In 1973, the vicar, Richard E. Falkner, wrote a brief history of St Jude’s Church and its associated church school, St Jude’s School. This, reproduced below with a few extra comments, took the history of the church from its foundation in 1859 up to the 1970s.
Church and School in Englefield Green
Richard E. Falkner, 1973
AS THE ARMIES MANOEUVRED in the rain before Waterloo, on 17th June 1815 the Egham Enclosure Act received the Royal Assent. The battle was to end the long and ruinous wars; the Act was to decide the shape of the district in meeting the problems that followed peace. Enclosure Acts permitted the ‘waste and woodland’ to be enclosed with hedges for farming. The common people, who had eked out their small wages by grazing their animals on this land and by collecting firewood, suffered further hardship. To protect them, Enclosure Acts were required to set apart areas of land as the Poor Allotment and such common land as Englefield Green itself. An important part of the Poor Allotment in Egham was the five acres of the Sand Pits, the area bounded now by St Jude’s Road, Victoria Street, Armstrong Road and South Road. The sand from these pits was highly valued then for scouring and for building purposes, and the money from its sale was used for the relief of the poor.
Local government at this time was divided between the Justices of the Peace and the Vestry. This had begun with the vicar calling his parishioners into the Church to assert their independence of the lord of the manor. All residents who were assessed for the poor rate were entitled to vote, larger landowners assessed more highly receiving more votes. The Vestry appointed the parish officers such as the Churchwardens and the Overseers of the Poor, and engaged the paid officials like the Vestry Clerk and the Constable. Its main concern was with the relief of the poor for there was no other help for them, and it maintained the Poor House and distributed money and clothing. All this had to be paid for by the residents. It had also to keep up the parish roads, and to repair the Church building. In 1815 the entire population of the Egham area was little more than half that of Englefield Green today [i.e. 1973: it has increased a good deal more since then!].
On 19th August 1824 the Vestry agreed that it was desirable to build a chapel or chapels to accommodate the inhabitants of the outlying districts. Egham Parish Church had already been rebuilt by public subscription. These new chapels should be ‘at or near the Sand Pitts of Englefield Green, and at or near the hand post where the four roads meet at Virginia Water’. Edgell Wyatt Edgell (who held the lease of the royal manor of Egham) was the chairman, and other prominent local gentlemen included the Torin brothers, Benjamin and Richard, and the Right Honourable William Freemantle, M.P. He had served on Wellington’s staff in the Peninsular War, and later married Lady Selina Harvey, heiress of the Elwell family. Selina Freemantle lived all her life in her ‘...mansion on Englefield Green ... a lady eminently virtuous and kind’. From his home at Castle Hill, Mr Freemantle entered Parliament and held several important junior posts in the Government during the wars with Napoleon. He afterwards became Treasurer to King George IV and King William IV, receiving the unusual honour of the Knight Grand Cross of the Guelphs. The kingdoms of Hanover and Britain were linked until the death of William IV, and this Hanoverian dignity was the personal gift of the sovereign.
The Church at Virginia Water was built soon afterwards through the generosity of a local family. That on Englefield Green had to await other changes. For other matters claimed the attention of the Vestry at this time. On 5th February 1827, a committee set up to look into the provision of schooling for children of labouring families reported. This meeting took place in Round Oak, the home of Thomas Rawdon Ward, which stands in Bishopsgate Road. It was decided to build a school in Englefield Green on a corner of the Sand Pits area, very close to the Dame School conducted by Mrs Lampert (on the corner of Armstrong Road and Victoria Street). Mr Northcroft the builder drew up the plans, and the building was complete by early June of that year at a cost of £400 which was met by public subscription. The King gave £50 and promised an annual contribution.
The school was designed to take 100 boys and 100 girls between six and thirteen years old in two rooms, each of which was twenty feet wide and thirty feet long and eight feet high. The floor was of earth, and there was at first no artificial lighting and no heating, though two stoves were later purchased from the Cannon Foundry. Cottages were provided for the Master and the Mistress, and a fence and a bank were set round the buildings to protect them. The school was run on the lines devised by Andrew Bell and encouraged by the National Society, by which ‘monitors’ or older children taught the younger ones. Children were not expected to remain at school for much more than two years altogether, and the education they received was limited – though there was none to be had by the poorer people anywhere else. The parents had to pay a penny a week for each child, and they were encouraged also to save for clothing and shoes. The school sessions included Sundays when the children proceeded to Egham Parish Church for service. The master received £50 a year and a cottage, the mistress £30 and a cottage. Their duties included the care and cleaning of the buildings and lighting the fires as well as teaching. Not much was expected of them in this respect since six weeks spent watching another teacher was considered to qualify a man for the position.
