Christ Church

Church History

Christ Church has a fascinating past - as a building and the people associated with it

The Church

Church painting

This picture of Christ Church is available as one of a limited print run of 40 sold for Church funds. 
If you are interested in buying one, please contact us.

The Early Years
Christ Church was built in 1848 to meet the needs of the growing village. Its construction, together with that of the vicarage, was funded by John Labouchere of Broome Hall and the 13th Duke of Norfolk provided the land.  Designed by Benjamin Ferrey, a pupil of Augustus Charles Pugin who was responsible for the rich and intricate interior of the Houses of Parliament, Ferrey based his design on that of a simple late thirteenth century chapel while drawing on the decorated period of English Gothic architecture for the chancel arch and widow tracery.  With its six  sides, Ferrey's font, now facing the south door, demonstrates the influence of the Ecclesiastical movement on his work.Hinge   Christ Church is seen to be a fine example of the mid-eighteenth century Gothic revival 'beauty of holiness' movement, taking the word to the people.  Built of local, Leith Hill, sandstone, Christ Church is a Listed building.

Click here for a  note prepared by Patrick Newberry to mark the 175th anniversary of the dedication of Christ Church.

Churchyard1Consecrated on 19 October 1848 by Charles Sumner, Bishop of Winchester, Christ Church was initially a 'chapel of ease' of Holmwood Parish but with an endowment by Labouchere Coldarbour became a parish in its own right in 1850.  John Labouchere was a banker, a partner in what became Williams and Deacon's (for a time Williams, Deacon, Labouchere & Co) which was taken over by the Royal Bank of Scotland in 1929, but continued to operate under the old name until it was merged to form Williams and Glyns before being fully absorbed into RBS.  Labouchere shared evangelical Christian beliefs with his bank partners and was president of one  evangelical organisation, vice-president of two others, treasurer of eight, governor of three and on the committee of another three.

On the west wall of the balcony are two painted Gothic style panels.  The one on the south side of the west window sets out the Ten Commandments and that on the north side sets out the Lord's Prayer and the Apostles' Creed. These formed the original, 1848, reredos.

In 1854 Labouchere's wife, Mary Louisa, funded the building of an infant school on land at the northern end of the churchyard.  While Christ Church remains a thriving Church, the school was closed in 1908  replaced by one in the centre of the village that provided for a wider age range. That closed in the 1960s.

1904 - A Major Reconstruction
In 1904, Labouchere's successor in Broome Hall, Sir Alexander Hargreaves Brown, together with two other local land owners,  the Heath family of Kitlands and Hervey Vaughan Williams of Leith Hill Place,  funded a major reconstruction of the interior of Christ Church,The Alter  to the design of W D Caroe, a major figure in the arts and crafts movement and architect of the Cardiff University Main Building.   Caroe's  work included a new roof structure for the nave with cross beams and a fine king post roof designed to prevent the considerable weight of Ferrey's roof from pushing the walls outwards and causing the roof to sag. Caroe's work also included new choir stalls, reredos and pulpit as well as chancel fittings. The benefactors also provided a new Rothwell organ, for which Caroe built a new organ case and chamber.  Margaret Vaughan Williams, Ralph's sister, paid for a restoration of the organ in 1932.

The Most Recent Changes
The interior of the Church remained unchanged until 2000 when Jonathan Mansfield, an architect who lived in the village, designed a meeting room - the Annabel Room, in memory of Annabel Constantine - and a balcony at the west end, with much of the work being in polished oak.  Jonathan also oversaw the conversion of all the pews to be freestanding, enabling them to be moved so the nave can be configured in different formats, as well to be largely cleared for special events.  New lighting was installed throughout the church, including four large Arts and Crafts style wrought iron fittings in the nave with uplighters illuminating the fine roof and downlighters the pews.  A disabled toilet was installed off the Annabel Room in 2017. To accommodate the toilet, the church boiler was moved to the outside of the west wall, where it is enclosed with wood harvested from National Trust trees on Leith Hill.

DadoWhen the Church was being redecorated in 2018,  a section of a Victorian painted  dado was uncovered.  It has been left exposed for all to picture how the inside of Christ Church once looked.

