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A Brief History of St. George's Church

St George's ChurchIn 1882 a small Iron Church, given by Sir Thomas Lucas, had been built in the north of the parish for the growing population there. It was described as “a pretty little church but it suffered from extremes of temperature.” The ceiling was sometimes covered with a coat of ice, which gradually thawed when the stove was lit and dripped on the congregation.
Although the building of a permanent church in its place had been discussed as early as 1890, it was not until 1899 that a fund was established for the purpose. In 1900 Frederick Peake gave land for the church on the corner of Oakfield Road. After generous contributions from one or two leading members of the church the response to the Appeal was very slow. In January 1905 a Building Committee was set up and Arthur Blomfleld, son of Sir Arthur Blomfleld, was cho­sen as architect. The parish engaged in fund raising activities. Lily, Duchess of Marlborough, opened a large-scale bazaar in May held in a field opposite the Old Rectory. Ashtead’s many young ladies were out in force running stalls and running a hat trimming competition. The Duchess said “it was the first time she had opened a bazaar in a parish where two churches could not contain the con­gregations.”
St George's ChurchBecause of the shortfall in contributions, the architect modified the specifications, resulting in what was feared would be a plain church, seating only 300 people. The south aisle, organ chamber and vestries were excluded. A north transept was included but no 'lady chapel' was
mentioned. The ceremony of laying the Founda­tion Stone in the wall of the Baptistery by Lord Ashcombe took place on 18 November 1905 after work had already begun on the site The weather was so bad that the large congregation had to crowd into the Iron Church for the service. A glass jar was buried in the wall containing various documents, including the November Parish Magazine. The Ecclesiastical Commissioners agreed to the dedication of the new church to St. George.
The Iron Church, which was standing on the same site, had to be removed, Mr Llewelyn Smith offering a portion of his garden for its new site on the opposite side of the road. In bad weather and over uneven ground, the church was slowly but successfully moved on rollers and reopened after only 10 days. The building was used as a parish room, later becoming the scout hut for the 1st Ashtead ‘Pelham’ Scout Troop. Only five months after building started the main part of the church was finished. On 21st April 1906, two days before St. George’s Day, the church was consecrated. A temporary wall was built on its south side. Parishioners and oth­ers generously gave furniture and furnishings, from a wooden altar to umbrella stands. The clergy reading desk was given by past clergy in the parish and the pulpit given in memory of Sir Thomas Lucas's late widow by members of the family. Although the finished church was plain it was generally felt to be 'charming' by most contemporaries.
In 1908 an organ chamber was built to house an organ given by Mr Garlick who had
also given the altar and bell. A vestry was added behind the organ on the south-east side of the church. The new organ, described as excellent, was dedicated on 29th September and a recital given by Dr Alcock, organist at the Chapel Royal and assistant organist at Westminster Abbey. After the First World War, changes were made in the chancel sanctuary as a succession of curates moved St George's in an Anglo-Catholic direction.
The first building project after the Second World War was the construction of a church hall in 1954. The hall fitted neatly into the site abutting the east end of St George's Church. There had been plans for a hall in the mid-1930s on the south side of the church but lack of funds held up the project then. The hall was designed for use both by the church and the community and was licensed for music and dancing.
Between 1959 and 1964 St. George's Church, which had been left incomplete before the First World War, was enriched and enlarged, while retaining its essential character. A formerly dark building was transformed into a light and spacious place of wor­ship, although without a proper entrance or circulation area.
A new east window was installed in 1961, in place of three for­mer lancet windows, the shafts of light from which had obscured the rest of the sanctuary. The new window was designed by Christopher Webb on the lines of a window he had designed in 1957 for the Commonwealth Chapel at St. Lawrence Jewry in the City of London.  The area to the north of the chancel, which had been used as a children's corner for many years, was converted to a Lady Chapel in 1950. In 1962 a pastel-shaded open metalwork screen was erected between the choir stalls and the chapel in memory of the Rev. A.W. Douglas, a retired clergyman who had assisted at St. George's.
A south aisle was added in 1964. The temporary south wall built between the brick pillars in 1906 was removed and space for 120 chairs provided. The aisle was given large windows and a low-pitched roof with a blue and white ceiling. New clusters of pendant lights were introduced throughout the church suspended from steel bars, and concealed lighting in the side windows of the chancel. The single vestry of 1908 was divided into clergy and choir rooms behind the organ, with a new bay window on the south. The new work was dedicated on 20th October 1964.
In the 1980s a dais was constructed between nave and chancel covered with gold-coloured carpeting. A portable font was intro­duced, with a light oak pedestal, the work of church member, Gra­ham Laird, with a stainless steel bowl, processed to resemble hammered pewter, made at Richard Quinnell's forge in Leatherhead. The old stone font was removed to St. Giles' churchyard and placed in the children's section, filled in the summer with flowers.

In the years following the Second World War the tradition changed to become firmly evangelical and there was a growth in informal worship. A committee was set up in 1988 to look at reordering the church and redeveloping the entire site. After several years of planning, the decision was made in 1995 to proceed with the St George's Project. The work involved demolishing the old hall, room, office and vestries and rebuilding a two story extension to the church incorporating a large new welcoming entrance into the former side chapel serving the whole building. A similar entrance and foyer was created at the rear with a reception area. The accommodation includes a café, hall, a number of meeting rooms and offices. The church was opened up by removing the residual screen, choir stalls and pulpit and replacing them with portable oak furniture designed once again by Graham Laird. The Bishop of Guildford officially opened the re-ordered complex on 16th September 2001
Our picture shows St. Georges Christian Centre with the new entrance and café beyond. The new complex and its’ extensive, modern facilities enables us to meet the needs of the local community and our church family in many ways. Apart from Sunday services and weekday prayer meetings we welcome business and community groups, mothers & toddlers, over sixties, parties, dances and concerts varying from classical organ to jazz. The café serving teas, coffees and lunches is open each Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The centre is open each weekday from 10.00am to 3.00pm for information, to make bookings and an opportunity to browse in the bookshop.