The founding committee drew up the Rules for the school, ‘...Children must come with clean hands and face, their cloathes mended and hair cut short, plain in their dress...‘ They determined that an annual sermon should be preached to raise money for the school. ‘...This expedient … would enable the subscribers to say as far as concerns this transitory life, Esto Perpetua.‘ A twentieth century bishop of Guildford wrote below this in Latin, ‘The undertaking prospers today: may there never be a time when it does not prosper. ‘
THE YEARS THAT FOLLOWED were eventful in England and in Egham. Asiatic cholera appeared in 1817 in India, and the disease travelled rapidly westwards to Britain. The connection between cholera and the primitive sanitation and impure water supplies was not known until later. The ‘Board of Health’ set up in Egham could invoke only Tudor laws about land drainage and precautions against plague. Fortunately, the epidemic after causing many deaths in London suddenly ceased, and there were apparently no cases in Egham. Almost at once another danger threatened. Falling wages and rising prices led to unrest, especially in the farming counties of the south and west. Posters and threatening letters signed, ‘Captain Swing’, appeared. There were outbreaks of rick burning, one at Castle Hill and others in Egham. Rumours spread that this was the work of foreign agents preparing for an invasion. An ‘Address’ printed privately in Egham exclaimed, ‘Awake from your trance! The enemies of England are at work actively to ruin us!‘ Almost certainly there was only a desire for better wages and more employment. Probably there never was a ‘Captain Swing’. However, Government dealt with it severely and nineteen men were hanged and more than five hundred transported. The sober citizens were alarmed, and most of their undertakings show an attitude of prudent benevolence for the fear of revolution and disaster was uncomfortably real.
MATTERS CONTINUED IN THIS WAY for another twenty years. Masters of the school came and went, often abruptly for misdemeanours which included pilfering sand from the Sand Pits for their own gain, and for speaking disrespectfully to the ladies of the Committee. In 1852 Dr John Samuel Bewley Monsell exchanged his living of Ramoan in County Antrim for that of Egham. He had served as chaplain to Bishop Richard Mant whom he followed as a hymn-writer, and whose son eventually was to succeed him at Egham. Monsell was a moderate Tractarian and a prolific author of books and hymns. He remained Vicar of Egham for twenty years before moving to St Nicholas, Guildford, where he died in a fall from scaffolding while that church was being repaired. [Probably this means that some masonry fell on him, rather than that he fell himself: he died of an infected wound.]
Monsell belonged to a different age. The time of the Vestry and local, well-meaning but often ineffective management of affairs was passing. There was need for competent administration at every level. Egham churchyard, for so long the resting place of inhabitants, was fully used. When it proved impossible to enlarge it, the Burial Board (newly formed) looked once again to the Sand Pits in Englefield Green. Immediately there were protests: it would contaminate the wells and carry unpleasant airs down the hill: Edgell Wyatt Edgell’s family offered land on the other side of St Jude’s Road, where the cemetery now stands. The Church committee purchased a small piece of this for the building of the long planned church. Monsell was able to keep his design of church and school close together.
The architect chosen was Edward Buckton Lamb (1806-69), an artist of repute. Altogether he designed some thirty or forty churches near London and in Yorkshire, and aroused admiration and hostility. This persists. A modern architect wrote ‘… his churches are recognisable … they are too bad to be the work of anyone else.‘ Others discover great merit in his use of timber in the roofs. St Jude’s is perhaps among his happier creations because it is small in scale. The tender of James Oades & Son, builders of Egham Hill, was accepted, and the first stone was laid on Thursday 28th October 1858, SS Simon & Jude’s Day. It rained heavily, but a ‘spacious tarpauling’ sheltered the company, among them children from the school.
In March 1859 a letter in the Windsor Express complained that ‘…there is already a decided manifestation growing into a state of impatience in the parish…‘ The reason was the ‘…gaudy and variegated colours and workmanship displayed on the walls of the new church…‘ Another correspondent pointed out that no paint or applied colours were used. The London offices of the Woking Cemetery Company (evidently a model of good taste) were built in just this ‘plain and paintless style’. The critics were not appeased, preferring the cemetery chapel which was ‘solemn and unostentatious’ to the Church which they considered to be ‘notoriously harlequinized’. However, the building was completed in eight months, and the scaffolding was taken down in April. It had cost £1,847 without the furnishings. (The present insurance value is almost one hundred times as much.)
The church is built in mid-14th century style with a nave, chancel, transept and tower. Outside, it is of Kentish rag with Bath stone dressing, and internally the walls are of coloured brick with courses of Kentish rag and Bath stone. There were at first two memorial windows, both designed by E. B. Lamb. One of five lights over the altar was placed there to commemorate Monsell’s eldest son who died on the way to the Crimea. [This may not be true: but the window is certainly a memorial to someone’s soldier son.] The other was the rose window in the transept. The east window was replaced by one of three lights in memory of the soldier son of Sir John and Lady Cathcart. [It was moved into the transept in 1867.] The font is of Caen stone and stood originally in the entry beneath the tower.
