A Short Guide to St Nicolas Parish Church Cranleigh


The Font, St Nicolas, Cranleigh






The Font


As you enter the church you will see the Font which it is believed dates from the 14th century, although the stone carving is a later copy.  The window behind is a reminder of various patrons and benefactors of the living, including Edward IV of the House of York, and Henry VII of the House of Tudor.











The Tower

Note the impressive pattern made by the beams and rafters against the white surface.  In the centre you can see a trap door which is never opened unless a bell has to be brought up or down.  This was last used when the bells were rehung for the Millennium as part of the restoration work.


In 1552 there were four bells, the largest weighing 17 cwt (865 kg).  There is now a peal of eight bells which were recast by Gillett and Johnson in 1954.  To view, save or print details of the Bells in pdf format please see Bells specification.

The window in the tower wall dates from about 1350 and was recently restored as our Jubilee Window - see below.


A wooden screen and cupboards in front of the west window were erected in 2004.




The Nave

The Nave, St Nicolas Church, CranleighNotice the striking amount of light falling through the plain windows at the East end of the church.  This dates from 1944 when a flying bomb exploded some seventy yards to the North-East, destroying the Church Room and Infant School, and doing considerable damage to the Church.  Of the fourteen stained-glass windows, only three on the south side were preserved.


Now walk up the centre of the Church.  As you arrive level with the two pillars, surmounted by a statue of St John on your left, and St Nicolas on your right, you will have been walking very slightly uphill (the slope is 1:80).  In ancient times the altar would have been just in front of you.  It was mounted on a step which has now disappeared and has been lost in the slope of the floor.


Look up and see the trussed-rafter roof with its massive tie-beams.
The Lectern is unusual.  It has a rather heavy strapped pediment and supporting column, carved in the shape of a twisted stem.  It is probably Dutch or German in origin and dates from the 16th century.





The Chancel

The screen and rood loft which separated the chancel from the nave were removed in the early part of the 19th century.  Only the vertical grooves in the columns where its woodwork fitted remain.  Between 1840 and 1868 extensive restoration work was carried out, including rebuilding the chancel, with its larger windows and magnificent hammer-beam roof.  The carved heads show delightful expressions - one of them looks so angry as hardly to be human at all.


The brass cross between the choir stalls is in memory of John Sapte, Rector from 1846 to 1906.  Behind the altar there are Flemish brass panels (c 1565), and to the left there is an English brass of some importance, which shows an unusual depiction of the Resurrection.  


The armorial shields behind the altar are those of the families associated with the estate of Baynards, Vachery and Knowle.  On the other side, and on the floor, you can see under the credence table a brass of Richard Caryngton, a former Rector.


A noteworthy feature of the Chancel is the 14th century sedilia set in the south wall.  The piscina is also 14th century but may have been redesigned in the 19th century.

The altar rails were given in 1937.  They are modelled on the Old English iron-wrought rails formerly in Uxbridge Church, now in the South Kensington Museum.  As you leave the Chancel, have a look at the pulpit.  The panels are from the 14th century screen which demarked the Vachery Chapel, previously in the North Transept.




The North Transept

Cheshire Cat


On the north side of the pillar is a 12th century carving known as the "Cheshire Cat" reputed to have been the inspiration for the character in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland.

On the north side too, there was formerly a chapel (Vachery chantry).  On the east side of the transept is a painting of The Nativity by Joseph Longhurst.


In 1993 a new set of organ sounding pipes were installed.  A series of cupboards were built in 2011 to house altar frontals, choir robes and flower arraning materials.





The North Aisle


The small statue by Edgar MacKennel (pictured right) was erected as a memorial to Amy Bonham by her mother.  Originally sited in the north transept, the statue was moved when the cupboards were built.





The South Transept (Baynards' Chapel)

The wooden screen, which formerly separated the nave from the Lady Chapel, was moved to screen off the Victorian Gothic Baynards' Chapel in 1867 when the latter was built.  In 2009 a new bookcase and notice board for the Mothers' Union were installed.




