Friday, 6 May 2016

St John the Baptist, Okewood

Who would have thought so remote a church could exist less than hour from London? Tucked away at the end of a lane in a small valley, Okewood feels truly hidden.

Once it was not so remote, but at the confluence of local footpaths from a series of small, scattered settlements. Around 1220, a small chapel of ease was built to serve this community. It was further endowed by one Edward de la Hale (d. 1431) in thanksgiving for the life of his son, who survived a freak hunting accident. A fine, small brass of de la Hale is situated beneath the chancel floor.

The chapel was suppressed in 1547 (being mistaken for a chantry), and only the petition of local yeoman succeeded in reversing this in 1553, although it was not given effect until 1560. The church was often in a parlous state in later years, subsidence of the north wall presenting a particular problem. In 1879 this was rectified by moving the north wall, and inserting the present north aisle, effectively doubling the church in size. The church was substantially restored again in 1997, turning the north aisle into a multi-purpose space..

The church retains its original lancet windows to the south wall. Those on the north wall are also original, having been reinserted after the works in 1879. The east and west windows are Perpendicular. There are faint remnants of wall paintings on the south chancel wall, and fragments of mediaeval glass, depicting flowers and leaves, in the adjacent lancets.

Remote it may feel, but the church has a busy parish life and hosts regular Sunday services in contemporary style, with specific provision for children.

St John the Baptist: Chapel Lane, Okewood Hill, Surrey, RH5 5QT

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