The War Memorials and Flags
There are two war memorials on the northern wall of the nave.  The westernmost one commemorates the thirteen villagers killed in the First World War, while the easternmost one commemorates the three villagers killed in the Second World War.

Two Union Jacks hang by the war memorials; the one near the Second World War memorial was flown at Anstie Grange during the First World War when it was used as a hospital.  It was presented to Christ Church by the family of C E Heath,  owner of Anstie Grange and who is commemorated in a window on the south side of the nave (see below).

The standard of the former Dorking branch of the Royal Naval Association is on the inside of the western wall, in the balcony.  John Venus, our vicar between 1983 and 1993, had served as a Royal Navy chaplain and introduced a Sea Sunday service with the Dorking branch of the Association; they presented Christ Church with their standard when the branch was wound up in 2011. We continue to celebrate Sea Sunday every July.

These two memorials supplement another on Coldharbour Common, to the north of Christ Church on the opposite side of Abinger Road, which is where our annual Remembrance Sunday service is held.  This memorial has  Grade II listing as 'an eloquent witness to the tragic impact of world events on this local community, and the sacrifices it made in the conflicts of the C20', with the design described as 'a simple yet dignified stone pillar war memorial'. It lists all the villagers who served in the First World War, identifying those who were killed and those who were injured, as well as those killed in the Second World War.

The Church Windows
Christ Church has some fine stained glass windows. 

West EWindowThe west end window, best viewed from the balcony, is an excellent  example of the work of C E Kempe and Co, successors to Charles Eamer Kempe who had designed stained glass windows in several cathedrals including Gloucester, Hereford, Wells  Winchester and York.

The window is in memory of Captain Raymond Leopold Greig Heath of  The Queen's Royal West Surrey Regiment who died in the battle of Loos on 25th September 1915, having been seriously wounded in 1914 and returning to action in France after only three months. He was the son of Arthur Raymond Heath of Kitlands, a nephew of Cuthbert Eden Heath and grandson of Admiral Sir Leopold Heath of Anstie Grange, a member of the family that contributed to Caroe's work of 1904. An Australian descendant of the Heaths has created a fascinating website about the Heaths and life in Coldharbour in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Commissioned by Captain Heath's family, the window was installed in 1923.  It depicts the Celebration of Holy Communion on the Battlefield of France, with the badge of Captain Heath's regiment appearing in the tracery.  It has a characteristic Kempe landscape background reminiscent of 15th and 16th century Flemish and German glass from which Kempe took inspiration. The colours are rich and faces typically soft and expressive. The window is signed with Kempe's single wheatsheaf, or golden garb, enclosing a black tower which was added by distant relative and partner Walter Ernest Tower who inherited the company on Kempe's death in 1907.

C E Heath windowProgressing towards the Chancel, the first window on the right of the Nave, the south side, was designed by Hugh Easton (who also designed several windows in Westminster Abbey, including those in the Battle of Britain chapel) is also in memory of a Heath, Cuthbert Eden who died in 1939.  C E Heath was a visionary Lloyd’s underwriter, recognised as being the father of non-marine insurance and is credited  with creating the market’s first burglary policy and the first earthquake and hurricane insurance. He even insured against Zeppelin attacks during the First World War.  Many of C E Heath’s ground-breaking approaches to insurance and risk are still in practice at Lloyd’s today.

C E Heath was the grandson of George Heath, searjant at arms who is responsible for the security of the Houses of Parliament; George had built up the Kitlands estate, on the eastern side of the village, from a number of farms. George's son and  CE Heath's father, Admiral Sir Leopold Heath, built Anstie Grange to the north of Kitlands and planted many rhododendrons.  C E Heath inherited Anstie Grange and its rhododendrons are depicted in the window.

Below the window is a plaque commemorating Lord Claud David Hamilton, husband of C E Heath's daughter, Genesta. Lord Claud Hamilton was an officer in the Irish Guards and attached to the Gurkhas.  His widow was a great supporter of the Gurkhas and used to arrange for a Gurkha band to play at the annual Village Fete; in her autobiography, A Stone's Throw, Genesta Hamilton describes their performance at the 1980 Fete The Sixth Gurkha Band marched through the village, playing beautifully, marching, countermarching and wheeling over that rough ground (the Memorial, fete, Ground) in perfect order . Click here for some interesting recollections of Genesta's younger days in Coldharbour.

