Celebrating 800 years of Christianity in Horley

Henry Thomas Lewis, Rector of St Bartholomews Church, Horley, between 1890 and 1934, with his family
Henry Thomas Lewis, Rector of St Bartholomews Church, Horley, between 1890 and 1934, with his family

St Bartholomew’s church has been around since 1218, while St Francis and St Wilfrid’s are now 60 years old. Here’s a quick look at the history of the churches and the festivities planned for this anniversary year

Eight hundred years ago, the first Rector of Horley was appointed.

Laying of the foundation stone at St Francis Church, Horley

Laying of the foundation stone at St Francis Church, Horley

His name was listed as simply ‘Walter’ and he was in his post for 16 years until the year 1234.

It is believed that people were worshipping in a timber-framed building, on the site of the current St Bartholomew’s Church since 1150.

Some of the Rectors who followed Walter served the church for up to 45 years. One of them was the Rev Henry Lewis, who started as a curate and served over the turn of the 20th century. Walter’s congregation would not recognise the church today.

The North Aisle, now incorporating the Lady Chapel and tower, is the oldest, likely to have been built by the Salaman family in the 14th century. The effigy at the top of this aisle is of Ralph Salaman, who died in 1315.

Cutting of the first sod at St Francis Church, Horley, on September 28, 1957

Cutting of the first sod at St Francis Church, Horley, on September 28, 1957

The church expanded to the south with the present nave and chancel built in about 1400 and the South Aisle was built in 1900 shortly after a wider restoration of the church. The upper rooms were added in 1991.

The church houses examples of some of the best preserved medieval graffiti in the world. The etchings can be seen all over the interior of the north side of the church, in particular in the porch and door jambs.

St Wilfrid’s and St Francis churches are celebrating their 60th anniversary this year. The former started life in an old school which was converted to a church in 1958. The first service was held on Friday September 19 1958.

The foundation stone for the actual church was laid in October 1969 by Sir Barnes Wallis, of bouncing bomb fame, who was a former student at Christ’s Hospital School, where he later served as treasurer.

The choir at St Bartholomews Church, Horley, c1970

The choir at St Bartholomews Church, Horley, c1970

The church and community hall was dedicated on October 14 1970.

As for St Francis, building started in 1957 under the Rev John Cresswell, first Curate in Charge. The land was donated by Mr and Mrs Edwards and the name was chosen due to the Edwards’ love of animals. In September 1957, a large wooden cross made from the timber of a 400-year-old barn was carried from St Bart’s to the Balcombe Road site. It is now affixed to the outer wall.

The foundation stone was laid by the Bishop of Kingston in 1958 and in October of that year he dedicated the final church building hall and Burke Room, named after the first Sunday School leader Daisy Burke.

Other items now around the church are dedicated to significant members, such as the All Saints Chapel in memory of Lay Reader Harry Luck and his wife Dorothy; the Flower and Paschal Candle (Evelyn Coulter) and the Praying Hands plaque (Gladys Stanham). Most recently stained glass windows near the altar were dedicated in 2017 by the Bishop of Croydon in memory of John Lochead.

Graffiti on the North Porch at St Bartholomews Church, Horley

Graffiti on the North Porch at St Bartholomews Church, Horley

The three churches have plenty of events lined up to mark their anniversaries – there has already been a flower festival, Easter bonnet parade and school concert.

Still to come are: Friday June 8, 7.30pm, concert and organ recital at St Bart’s; Friday June 29, 7.30pm, Roughshod Theatre Company at St Wilf’s; Saturday July 14, 10am-3pm, Open day at St Francis’ Church, with a wine tasting evening at 7.30pm; Wednesday July 26, 7pm, Horley History Society St Bart’s tower visit.
Wednesday-Friday August 22-24, 9.30am-noon, St Bart’s Morning Holiday Club; Saturday September 15, 6.30pm, quiz at St Wilf’s; Saturday September 29, 6pm, harvest supper at St Francis’ Church.

Sunday October 7, 10.30am, Confirmation at St Bart’s; Friday October 19, 10.30am-noon, Macmillan Coffee Morning at St Bart’s; Saturday October 20, 6pm, MENET table tennis tournament at St Wilf’s; Thursday November 15, 7.45pm, Vimy Twinning Association’s Andy Thompson talks at St Wilf’s ; Saturday November 17, 1-5pm and 7.30pm, come and sing Handel’s ‘Messiah’ at St Bart’s.

Sunday December 9, 3.30pm, Churches for Horley Celebration Service at St Bart’s.

Horley Team Rector, the Rev Canon Les Wells, said: “It’s a really special year for not only our three churches. It is also a celebration of Horley and we are organising events at all three churches which aim to involve people of all ages.

“It is an amazing testimony that there has been a rector of Horley for eight centuries and people worshipping Jesus Christ at St Bart’s long before that.

Planting of the cross at St Francis Church, Horley

Planting of the cross at St Francis Church, Horley

“Then, added to that are the landmark anniversaries of St Francis’ and St Wilf’s churches. We are going to round off our year with a united service inviting people from all the denominations in Horley reflecting the growth of Christianity in the town over those 800 years.”

Rev Canon Les Wells

Rev Canon Les Wells

Laying of the Foundation Stone at St Wilfrids Church, Horley,  in October 1969

Laying of the Foundation Stone at St Wilfrids Church, Horley, in October 1969