St Peter & St Paul’s Church
Our church is a unique and remarkable example of Victorian parish architecture. The Parish Church of St Peter and St Paul has stood halfway up the hill overlooking Albury village for more than a hundred and sixty years, since it replaced the Old Saxon Church in Albury Park.
If you look out of its great west door, down the Tillingbourne valley, past St Martha’s-on- the-Hill, towards the valley of the Wey, you will see immediately why it was sited here.
St Peter and St Paul’s looks out over some of the most beautiful scenery in the county, completely at home in its surroundings.
In 1839 Henry Drummond M.P., of the mansion in Albury Park, began to build two new churches. These were to replace the Old Parish Church that neighboured his mansion. The new Catholic Apostolic Church, near Sherbourne, was to accommodate his fellow Catholic Apostolics, or Irvingites, with whom the Rector of Albury, the Reverend Hugh Neile, had come to fall out. The other, the new Parish Church of St Peter and St Paul, was built a mile away in the hamlet of Weston Street that came to be known as Albury in later years. The Catholic Apostolic Church was completed in 1840 and St Peter and St Paul in following year. St Peter and St Paul’s arched and ornamented red brick Romanesque outside gives no suggestion of the fine proportions and clear vistas of the uncomplicated interior.
As you enter through the west door, you will see to your left, the list of Albury Rectors going back more than 750 years and also the earliest monument in the church. This is dedicated to Elizabeth Margaret Plummer, who died in 1844, and to her granddaughter. Walking through the glazed doors, sense the proportions, openness and lightness and the way that your eye focuses immediately on the reredos behind the altar, with its red cross standing on a gold background.
The War Memorials
Half way down the south wall are the War Memorials to those from Albury who died serving their country in the two World Wars. A local artist, Gerald F. Metcalfe of Albury Heath, designed both and a local postman was the model for the relief figure.
The First War memorial, with its arch and decoration, reflects the romanesque character of the church’s exterior. It is made of Hopton Wood stone, a kind of marble. The painted insert above the names depicts an angel reading the names of the fallen with two others praising and thanking God for the spirit of sacrifice which He has instilled in mankind.
Metcalfe was dissatisfied with the second memorial. Restricted funds limited his design and prevented him from using his chosen mason. These disappointments were compounded when the two monuments were mounted in a way that he did not expect and were made to stand out against a light coloured wall-paint of which he did not approve.
The memorials commemorate the deaths of many young men whose families still live in Albury.
The St George Banner which is displayed on the west wall, was finished in 1945 as a commemoration of the service and sacrifice of all who served the civilian population during the war. She also designed the Mother’s Union banner which is not on display.
Look at the capitals of the pilasters that flank the windows in the chancel. Each is different and is symbolic. They were designed by a local lady in consultation with the Rector.
The present organ, with its triple manual, was not built until 1935. It was the gift of Miss Capadose, who made other generous donations to the church. Sir Harold Darke, the eminent organist, advised the choice of this Compton organ, which is of exceptional quality. Its installation required the conversion of the west gallery into an organ loft and the introduction of the two oak pillars near the west doors to give support.
The Rector (George Raymond Portal) donated the great eagle of the lectern when Sir Arthur Blomfield added the chancel in 1869.
The Northumberland Memorial Chapel
Edward Maufe, architect of Guildford Cathedral converted the Chapel from the north transept in 1939. It forms a memorial chapel for the eighth Duke of Northumberland, Alan Ian, whose Garter Banner hangs over the altar. His family, who paid for the development, was to suffer the loss of the eldest son, the ninth Duke, Henry George Alan, in the following year when he was killed in action in France, and the Chapel also commemorates his death. The sixth Duke’s hatchment hangs on the west wall of the chapel. Plaques commemorating other local men who died in the 1914-18 war as well as some notable servants of the Albury community who died at other times have been mounted on the north wall. There is also a plaque commemorating the Reverend George Portal who was responsible for many of the donations and much of the work involved in the 1870 extension and improvements. It notes his founding of the National Provident Friendly Society in 1868.
The altar frontal is of the same material that was used at the coronation of King George VI in 1937.
Most of the original stained glass windows of the church were destroyed or damaged by a flying bomb that fell on Weston Wood in 1944. Most of those destroyed were replaced with plain glass, which was the extent for which the War Damage Commission would pay compensation. However, in 1949 public subscription secured new stained glass in the east end. Gerald Smith of A.K. Nicholson and Son designed these three windows.
Three original lights remain: the Good Shepherd window in the south wall of the nave, and the windows in the organ loft, half hidden since the installation of the organ in 1935.
A remarkably fine 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. Working to a brief drawn up by the Albury PCC, Susan has created a stunning window depicting Christ with Simon Peter and Andrew fishing on one of Albury’s many ponds with St Martha’s in the background.