Chertsey Abbey was the first religious settlement in Surrey and was run by Benedictine monks. Little is known of the early church buildings, possibly a wooden structure, dating from 675, but there are no remains of them. The Normans set up the Manorial System in England and in 1085 made the Great Survey which resulted in the Domesday Book in which Chaldon is recorded as "Chalvedune, being of two hides (200 acres) and a church". Tollsworth Manor and Chaldon Manor both came under the Charter of Chertsey and remained so until the Dissolution of the Monasteries by King Henry VIII.
The present church was started in the late 10th or early 11th century, before the Normans came. It consisted originally of a rectangular nave, 27 feet long and just over 17 feet wide with high walls probably having an apse at the east end, characteristic of Saxon church building. The west wall is of traditional flint construction and is almost certainly original, and the wall containing the chancel arch may also be. The aisles were opened up by simple Early English arches into the similar high walls, - the south aisle in the early 13th century, and the north aisle perhaps 50 years later. The pair of arches of the south aisle have a simple chamfer, while those of the north aisle have a double chamfer, and the capitals of the piers confirm the age.
The chancel arch is also Early English, an enlargement of the original archway. Originally there were arches from the chancel to extensions of both aisles, but the northern arch is walled-up, (and revealed in the 1869 restoration). The east window of the chancel contains scenes of Christ's Nativity, Crucifixion and Ascension, by Powell, and dates from 1869, erected in memory of John Pickersgill of Netherne House died 11th November 1865. There is an Easter sepulchre on the north side with quatrefoils and blank shields from the 15th century.
Next to this on the same wall is a renaissance tablet, with ornate pilasters and pediment, dated 1562, with a face resembling a flaming sun, bearing the easily readable inscription
I 1562 E
Good Redar warne all / Men and Woomen whil they / Be Here To be ever good to / The poore and nedy. The / Poore ever in thys / Worlde shall ye have. God / Grante vs sumwhat in / Stoore for to save. The Cry/ Of the Poore is Extreme and / Very sore. God graunte us / To be good evermore. In thys / Worlde we rune our rase / God Graute us to be with / Christ in tyme and space.
The R may refer to the Richardson family, John and Ellen lived in Chaldon, Ellen died in 1580 and John in 1584, and it may be that these two left a charitable bequest to the poor of London.
The south aisle extends into St. Kateryn's Chapel, built in the 14th century, now the Lady Chapel with two scenes from the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary in the east window which is a memorial to the Lambert family, containing the family emblems. Beneath it is a brass plaque referring to the family connections, placed in 1879. The south window contains some original, very old small glass panes.
The north aisle ends in a corresponding chapel which is now shortened, with a pair of windows depicting St Peter and St Paul to the north and a pair of angels in the east window. Both of these windows commemorate the Gardiner family of Rockshaw.
In the south aisle there is a double window dating from the seventeenth century with two stained glass windows of recent date, recording the fallen in the second world war and depicting Saints Michael and George. Next to it is a stone plaque recording the names of those fallen in the first world war. Below the window is a Book of Remembrance, whose pages are regularly turned revealing the names of local men who died in two world wars with a little history about each one person. Nearby there is a board on which is inscribed the names of the Rectors of this church dating back to 1304 AD.
Here follows a list of those who died:-
1914-1918 and 1939 - 1945
- H.G. Belcher
- A.C.S. Belcher
- A. Broad
- H. Grady
- W. Harman
- G. Pacey
- G. Tichener
- Malcolm Ball
- Peter Bennett
- Frank Dane
- Edwin Eames
- John Harman VC
- David Hoare
- Bernard Kearsley
- Graham King
- Brownlow Layard
- Patrick Moran
- Thomas Mould
- Sydney Payne
- Douglas Thomson
- Jack Weston
- Brian White
- Michael Wyatt
The pulpit, made from lizard oak in Jacobean style bears the name Patience Lambert (of Tollsworth Manor) and the date 1657, making it one of very few specimens of pulpits of Cromwellian times.
Still in the porch, above the door to the church, is the framework from which hung the ancient bell, St. Paul, for well over 750 years. It was inscribed '+ Capana Beati Pauli'. Sadly, it was stolen in 1970 and broken up for bell metal. A plaster cast of this bell hangs in the south aisle. There was also another bell called St. Peter which vanisjhed in the 18th century. These bells were reputed to be the oldest bells in Surrey. A plaster cast of St. Paul is on a ledge in the south aisle. In 1902 a new peal of six bells, cast at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, was installed in memory of Queen Victoria's long reign: these were overhauled several years ago for the novocentenary of the entry in the Domesday Book, in 1986, as a gift from the Chaldon Furnishing Trust.
The bowl of the font is square in shape, hollowed out into a hemisphere, standing on an octagonal shaft, and it is the only one of its type in Surrey. Like the Renaissance Tablet, it is made from Merstham stone from a local quarry.
