All Saints’ Church
Where is it?
Tucked away down a secluded lane adjacent to the Manor House School and across the road from the old Tithe Barn in Manor House Lane, in one of the smallest parishes in the country, being five miles long from north to south and about half-a-mile wide.
How long has a church been there?
The Domesday Book of 1086 makes the first known distinction between the parishes of Great and Little Bookham. It records that Little Bookham Manor was held by Halsard of William de Braiose, Lord of Bramber, but makes no reference to there being a church here. It is probable that it was built about 1100, initially as a manorial chapel by the Halsard (=Hansard?) family. The last mention of the Hansard family as sub-tenant of the De Braiose family occurs in 1399 when Little (Parva) Bookham appears as Bookham Hansard. Eventually in 1490 Thomas, Earl of Surrey, a cousin of George de Braiose, received the reversion of Little Bookham Manor, who settled it for life on his second son, William, Lord Howard of Effingham (died 1573), the Lord Chamberlain. It passed out of the hands of the Howards of Effingham in 1634, and the reversion of the Manor was bought by Benjamin Maddox. It passed to the Pollen family through his granddaughter.
Since 8th June 1958 the benefice of Little Bookham has been held jointly with that of the neighbouring parish of Effingham, under the benefice of Keble College Oxford. On 22 June 1986 the church was dedicated to All Saints by the Bishop of Guildford, having previously been without a known dedication.
The original church was a small, simple building comprising the nave from the tower to the chancel. The only surviving features of this are the north and west walls. In or about 1160 the chancel and a south aisle were added. In the 13th century the south wall of the nave was replaced by arcading, and the side aisle rebuilt. However, by the latter half of the 15th century the south aisle had been removed, and the arcading filled with material from the south wall. A scratch dial, that would originally have been on the south wall of the church can now be seen in the top left-hand reveal of the second window from the east end of the nave. The remains of the arcading can still be seen both inside and outside the church.
It is estimated that the population of Little Bookham in 1086 was between 40 and 50 persons, and the Manor being entirely agricultural, it is unlikely that the population would have increased to any extent; in fact, it probably declined, which may account for the removal of the extra space provided by the south aisle. For comparison, the present day population of the parish (1991 Census) is 435.
As they did in many other parts of the country, the Victorians made alterations to the church. The East window of the chancel is a modern insertion of 13th century design; the organ chamber incorporating 503 pipes and the porch were added in 1901, and a two-roomed vestry was added at the same time. This unfortunately was not under-pinned and in the late 1990s began to fall away from the church. In 2001/2 a new vestry was built, and was dedicated by the Bishop of Dorking in January 2003. This two-storey structure comprises a clergy vestry and meeting room, and also contains a disabled access and toilet, flower-arranging area and catering facilities such as a refrigerator and microwave oven.
What is there to see?
The church contains probably the finest collection of hatchments in Surrey, displaying the armorial bearings of the past Lords of the Manor. A hatchment was hung outside the residence of the Lord of the Manor on death, carried in the funeral procession and subsequently hung in the church. Four of the five hatchments on the west wall relate to the Pollen family. The hatchments are described on the west wall within the church.
The western-most window in the north wall appears to be the only original surviving window. It is typically early 12th century with deeply splayed round-headed reveals and a sloping cill. At the south east of the chancel is an unusual piscina with two drains, probably of 13th century, over which is a 15th century cinquefoiled head. The font is believed to be of early Norman origin and may be contemporary with the founding of the church. The circular lead-lined stone tub has been plastered and painted and reinforced in more recent times with wrought iron work. There is also a Commonwealth War Graves Commission grave in the churchyard from the First World War of Captain Thomas Helme of the London Regiment.
Close to the entrance to the church stands a yew tree believed to be the oldest tree in the area. There is a certificate inside the church signed in 1988 by the Archbishop of Canterbury and others on behalf of the Conservation Foundation (Yew Tree Campaign) stating that the tree is 1300 years old. This would date it to the time when the parish was probably first formed. To celebrate the Millennium a new yew tree was planted by the MP for Mole Valley, Sir Paul Beresford, close to the northern boundary of the churchyard, which it is hoped will still be growing there in the year 3000.
Outside the east end of the church stands the Coote Manningham Tomb – a chest tomb, inscribed “In this vault are deposited the remains of Major General Coote Manningham, Equerry to the King and Colonel of the 95th or Rifle Regiment of Foot. He died at Maidstone on the 26th day of August 1809 in the 44th year of his age, an early victim to the fatigues of the campaign in Spain.” The tomb was restored in 1933 when the superstructure was removed and taken to the Royal Green Jackets Regimental Museum in Winchester, where it now remains.