Earlier this month our son moved to his new house in Surrey and I made my first visit to this part of the world last weekend. Apart from visits to Hampton Court (which is almost London, really) I’ve never been to Surrey before so lots to explore on future trips. Sadly, though, no more walkin’ the dog round Belsize Park!
On Sunday we were invited to join a friend on a circular walk from her house up Hascombe Hill. We were dropped off outside the village pub The White Horse and walked through the village calling at the church briefly and walking by the village pond to the far end of the village where Sarah lives.
St Peter’s Church has been awarded 3 stars by Simon Jenkins in his ‘England’s 1000 best churches‘. It is built of the local pale brown Bargate sandstone typical of this part of Surrey and when we walked inside we were stunned by the amazing Gothic Revival paintwork. It immediately reminded me of the churches at Cheadle and Alton of the previous weekend.
A Canon Vernon Musgrave was responsible for the work in Hascombe church. This wealthy Victorian clergyman arrived in the parish in 1862 and lived there for over 40 years. On his arrival he decided to upgrade the poor state of the church with the assistance of architect Henry Woodyer. We didn’t have time to closely inspect the murals and other paint work and the stained glass windows which I have now read about in the church leaflet and Jenkins’s book.
“He [Musgrave] attended to every detail of his building, including the design of gravestones in the churchyard and the clipping of the yew that forms the lychgate. He also wrote a guidebook so that visitors ‘need not ask questions of accidental persons and be imperfectly or erroneously answered’.”
The following information about Hascombe has been adapted from the absoluteastronomy.com website :
“Hascombe is a village in Surrey, England. It contains a cluster of cottages and country estates, St Peter’s church, the village green and The White Horse pub, all nestling between wooded hillsides in Surrey, England.
It is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Above the village is Hascombe Hill which is the site of a ruined hillfort built by the ancient Britons and occupied by them during the 1st century BC. The word “combe” is derived from cwm meaning “valley” in the Welsh language. The village was not mentioned by name in the Domesday Book.
The damming of a stream in the 15th Century created the Church Pond, close to which stands the village pub, The White Horse, a 16th/17th century building, with many later additions, constructed from the local Bargate stone.
St Peter’s church was rebuilt during the mid-19th century, but retains its medieval screen, made from Jerusalem olive trees and featuring elaborate carvings, and a font dating back to 1690. Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman described the church as “a Tractarian work of art”.
Because of its elevation, from 1796 to 1816 Hascombe hosted a station in the shutter telegraph chain which connected the Admiralty in London to its naval ships in Portsmouth.
Hascombe’s natural fresh-water spring attracts many visitors: the fountain itself was commissioned in 1887 by local landowner Edward Lee Rowcliffe as a memorial to his late brother. It was during a stay at Hoe Farm in 1915 that statesman and future Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill learned to paint. Winkworth Arboretum, with its collection of rare trees and shrubs, is nearby and there are walks through the surrounding hills and along the greensand way.”
After walking along and up leaf covered tracks and paths through woods we eventually came upon a clearing which is the remains of a Celtic hill fortress. Here there was a large sandy bank with a log serving as a seat and through an opening in the trees we had fine views to Dunsfold Aerodrome and the South Downs. We were certain we could see a Jumbo Jet stationary on the Dunsfold runway.
The South Downs from Hascombe Hill
It was good to return at the end of the day to a cosy fireside. There wasn’t one of those at the Belsize Park flat!