The Tithe Wall - History & Rebuilding


The "TITHE" wall


This wall which surrounds the Churchyard between Thursley Rd and Westbrook Lane has in part existed from c1754.

“A list of the present owners of the Church fence, as taken from an old list…”
[14th April 1857]
The present wall, which is now (2003) in need of much repair, is the very wall which the first Rector of Elstead, Rev. Joseph Charlesworth refers to in his historical notes-this makes it one hundred and forty years old.

“The Churchyard... was formerly surrounded by a fence of rails, at least at the East side. The south side is a bank which belongs to the owner of the adjoining land.

In 1863 I succeeded in getting the owners of the fence (so called) to complete the wall on the side west of the road.”

“A small addition, taken from the roadside waste in the road leading from the village to Thursley, was made to the Churchyard when the new wall was built in 1863.”

[Rev. J.R. Charlesworth - Rector of Elstead 1854-1904]

It was built in sections by (or on behalf of) various local landowners, as shown on the accompanying list of 1857, and these sections are still for the most part clearly visible. There are two earlier surviving lists, from 1754 and 1809 , each entitled “owners of the rail around the churchyard”.

The churchyard gates - or what is now left of them - date from 1852, just three years after the cedar of Lebanon and the lime trees (now mostly removed) were planted. These gates will be replaced when the wall is rebuilt.

Along the northern section, the fabric of the wall gradually began to disintegrate due to the effects of mature lime tree roots. The trees were felled in 1996/7 but by then the damage had been done. By 2003, one section of the wall was leaning dangerously and the PCC decided that all of the northern section must be dismantled and rebuilt

By June 2005 the northern sections of the wall had been completely dismantled and rebuilt. Where necessary a foundation was constructed and the sections rebuilt by John Hickmott, using much of the original bargate stone but with some additional material, since some of the dismantled stone was unsatisfactory. The work was done in stages during the warmer months over two seasons. John Hickmott (Chessington Groundwork Contractors Ltd.) has a lifetime's experience in stone masonry and has rebuilt the wall to the highest standard using traditional lime mortar. In one section he found a stone with an embedded fossil and this has now been exposed in the construction.

The PCC also agreed that new gates were required. These were designed by Mr David Oakley, a retired architect, and constructed to a similarly very high standard as for the wall by A.J.Tracy and Sons, Elstead, using green oak, with the date inscribed in Roman numerals.

Upon the completion of all these works, a dedication ceremony was held on Sunday 19th June after the morning service with light refreshments in the churchyard.

Funding for the wall and for about half the cost of the gates has been achieved through the endeavours of The Friends of the St. James's Church Elstead, Charitable Trust, a body formed in August 2001 with the objectives of financing restoration, repairs and maintenance to the church and the churchyard. Two substantial grants of £10,000 each were awarded by SITA, other Trusts have also given generous grants and the residents of Elstead village have contributed handsomely to the above works.

The images below show stages of the rebuilding of the wall by John Hickmott.

click to enlarge picture


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