The Development of the Parish Church


Albury Parish Church before additions

The church before additions

Good Shepherd window

The Good Shepherd

Tower of St Peter and St Paul

The clock

Interior of the church pre-1935

Interior

The Apse

The Apse

Arthur Blomfield

Arthur Blomfield

The Northumberland Chapel

The Northumberland Chapel

First World War Memorial

First World War Memorial

Second World War Memorial

Second World War Memorial

New kitchen

Kitchen

The tablets and memorials set in St Peter and St Paul's in the 1840's and 1850's and the gravestones established in its graveyard at that time show that the new church quickly assumed its place at the centre of the community in Albury.

Social changes

However, that community itself was changing in step with the dramatic changes in early Victorian England. On the national stage, the Church of England was involved in a period of renewal. The threat of Disestablishment, which had so concerned it ten years before, had receded, and its programme of building new and restoring new old churches at a rate of more than a hundred a year was helping it to reach the churchless urban population that had grown so quickly in the early part of the century. Locally, too a number of new churches were consecrated in those twenty years, for example, the churches at Claygate, Farncombe, Milford, Shalford, Wescott and Merrow. The national agricultural depression of the 1840's must have affected Albury and Guildford as much as the country as the whole, but other developments benefited the parish too. The building of the new Guildford to Redhill railway at that time initially brought undesirable navvies' gangs through the parish, but there followed the convenience of accessibility, local stations and related prosperity. The beginning of the new Queen's reign had brought positive prospects to Albury and to the whole country.

Louise Drummond and Lord Louvaine

Other changes were to affect St Peter and St Paul's more directly. In 1845 Henry Drummond's eldest daughter, Louise, married Lord Louvaine, the heir to the Northumberland title. Eventually, this was to lead to the Albury estate passing to the Percy family and, some years after Henry Drummond's death in 1860, to the church benefiting dramatically from Louise's interest. It was significant that she and her husband, the future sixth Duke of Northumberland, chose to benefit the Parish Church so much, given the latterly uneasy history of her father's relations with the old Parish Church and with Albury's Rector.

The transformation of the church

In May 1867 Louise's eldest son, Lord Warworth, presented the distinctive blue-faced tower clock to the church to mark his 21st birthday and majority. Led by an extraordinarily dynamic Rector, the Reverend Ceorge Portal, the twenty six year old church was entering a period of transformation. In the next few years public subscription paid for stained glass to replace the plain glass windows of Drummond's church. Most of these were painted by A. Gibbs of Bedford Square, though the Duchess's sister, Lady Rokewood Gage of Weston Lodge, painted the still surviving Good Shepherd light on the north side of the nave. A new pulpit, desk and choir lights were installed and the great oak eagle of the lectern was given by the Rector. At the same time an organ was installed for the first time. These changes, which perhaps may be interpreted as the the adoption of the new church by the parish, were actually part of a fundamental and carefully considered development and extension of the church.

The Duke and Duchess of Northumberland alone met the costs of extending the 1841 building. These exceeded £2,000. The enlargement changed the proportions and appearance of the original church quite markedly and lent a greater dignity, balance and capacity to Brookes' original design. The purpose of St Peter and St Paul's development was described in the influential contemporary periodical "The Builder" as being "to bring church architecture in a purer form to Albury". The change which attracted such national attention, beside adding a vestry, enlarged the chancel by carrying the east wall outward by some sixty feet and introduced an apse.

Internally, this imposing apse, with its remarkable wooden ceiling and beams was a clever and effective device to achieve the dominance of the church interior by the chancel and altar in conformity with the doctrinal thinking of the time.

This artful focus was underscored in St Peter and St Paul's by the introduction of its striking reredos behind the altar.

The alterations to the church required its reconsecration because lengthening of the chancel and introduction of the apse involved the removal of the altar outside the original boundary of the church, onto unconsecrated ground. The ceremony was conducted by the Right Reverend Bishop Wilberforce, Bishop of Winchester on 7th. July 1870. The architect engaged to effect these changes to Brookes' church was Arthur Blomfield, who, until 1867 had employed the author Thomas Hardy as a draughtsman in his London office. He was the son of the Right Reverend Charles James Blomfield, the energetic Bishop of London who had been responsible for the building of 214 churches in the capital in the first half of the century.

Arthur Blomfield was a natural choice for the work in Albury; at the time he had a 'vast' restoration practice and when engaged to undertake the Albury extension was actually working on the Romanesque St Barnabas in Oxford and the Parish Church of Epsom. The size of his practice indicated the degree to which he was in tune with popular taste, but the ecclesiologists of the time criticised some of his work as being too dependent on 'antiquarianism' The new Romanesque Albury Parish Church was safe in his hands.

The extension and improvements of the church in 1870 were executed by Mr Inkpen of Abinger, under the supervision of Mr Reavell working as Clerk of Works. The new vestry freed the north transept for seating, since it had hitherto been used as the vestry. The entire church was reseated and by resolution of the parishioners the whole of the seats on the north side of the nave were declared free, that is to say, unreserved to all and all other seats were to be free as soon as the service had begun, such was the pressure on the accommodation in the church at the time. The Old Church in the Park was now, clearly, only of historic interest in the village.

Recent changes

These were the last major changes to the external fabric of the Parish Church, but an excellent new Compton organ was installed in 1935. This involved the conversion of the west balcony into an organ loft which incidentally obscured some of the original stained glass of the west windows. Four years later the Northumberland family marked the death of Alan Ian, the eighth Duke, by having Edward Maufe, architect of the Guildford Cathedral, convert the south transept of the church into a memorial chapel for him. It was a sad necessity for the family that in 1940 the chapel also came to commemorate his son, Henry George Alan, the ninth Duke, who had been killed in action in France.

The two world wars

Other changes have, of course, taken place in the church. The two world wars, following so closely one after the other, exposed Albury and every other community in the land to loss, damage and extreme strains and stresses. The loss of so many of its youth in the thirty one years between 1914 and 1945 changed Albury and its community. The loss is commemorated in the War Memorials and embroidery in the church, and even more vividly in the private memories of those who survived.

The second war brought physical damage to the church too. The Nazi rocket offensive of 1944 landed a missile in Weston Wood across the Tillingbourne from the church. Its explosion resulted in the loss of most of the 1870 stained glass of the church, and its restoration did not replace all that was lost. The extent of compensation paid by the War Damage Commission would extend only to reglazing with clear glass, and so for a few years the church reverted to the original plain glass of the Drummond church. However, after the war ended the stained glass of the eastern lights, which is seen today, was replaced with the help of public subscription.

In 1993, the brickwork, roof and tower of the church required a substantial overhaul together with external decoration.

A new window was added in 1999 to celebrate the millennium. The window, which is on the north wall, was designed by Susan Ashworth, a member of The British Society of Master Glass Artists. The church was redecorated at the same time.

In 2005, the font was moved to the south side of the church beneath the millennium window, a new kitchen and disabled access lavatory were installed beneath the west gallery and a modern sound system replaced the existing link system. Outside, an access ramp with railings gives wheelchair access to the west door and there has been additional parking and refurbishment of the drive.

With increasing numbers attending church and children's groups at family services, there is now a need for further development to give us extra space.