The second window on the south side of the Nave is in memory of Major Alfred Fox Cotton, related to the Heath family by his marriage to Admiral Sir Leopold Heath's daughter, Marion Emma.  It was funded by the brothers and sisters of his widow, while a plaque below the window is a tribute by his wife. Like Lord Claud Hamilton, Major Fox served with the Gurkhas , the Fourth Gurkha Regiment.  He died at sea in 1890 on a voyage home from India.

The east window is by James Powell and Sons who, as well as making stained glass,  were also known as Whitefriars Glass, producing glassware.

Coming back into the Nave, the first window on the north side is a fine Pre-Raphelite window in memory of Gordon Hargreaves Brown who died at Ypres on 29 September 1914, shortly after the outbreak of the First World War. His father, Sir Alexander Hargreaves Brown, was the principal funder of Caroe's 1904 reconstruction of the Church's interior. George's son, Sir John Pigott Brown, who was killed in Tunisia on Christmas Day in 1942, is commemorated on the wall panel to the west of the window commemorating his father.

The third window on the north side has two panels.  The right hand panel, which is of unknown date depicting the Virgin Mary, is in memory of Sir Alexander and Lady Maxwell.  Sir Alexander was Permanent Under Secretary at the Home Office from 1938 to 1948. The left hand panel was created in 2013 by Amanda Winfield of Abinger Common. 

Two Other Benjamin Ferrey Churches
There are two other churches designed by Benjamin Ferery with links to
Christ Church.  As well as being designed by Benjamin Ferrey,  the building of St Pauls, Dorking, just a few miles away, was also funded by John Labouchere.

St Johns Tincleton
Tincleton's St John the Evangelist, Dorset is a smaller version of Christ Church, built in 1849 to replace a dilapidated building. Although smaller than Christ Church, the chancel and nave both have similar proportions to Christ Church and both churches have comparable bellcotes with two bells atop the west end wall. Each of the bellcotes houses a bell cast by the Whitechapel bell foundry,  Coldharbour's in 1847 and Tincleton's  (the clock bell) in 1849.

While some other details of the two churches are also very similar, it is well possible that there was more in common before the extensive 1904 work on Christ Church. Born and educated in Dorset, much of Ferrey’s work was in the county, including Clyffe House in Tincelton, home of one of those who funded construction the new church. 

Celebrating 175 Years of Christ Church here in Coldharbour
175th Anniversary Order of Service Cover

Over the weekend of 21 and 22 October we celebrated the dedication of Christ Church in 1848 - 175 years ago.  The building of our Church was funded by John Labouchere, who lived in Broome Hall, on land given by the Duke of Norfolk. Pat Newberry, a former resident of Coldharbour and a great historian has written a short history of Christ Church which you can download by clicking here.

The weekend began on Saturday 21 October with two organ concerts by our organist David Hansell and colleague Philip Drew, complemented by two recitals by soprano Jenny Hansell. In each concert, the first organ piece was a fine duet by David and Philip playing Mozart’s Adagio and Allegro K554. This was followed by three William Blake songs with music written by Vaughan Williams not long before his death: Infant Joy, The Shepherd and The Lamb. We then enjoyed a second organ duet, Beethoven’s Adagio for a Flute Clock, followed by another three William Bake songs to settings by Vaughan Williams: A poison Tree. Ah Sun-flower and Eternity, sung by Jenny Hansell. The concert ended with an organ due – Sonata in G , BWV530, by J S Bach.

On Sunday 22 October we hosted the other three Leith Hill Benefice churches to a special service, which opened with the Village Band playing in the gallery; they also accompanied the choir and organ through much of the service. After a practice of the Coldharbour Hymn written for the occasion by Rev Virginia Smith with music by David Hansell, the service commenced with Leith Hill choir singing Psalm 122.  The full order of service, including the words of Virginia’s Coldharbour Hymn, can be downloaded by clicking here.  Virginia Smith's sermon is on our Christ Church - Words and Thoughts page.