The South Aisle

William of Wykeham



On the south side of the pillar you will see a carved head.  Some say it is Bishop Egynton of Winchester, 1346-1366, or his better known successor William of Wykeham.  His coat of arms (Manners makyth man) can be seen in the window near the font.









The Organ at St Nicolas

The organ at St Nicolas Parish Church CranleighThe organ was originally built by William Hill & Sons in 1875 and most of the pipework is original.  At that time the organ had a tracker (mechanical) action with the console positioned on the north side of the chancel under the pipes.


By 1956 the organ was in poor condition and it was rebuilt by Hill, Norman and Beard.  The Swell organ, Pedal organ and couplers were converted to electric or electro-pneumatic action (with the tracker action retained on the Great), the draw stops were replaced with stop tabs, some Swell Contra Oboe extensions were added, and the Great Dulciana was replaced with a Quint (which blended poorly).


The organ was thoroughly cleaned in 1974 and the Cornopean revoiced in 1987, but by the end of the 1980s the electrical relays were failing and the organ required a complete overhaul.  A major reconstruction was completed in October 1993 by Brownes of Canterbury and the opportunity was taken to address other faults:  the organ lacked brilliance and spoke into the Chancel rather than down the nave.  Several new stops were added, the ranks were rearranged in the organ chamber and extended out into the North transept to improve projection down the church, and a new detached console was installed south of the crossing with a new electric action throughout.


To view, save or print the organ specification in pdf format, including notes on the extent of the work carried out in 1993, please see separate Organ page.

West Window, St Nicolas Church, Cranleigh







The Jubilee Window

This window in the tower by Phillippa Martin Stained Glass commemorates the Queen's Golden Jubilee in 2002 and was finally installed in 2007. 


The design is based upon the Tree of Life but there is much to see in the window, and it is really worth studying the printed card available in church which explains the significance and meaning of the design.  Emily and Lily, Phillippa's granddaughters feature in the top part of the window. 


The window was dedicated later in the year in the presence of HRH The Duchess of Wessex.

Photo by Michael Wild




The Porch and Lych Gate

Both the porch and the lych gate were designed by Henry Woodyer.  The Porch was erected in 1864 in memory of a local doctor, Jacob Ellery of Ridinghurst who also set up the obelisk on the corner of the Ewhurst Road.  The splendid stone lych gate was erected in 1880 as a memorial to John Bradshaw of Knowle.




The Churchyard

As you leave the Church glance at the tower.  It has a roof in the shape of a pyramid called a "Sussex Head". Notice particularly the "put-log" holes.  These were used to support the scaffolding when the church was first built and are rare in England.  The original Church was constructed of a mixture of ironstone and Bargate stone, both of which were available locally.


Several of the Sunday School children can claim to have touched the weather cock - but only when it was blown down in the storm of October 1987!  The date 1702 is carved on the West Door, but the hinges suggest that it is rather older.  One of the tombs at the back of the churchyard reputed to be the "smuggler's tomb" where contraband was concealed.  


A very weather-beaten stone on the south wall dating from the 17th century was in memory of a yeoman, John Crabb (died 1628), who discovered the use of lime for lightening the heavy clay soil.  The tablet was replaced in February 2013 on the initiative of the Cranleigh History Society as a joint enterprise between them and the Church.

On your right as you walk down the path is a magnificent Cedar of Lebanon tree.  It is said that John Sapte planted it in about 1850 when he returned from his honeymoon in the Holy Land. Also on your right is a wooden "bed-head" grave marker among the many interesting stone and iron ones.

Floodlights, St Nicolas Church, Cranleigh




St Nicolas Church was pleased to be one of 400 churches throughout the country to be awarded a grant by The Church Floodlighting Trust towards the cost of installing floodlighting in time for the Millennium celebrations.