The weather that summer was unusual and warmer than it had been for nearly a century. The mean daytime temperature in July was over eighty degrees, and there was a severe storm on 2nd July. The dedication of the new church had been deferred for a week as the Bishop of Winchester (whose diocese then reached to the Thames) was summoned to Court. This was Bishop Sumner whose daughter-in-law, Mary Sumner, was to found the Mothers’ Union. However, on 5th July he arrived to dedicate the church in a congregation of more than twenty clergymen and some three or four hundred ladies and gentlemen. The Bishop preached on the consequences of practical atheism – indifference and unreligion. No music or singing is mentioned in the accounts, although a photograph of the period shows a robust choir and ‘a lady’ had given a ‘Sendamore [i.e. Scudamore] organ’. Afterwards, Monsell entertained his friends to luncheon in the school rooms. He mentioned that the Queen had given £100 towards the cost of the church. Further services followed that day, but the collections did not pay off the debt that still remained.
E. B. Lamb was next commissioned to design new buildings for the school. These were completed in 1864, and after much enlarging and mending still stand on the original school site opposite the church. The next few years were to see the first steps of the state towards providing full and compulsory schooling for all children. Forster’s Education Act was passed in 1870, and at this time the Committee of Management of the school chose as Master a young man, Edward Forse. He continued as headmaster until his retirement in 1916, a remarkable schoolmaster for his day. His successor, Mr George Wilcox, was just returned from the trenches in France. He moved on from the school shortly before the Second War when Mr Stuart Froome arrived. When Mr Froome retired in 1972 the school had had only three headmasters in a hundred years. These years had seen many many changes. The numbers and ages of the children had varied greatly, and during the years 1939-45 many classes were accommodated in halls around the village. The small Infants’ School at Bishopsgate was finally closed at the end of the first War. In 1967 the Church School became a Junior School in the new buildings in Bagshot Road designed by Julian Leathart of London. The old buildings became a County Infants’ School, a change that was inevitable though much regretted. Now the Church School is to become a Middle School with increased numbers, and its story continues.
Over the years St Jude’s Church was served by the clergy of the parish of Egham to which it belonged. As the population grew so did the desire to make a new and independent parish, and in 1930 this was done. The first vicar, the Revd Laurence James, moved into the Vicarage house which had been designed by Arthur Martin, a distinguished architect who was also a churchwarden of St Jude’s and contributed much to the parish. The Revd C. S. Williams followed Mr James and stayed through the war years until Canon Hedley Vallins came in 1945 to complete twenty years of service to the parish and the school before he retired in 1965.
From the first the heating was troublesome. New boilers were installed in 1871, 1881, and 1923. The last was converted to oil in 1959 and finally renewed in 1972. The original red roof tiles were replaced with graduated Westmoreland slate in 1935. The church was lit with gas until 1923. A wooden tablet records that there were originally 530 seats, though it is hard to see where they could all have been. During repairs, the old well was uncovered outside the rose window of the transept, and this was filled in to prevent further subsidence. To mark the centenary of the church in 1959 a new clergy vestry was added.
Our Victorian predecessors had many doubts and misgivings. They also had at times a confident optimism towards the future which we find harder to share. Looking back over a hundred years and more, we honour them for the work they undertook. The Church and School they founded continue to serve the village of Englefield Green, though this has grown in ways they could not foresee.
That concludes Richard Falkner’s careful account of the school and church; he continued as vicar until his sudden death in October 1986, and was succeeded by the Revd Dick Woods, who was inducted as vicar on 20 June 1987 and who retired in September 1996. Dick Woods was followed as vicar by the Revd Lorna C. Smith, the first woman incumbent of the church, who was inducted in March 1997 (having previously worked in the parish of Addlestone) and who retired, owing to ill health, in October 2005; she in turn was succeeded by the present Vicar, the Revd Mark Ewbank, who was inducted on 4 September 2006.
During the incumbency of Richard Falkner, a joint ecumenical mission was held with the Roman Catholic Church of the Assumption, and the Methodist Church, in Englefield Green, led by two Benedictines (one Anglican and one Roman Catholic). Flowing from this, which was largely due to the initiative of Fr Brian O’Sullivan, Catholic priest at the time, an ecumenical covenant was signed, in which the three congregations undertook not to do anything separately that could be done together; this covenant led in the course of years to a union between St Jude’s as it was and the Methodist Church, which was completed during Lorna Smith’s incumbency and during the time when the Revd Tom Bayliss (a Royal Holloway graduate!) was Methodist minister. The Methodist Church building is no longer used for services every Sunday morning, and the two congregations worship jointly at services in St Jude’s; meanwhile, the Methodist Church has been refurbished and is now open as "The Village Centre".
In 2015 work was completed on the John Monsell room, providing a much needed informal space for worship and meeting.