On the right hand side of the porch is an old stone coffin lid dated about the 12th century: beside this rests the original stone doorstep of the church. This doorstep has been worn through to breaking point by the feet of countless generations of visitors that have passed over it during the last 1000 years.
The shingled broach spire was added in 1842, and the vestry was built at the same time.
The west wall contains a very high small (1ft x 4ft6in) window, cut straight through, very late Saxon or early Norman, and low down beneath the tower is a small window dedicated to William and Mary Roffey, known as the Pilgrims' Window.
The picture on the west wall is famous as the earliest known English wall painting - it dates from about 1200 and is without equal in any other part of Europe. It is thought to have been painted by a travelling artist-monk with an extensive knowledge of Greek ecclesiastical art. The picture depicts the 'Ladder of Salvation of the Human Soul' together with 'Purgatory and Hell' Wall paintings of this kind were intended as a visual aid to religious teaching and they provide a wide philosophical background to such studies.
The fresco, in dark red ochre and yellow ochre, measures 17ft3in x 11ft2in. At some stage, probably in the seventeenth century, during the 'Commonwealth', the painting was white-washed over. In 1869 when the Rector, Reverend Henry Shepherd, had decorators in to prepare the walls for re-limewashing, he noticed signs of colour and stopped the work. The workers had already reported having found some more figures on the north wall arch, which were unfortunately hacked off irretrievably, including a devil and two human figures. The Surrey Archaeological Society undertook the cleaning and preserving of the mural and Mr. J.G.Waller, an expert in these matters, undertook the restoration. A certain amount of addition of colour was made at that time. Later it was covered with a protective wax coating, which over the years caused it to lose colour owing to the growth of mould underneath. This was removed in August 1989 when the Mural was cleaned and conserved by Mr.Wolfgang Gartner, Conservator and Director of the Canterbury Wall Paintings Workshop.
The church today
The church remains an active place of worship, with two services every Sunday and a thriving and increasing congregation, in which prayer and music have for long played a great part. The organ, situated in the NW corner of the nave, having been moved there from the chancel in the 1950s is a small instrument of two manuals and a single pedal stop, built by the Willis family. The choir stalls are beneath the west wall and are of elegant oak construction with Lambert family emblems on the ends. The remaining pews which are boxed are of Victorian pine.
Monuments and plaques
The oldest of the burial monuments are beneath the carpet in the central aisle. These are ornately carved on large rectangular slate slabs. From the west end they are:-
- William Lambert died on 3rd March 1656 aged 77 years. He was the husband of Patience Lambert whose name appears on the pulpit.
- Thomas Roane, died 28th July 1689, aged 39
- Mrs Elizabeth Roane, died 10th August 1707 aged 30.
Buried in the chancel, again under carpet are two former rectors of Chaldon :-
- Rev'd Thomas Broade, died 20th October 1738
- Rev'd George Piggott, died 2nd September 1766
On the west wall there are plaques to:-
- Henry Ernest Wetherall who was for 21 years chaplain of St. Paul's Valparaiso, Chili (10th August 1905), In brass, placed by his wife who was a parishioner.
- Sarah Beresford of Charleston, South Carolina, who died on 25th January 1796. (marble).
- William Gardiner of Rockshaw who died on 6th April 1901 (bronze). William George Hannah, Secretary to the Queen's Bounty, died 1945 (stone).
- Lt. Col William Edward Shaw, who served in the Indian Mutiny. He was a churchwarden here and died on 19th December 1900. (brass).
On the north side of the chancel there are plaques to:-
- Thomas Tomlins (21st Oct 1815) and Elizabeth Tomlins (July 1818), who lie beneath a stone covered tomb with almost illegible inscriptions, nrext to the tombs of the two rectors mentioned earlier.
- Capt. Austin Belcher (10th August 1915) and Lt. Humphrey Belcher (7th August 1915) They were sons of the rector, who both died in the Battle of the Dardanelles.
On the south side of the chancel
- A small brass plaque to Arthur, Sarah and Emma Legrew who refitted the chancel in 1881.
- Alfred Henry Stanway, rector from 1919-1931, who died on 7th May 1936 (stone)
In the St. Kateryn's Chapel, below the Lambert window is a brass plaque placed in 1879, referring to William Lambert, Lord of the Manor Tollsworth, and Patience his wife, descended from Lambert of Banstead, 4th son of Roger Lord of Banstead of Startes Place and Lamberts Oaks in Woodmansterne
High on the south wall of the chapel is a very ornate marble memorial to Christian, the wife of John Home. She was born in Scotland in 1710, went to join her husband in Jamaica, survived a shipwreck on the way, and died in 1752. John Home himself died in 1777 aged 70. They are buried nearby. Below it is a marble plaque to Joanna Farr, the only child of the Homes. She died aged 79 in 1810
On the wall of south aisle next to the list of rectors is a plaque to William Roffey, parish clerk for 45 years, who died on 2nd December 1922, aged 84.