St James' Church

The following are extracts taken from the pamphlet ‘Abinger and its Church’ compiled in 1967 by R. J. du Bois and designed by Andrew Green.

Recent History

On 3rd August, 1944, at 8 a.m. a flying bomb exploded near the Church. The blast brought down the belfry, the roof of the nave and parts of the wall. The organ and almost all the furnishings were destroyed. Only the 13th century chapel remained more or less intact. It is the only church in the diocese of Guildford that suffered serious bomb damage.

The restoration of the Church was entrusted to F. Etchells, Esq., F.R.I.B.A., who, from old etchings and photographs, was able to reconstruct it. The Church was lengthened by about ten feet to house the present organ. Unfortunately, a Crusader's old stone tomb was broken up during reconstruction. It lay beneath the surface beyond the outer wall of the main Church. The walls were rebuilt with the same material and in the same way – rubble between sandstone and plaster. The average thickness is about four feet.

In June, 1964, the church suffered a second disaster. During an exceptionally heavy thunderstorm, the tower was struck by lightning and fire caused extensive damage to the tower, the roof and some of the furnishings. The church was once again restored as it was and the opportunity taken to install concealed lighting.

Since 1959 the parish has been linked with the Benefice of Christ Church, Coldharbour. The incumbent is therefore Rector of Abinger and Vicar of Coldharbour.

The patrons of the living and Lords of the Manor for the last 350 years have been members of the family of John Evelyn, the diarist.

Features of Interest

The east window structure in the chancel was built in the last century. The other windows are new but follow the patterns of the originals, except for the west window. The three-eight window near the pulpit is a copy of a 15th century window previously there. The glass in the present east window, which was given in memory of John Coe, was designed in 1967 by Mr. Laurence Lee, A.R.C.A. His description of his design is:-

“The cross is depicted as a ‘living tree’, riven by lightning and distorted by age, but still having life within itself and bursting out with new life. The concept is St. Paul's – life through death – decay and suffering transformed into resurrection and joy. This is the doctrinal aspect. Artistically there is a basic complexity in the Cross theme contrasted with simple open shapes which might be thought of as a landscape – earth, cornfields, lakes (all rather happy); or again as a butterfly's wing. The flickers of white falling from the extremities of the Cross pass down back into the earth and rise again in the centre mass of light”. Under the altar are two memorial stone slabs, one to the memory of Thomas Crawley, M.A., Rector of Abinger and chaplain to Charles II, who died in 1685, and his wife, a daughter of Dr. Gabriel Offley, a former Rector; the other to Robert Offley, M.A., Prebendary or Durham and Rector of Abinger, who died in 1743. The wall memorial to Mrs. Elizabeth Ronzier, who died on 17th June, 1785, was taken from a coffin under the floor. For a more extensive history of the Church and the community, with additional links for research, please visit: www.stjameschurchabinger.org