The Churchyard
Polish Grave at ChristmasTo the north of the Church lies the grave of Marian and Caja Hemar. Marian was a noted Polish poet, journalist, playwright, comedy writer and songwriter, who left Poland, eventually for Britain, following the German invasion.  Once in England, Marian broadcast to Poland for Radio Free Europe.  After the war he continued to broadcast to Poland and became one of the best known members of the Polish community outside Poland. In the late 1950s Marian came to live in Coldharbour with his wife Caja Eric, who he married in London in 1946.  Caja was a Danish  Broadway actress who is probably best known for her only role in films -  holding the torch aloft at the start of some Columbia Pictures films.

Near the south west corner lie the graves of members of the Heath family, including those of Admiral Sir Leopold Heath, Cuthbert Eden Heath and Lord Claud Hamilton. 

ChurchyardThe graves of Sir Alexander Hargreaves Brown and members of his family are also along the eastern side, while that of his predecessor at Broome Hall and founder of Christ Church, John Labouchere, as well as of his wife Louisa, is an altar tomb towards the northern end of the churchyard, near the former infants school Louisa funded.

On the east side, near the John Venus Hall is a group of Wedgwood and Vaughan Williams graves, two families linked by the marriage of Margaret, the daughter of Josiah Wedgwood III (of Leith Hill Place, to Arthur Vaughan Williams from nearby Tanhurst. Following Arthur's early death, Margaret moved back to Leith Hill Place with her three young children, Hervey, Margaret and Ralph.  Josiah Wedgwood III and his daughter Margaret, as well as Ralph Vaughan Williams' brother Hervey and sister Margaret, are among the family members buried here. Ralph Vaughan Williams' ashes are interred in Westminster Abbey.

Just to the west of this group is the grave of Bill Travers, star of Born Free, in which he and his wife, Virginia McKenna, play Joy and George Adamson who raised Elsa the Lioness, an orphaned lion cub, to adulthood and then returned her to the wild in Kenya.  The Travers went on to establish The Born Free Foundation which works to stop the exploitation and suffering of wild animals, whether living in captivity or in the wild, campaigning for a future where animals and people can coexist and where threatened and endangered species are protected for generations to come. Virginia McKenna was appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2023 New Year Honours for services to wildlife conservation and wild animal welfare. Virginia McKenna's mother, Lady Anne Narie Oakley, is buried in the adjoining grave.

Among others  in the churchyard is  Isabell Fyvie Mayo, a Scottish poet, novelist, suffragist and reformer, writing  under the pseudonym Edward Garrett.  Although she spent most of her life in Aberdeen, where she was the first woman elected to a public board, in 1870 she married John Ryall Mayo, a London lawyer,  who lived here for a time. 

Henry Elliott Malden, who edited the Victoria County History of Surrey is also buried in our churchyard, as are  Sir James Mackenzie Davidson, an early pioneer of radiology, and Philip Paddon, a World War 1 Royal Flying Corps ofiicer, a motoring enthusiast, a Rolls Royce dealer and inventor of automotive modifications including thermostatic radiators.

The Parish of Coldharbour
Coldharbour was an independent parish from 1848 until 1956 when it was united with St James Abinger, where Rev C T Chapman was Rector; all subsequent appointments have been to both parishes.  The Leith Hill United Benefice of St James Abinger, Christ Church, St Marys Holmbury and St Johns Wotton was created in 2015, with Rev Tony Berry its first incumbent.

Vicars of Coldharbour 
The vicars of Christ Church have been Rev C R Bird, 1849-52; Rev G W Hillyer, 1852-84; Cannon Pelly, 1884-90; Rev J Rooker, 1890-97; Rev H J Harding 1897-1913; Rev M Denman 1914-27; Rev F J O Lewis 1927-30; Rev L W Wale, 1930-54, Rev F W Argyle, 1954-56; Rev C T Chapman 1956-61; Rev P M H Kelly 1961-65; Rev Arthur Cardale 1965-82; Rev John C Venus 1983-93; Rev Tony Berry, 1993-2021; Rev Kia Pakenham.

Two Coldharbour Hymns
Christ Church has two of its own hymns. The words of the first,  'Hymn to the Trinity' - were written by John Venus, Vicar of Coldharbour 1983-1993, and Elaine Sproule, Christ Church organist for many years until 1993 wrote the music.  Click here for a copy. As noted above, the second was created for the 175th anniversary of the dedication of Christ Church, with words by Rev Virginia Smith and music by David Hansell.