St James' Church
St James’ Church Elstead is believed to have been founded by the Monks of Waverley Abbey in about the year 1138 and parts of the church building date back to the 12th century.
Step inside this wonderful old building and you will be on holy ground where people have worshipped God and witnessed to his love for nearly 900 years.
A church has stood on this site since 1138. The earliest structure was constructed by the monks of Waverley Abbey. The walls on the north and west sides of the nave and the north and east walls of the chancel date from these earliest times. Some of the timber structure which holds up the belfry is also believed to date from this time, including the stairs up into the belfry which are made from one huge oak tree. When the monks built the church, they used rocks and stones that they found locally and made rubble-stone walls which they plastered with lime both inside and outside.
If you look under the pulpit you can see a small section of the original rubble-stone walls. There is one very old window dating from the time when the church was first built. Can you find it?
The porch that you have just walked through was built in the 14th century. The oak beams and the arch over the entrance are all original. The oak doorframe dates from the 15th century and was made from a single oak tree which was cut in half and shaped. A new frame had to be made for the glass door which was fitted in 2009, but you can still see the timber of the original doorframe. Can you see the scallop shells etched onto the glass door. These are the ancient symbols for St James, to whom the church is dedicated.
Outside, look for the little round-headed door on the north wall of the chancel. This door is called a “priest’s door” and gave the priest access to the chancel to take services. It was blocked up on the inside in the 19th century.
The font at the back of the church was given to St James’ in 1845 by Bishop Sumner when Elstead was part of the Diocese of Winchester. Elstead is now in the Diocese of Guildford which was formed out of Winchester Diocese in 1927.
The font is used for baptisms. Baptism offers individuals an opportunity to make their own commitment for Christ and to become a member of the world-wide Christian church. When infants or babies are baptised, parents and godparents make a commitment to start a child on their journey of faith until they are old enough to make a commitment for themselves.
The nave roof is a particularly fine example of a 15th century roof. The timbers of the roof, including the tie-beams and the beautiful king-posts which support the roof, all date from the 15th century.
Look for the notches at the eastern end of the nave where the rood screen used to be. This screen separated the chancel from the rest of the church in medieval times.
Outside, look for the little round-headed door on the north wall of the chancel. This door is called a ‘priest’s door’ and gave the priest access to the chancel to take services. It was blocked up on the inside in the 19th century.
The east window
The east window was inserted in the 16th century as was the window nearest the pulpit. Most of the stained glass in the church dates from the 19th and 20th centuries.
Look for some fragments of medieval glass in the window by the pulpit. The colours are much more delicate than the Victorian glass elsewhere in the church. There were glassmakers in this part of Surrey in medieval times and this glass may have come from a glass works in a nearby village. These medieval glass windows were probably destroyed during the Civil War when Parliamentarian troops were stationed at the Mill.
Before the south aisle was built there was no organ. Instead music was provided by members of the congregation who brought along their own instruments like flutes, recorders or fiddles. In St James’ they may have played in the gallery at the western end of the church. This gallery was built in about 1700 and was removed in 1872. The gallery was lit by two small dormer windows. You can see the position of one of these windows if you look up above the font and to the left.
When the south aisle and vestry were built in 1872, the organ was situated in what is now the vestry and was only moved to its present position in the 1940s.
Lectern and Pulpit
We hope that you have enjoyed your walk around our ancient church and we hope that you have managed to spend a few moments in prayer with God. The Christian faith proclaims that God came down to earth as a human being in the form of Jesus Christ. Because of this, God knows what it is like to feel sadness, hurt, disappointment and pain. He also knows what it is like to feel happy and what it is like to have good friends. Share your good times and your sad times with God: he will understand because he has been there!
God loves and accepts each one of us because of who we are. His death and resurrection mean that all the barriers which separate us from God are broken down.