St Nicolas Church, Great Bookham

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Page Updated  5 Feb 2005

 Statement of Significance

Church in its environment

Where is the church situated

St Nicolas Church is located at the centre of  Great Bookham, at the bottom of the High Street, where Lower Road and Church Road cross.  

Its impact on the community and Its importance to the community

The church, dating back to Saxon times, is surrounded by a two acre church yard in the centre of the village. It is a centre of worship, a location for festivals and a landmark which is loved by both those who worship there and those who know it as the centre of the village. 

Its history

The eleventh century Nave occupies the probable area of the original Saxon church. The Normans extended the Nave to the south around 1140 and north around 1180 when the stonework of the Tower was built. The Chancel was built in 1341 and an area adjacent to the porch around 1380. The South Aisle and Slyfield (Lady) Chapel were built around 1440, when the stone Tower was buttressed and the timber Tower and Spire were built. The Tower door and north facing window   in the Nave were created in the seventeenth century. The North Aisle, Sacristy (Vestry) and Sexton's Shed were built in the nineteenth century, the Choir Vestry in the twentieth century and the Church Room was added in 1979. A Pastoral Centre was added at the north west corner of the church yard in 1996. 

Details of the community that the church serves

The village, whose population is about  11,000 or 4620 households (census 2001), has some light industry, small offices and several dozen shops. Many residents  commute to London or work within about a thirty mile radius of the village. 

The use of the church by the congregation and the wider community

The church is used for regular worship on Sundays at: 8.00 a.m. holy communion; 10.00 a.m. Parish communion, but on first Sunday of the month Family Service and 11.15 a.m. Holy Communion; and 6.30 p.m. evensong every Sunday. On Wednesdays there is a Pram Service at 2.00 p.m. and Said Holy Communion on Thursdays at 10.00 a.m.. The church has an active Sunday school. The church electoral role is 292 (in April 2004). About 250 people worship each week of whom around 160 take communion. 

The church is also used for baptisms, weddings, funerals, memorial services, flower and music festivals, a pageant and other celebrations. The local  choral society regularly gives concerts and many other local organisations such as schools, scout troops and the British Legion hold services in church. 

The church itself

A general description

St Nicolas is a grade one listed building set in a two acre church yard with a Lychgate. The stone church  has a wooden tower and spire. The roof of the south aisle is Horsham stone tiles and the rest of the roofs are tiled. The framework supporting the bells and shingle-covered spire are massive oak timbers. 

Details of stained glass, font, pulpit pews etc.

There are two small windows above the arches of the north arcade in the Nave which are possibly part of the original Saxon church. The Howard window, in the south wall of the Nave, was added in 1676 whilst the north facing window was added early in the nineteenth century. The east window in the Chancel contains six panels of fifteenth century glass. It was purchased in 1954 to replace a window damaged in the Second World War. The window in the north end of the South Aisle is Norman but the glass was dedicated in 1875. The east window of the Slyfield Chapel is the work of O'Conner, completed in 1859. 

The Norman font (c. 1140) was moved to its current position when the pulpit, choir stalls and pews were added during the restoration carried out in 1885. 

Details of bells, clock, organ etc. (incl. age, make and any changes)

There are two bells; one bears the inscription 'William Eldridge made mee 1575'. Two other bells, which were cracked, were sold in the middle of the nineteenth century. The organ, built by Bishop and Son, of London, was rededicated at Bookham in 1968.  

Details of any items of special interest (e.g. hatchments, historic documents)

There is an early fifteenth century rood-screen at the entrance to the Slyfield chapel and a parclose screen (c 1500) separating the chapel from the choir. There are two piscinas in the Chancel and Slyfield Chapel and five brasses, the earliest is dated 1443. There are also a number of memorials, including a tree and dedication stone. There is a brief guide and plan of the church on this website. A more detailed description of the church and its history is given in "St Nicolas Church, Great Bookham - Illustrated Guide" available in church or from the Parish Office.

War memorials and Any special/important/unusual churchyard memorials

There is a memorial by the Lychgate celebrating those who fell in the First and Second World Wars. Several Howards, including the first two Earls of Effingham, lie in the Howard Vault, to the south of the Tower. 

Any elements which are individually listed, e.g. churchyard walls, lychgates and Any significant archaeology - None 

The general condition of the fabric

The quinquennial inspection report was issued in January 2003. All of the actions requiring attention immediately or within twelve months have been completed. Furthermore the maintenance items and additional recommendations are in hand. A leak has been detected in the Chancel roof which is receiving attention..   

Any problems of access   

Level access is available into the church and church rooms. However there is a step up from the Nave, North and South Aisle level into the Chancel, Slyfield Chapel or Vestry. An inspection of the Church, Church Room and Pastoral Centre, made by the Fire Service in June 2003, highlighted no fire hazards requiring special measures and found the access and egress satisfactory. There are accessible WCs in the Church Room and Pastoral Centre.

 Statement of significance prepared by John Adie November 2004