of England School and the parish connection with education. At the very centre of the window is a monstrance representing the Eucharistic tradition of the Parish down the centuries. The arms on the left represent St Peter and the historic Catholic tradition of the parish. The arms on the right are those of the anonymous donor.
The Chancel & High Altar
The Lady Chapel
The south transept contains a small chapel, now dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. (Formerly known as the chapel of St Nicholas, 15th Century) The Virgin with Child. This is a modern stone statue with the Blessed Virgin cradling the Christ child. In the late 1980s this was moved from the chancel to its present position in the re-dedicated ‘Lady Chapel’ following extensive re-ordering of the Church.
The brass and stone memorials set into the floor here are of greatest interest: the brasses of Bonde and Denham:
The Bonde consist of several separate brasses; the Bonde arms, John Bonde, his wife, their seven sons, seven daughters and an inscription of six lines in black letter; “Here resteth ye Bodie of John Bonde gentleman of the thage of 1xxix yeres sometyme one of the Clerk’ of the Honorable Household to our Sovereigne lord Kynge Henry ye viii who has issue betwixt him and Johan his wief vii Sonnes and vii daughters, viz. ,Thomas, Willya, Nycholas, James, Willya, Anthony and Anthony, Ann, Mabell, franceys, Elizabethe, Cicily, Barbara, and Averyn and depted this life ye xv daye of March, Anno. 1578” The portions of this brass are palimpsests. On the reverse of the male figure is part of a large brass representing an abbot or abbess holding a staff in their right hand with possibly the figure of a weeper, and part of a border. The reverse of the female figure formed part of a canopy with Flemish inscription. Evidence from these brasses point to a certain Richard de la Chapelle, alias Vische, who died on September 3rd, 1511, and who was a Canon, 1443, and Cantor, 1463, of the Collegiate Church of St. Donatious in Bruges. (His portrait, with the same coat of arms, by the painter Gerard David is in the National Gallery, London)
The Denham brass has the arms and crest of Denham and another plate with six lines of black letter: “William Denham whose picture on ye wall, Ingraved in brasse you see, Under this stone slepinge in Christe, In reste and peace doth lye, Obiit ultimo die Augusti Anno Dni, 1583. Etatis suae 64.” The Plate depicts William Denham with his wife, five sons and ten daughters; above are the arms of the Goldsmiths’ Company and the words “Yahweh” in Hebrew characters; to the right are the arms of Denham and to the left Denham impaling those of his wife; beneath are eight lines of doggerel verse.
The Virgin with Child
This was originally located in a small Victorian Chapel, to the left hand side of the Norman Arch (now known as the Benedict Chapel) and was hand pumped – a choir boy would have been lifted down into the organ to operate it. It was electrified and later moved to its present location under the Tudor brick tower. The ornate dark oak rails that surround the organ were originally Communion rails, sited in front of the high altar.
At the western end of the church is the historic 16th century red bricked embattled tower with round headed belfry windows. (The crenellations are said to be a later edition). The double doors formed the original entrance to the Church. The Tower was extensively re-pointed during 2018 at a cost of £40k following the generation donations of congregation, community and several successful grant applications.
St Mary's Church Thorpe Parochial Church Council is a registered charity (Charity: 1176929) and seeks to raise significant funds to maintain and enhance the historic and educational character of our buildings. We welcome donations for our 'Works' fund which seeks to meet these regular and significant costs and we recognise that our historic building is part of our missionary outreach and worship of God. Please help us today with a donation to support our work.