Celebrating the 125th Anniversary of
“The Little Iron Church”
St. George’s Church, West End, Esher
“The Little Iron Church” January 2004
WEST END, ESHER is steeped in
history dating back to the Domesday Book.
Many of its residents have resided in the village all their
lives. The local residents’ are very
proud of their village and it is widely regarded for its annual Flower
Show. It has many organisations and
societies, such as: the Friendship Club, Sports & Social Club, Cricket
Club, Pigeon Club, Racing Club, French Circle, Golf Society, two Women’s
Institutes, the newly extended Village Hall and the Playgroup. Although it is only a few miles from
London, the village is surrounded by wonderful woodlands, and is host to
many kinds of wildlife and natural habitats, e.g. the very rare ‘Star
Fruit’. Our resident pair of Swans nest each year on the Prince of Wales
pond (one of several in and around the woodlands) bringing much excitement
each year when the cygnets arrive!
Built in 1879, this year St. George’s church celebrates its 125th
In 1878, or perhaps a little
earlier, Queen Victoria donated a piece of land for the building of a
church and a school. A need was felt
to make provision for “the spiritual wants of the “Aged, Poor and Infirm of
West End” and to spare them from the steep and often muddy climb into
Esher. Following the building of the
School, and thanks to the splendid Mr. Robert Few of Wolsey Grange at Lower
Green, the villagers got their church.
Mr. Few, a churchman, offered to “build a temporary iron church on
part of the site granted for a permanent church by the Queen. The Rector responded with gratitude and
wrote: “Regard this iron church as something of a Missionary Church”. And so, the little iron church was
erected during the hardest winter in memory, costing less than £300, and
was opened on 30 March 1879. The
structure consists of a corrugated iron exterior with wood panelling lining
the interior. The windows are 19th
Century; the East window (which in
fact is not aligned to the east, but rather to the south east) was obscured
when the sanctuary was altered during the refurbishment in 1961. The solitary bell in the shingle-spired
bellcote is mid-19th Century. The
Oak litany desk, mahogany elbow chair and elm kneeler are late 19th
Century, while among modern items are two particularly interesting
St. George’s Church
West End -
Interior of St.
George’s, c.1900 showing the ‘south east’ window
The church has a timber frame with corrugated outer
cladding, ‘was built as a temporary measure!’
‘The Iron Church’, West End
Mr. Braddock having, as we announced last month,
resigned the office of Choirmaster and Organist on receiving an appointment
in Long Ditton, his own parish, has been presented with an ink stand in
memory of his connection with the Choir of the Iron Church, bearing the
following inscription: “Presented by the Rector, Treasurer, and Choir of
the Iron Church, Esher, to R.F. Braddock, on his resignation, October
The Old Pipe Organ was
bought from the Welsh Guards when they were stationed at Sandown Park in
the 1914-18 War and was sold recently to an organ restoration enthusiast.
The Pewter bowl for use in
baptism is shaped like a miniature font and was designed and made by the
well-known artist and craftsman, Tom Neal.
The Oak lectern was
presented to the church in 1980 by Mrs. Sheila Haslett and her family in
memory of Michael Haslett.
The lectern was made by
Robert Thompson Craftsmen Ltd of Kilburn
Very special is the Bible, which
had been a gift from the Duke and Duchess of Albany on the occasion of
their marriage in 1882. After the
death of her husband in 1884, the Duchess became a great benefactress to
the schools as well as to several charities and was very active in local
affairs. She often attended the
church in West End and when she left Claremont in 1916 she gave this
beautiful Bible for the use of the church.
The Bible is full-bound in blue leather with brass clasps and corner
decorations and end papers of moiré silk.
The edges are gilded and tooled with honeysuckle flowers and leaves.
The Holy Bible presented by
The Duchess of Albany following
the death of her husband, Leopold.
On the front cover is an applied
duke’s coronet above the
monogram ‘L H’ in gold and silver.
The centenary festival was
celebrated during 13-17 June 1979 when the Bishop of Guildford preached at
an open air service. The little iron church was built to last for just a
few years, long may it remain in its endearing simplicity—perhaps as a
symbol of endurance in the new Millennium.
An Autumn picture of the village landmark when it was
covered with ivy.
George Thirtle (one of the oldest residents in West
End) remembers…. “We normally had Evensong there (I’m going back now to
the period between the First World War and the mid-1930s) at 3.30 in the
afternoon and Communion service once a month, but I wasn’t allowed to
attend the service until I was confirmed at Christ Church. The old Verger and bell ringer was a
man named Adams.
A Moment of history at church on the
Rector of Christ Church, Esher, officiates at the
first marriage in the history of St. George’s Church (May 2000)
The first marriage to be held in St. George’s Church in
its history, when a special licence had to be granted by the Archbishop
Church, West End