History of Leatherhead Parish Church, St.Mary & St.Nicholas

This website is maintained by the Friends of Leatherhead Parish Church
Unless stated the images shown are from sources other than Leatherhead Parish Church

1541 during the reign of Henry VIII, as part of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Leeds Priory was 'suppressed'.

Leeds Priory's property was given to the Dean and Chapter of Rochester Cathedral.

They still retain the right to nominate the incumbent of St Mary & St Nicholas, Leatherhead. Nowadays the incumbent is a Vicar.

Arms of the Diocese
of Rochester

1548 The Reformation. An Order in Council directs the removal of all images especially the Great Rood, with its attendant figures of St.Mary and St.John.

Mural paintings were lime washed and obliterated, and substituted with sentences of Holy Writ.


1549 First Inventory of Church Goods

Included in a list of 75 richly decorated items there were:

- 2 gilt chalices
- 3 copes, one blue velvet, one white damask, one green and yellow
- 3 'corporals' in cloth-of-gold, white damask and red silk
- 6 vestments
- 9 altarcloths
- 2 curtains for the altar ends
- 2 curtains of blue silk
- 8 candlesticks (2 big, 6 small)
- 5 towels
- 2 surplices
- cloth for the lectern
- cloth painted with the Christ's Passion for the Easter sepulchre
- black cloth for the hearse
- manuscript Mass book with silver clasps
- printed Mass book
- an antiphoner
- 2 manuals
- a gradual
- 2 sacring bells
- 2 hand bells
- 4 pewter cruets
- copper cross with staff
- 2 cross cloths
- Lenten veil
- brass chrismatory
- censer
- 2 holy water pots of brass, 1 of lead
- 2 cloths to cover the font

By 1553 the inventory listed 'a single chalice, a red vestment figured velvet for the table and 4 belles in the steeple'. [3 of these bells were subsequently seized by the Commissioners]

1550 An order is received from all Bishops that old stone altars are to be destroyed and replaced by plain wooden Communion tables.

Leatherhead ignores this - the mediaeval mensa or top slab of the altar now lies preserved behind the present High Altar. Made of Sussex marble, it has the usual five consecration crosses symbolizing the five wounds of Christ.

the mediaeval mensa behind the present High Altar

1571 Robert Gardiner, of Thorncroft Manor Serjeant of the Royal Wine Cellar to Elizabeth I 'departed this transitory world the tenth day of November A.D. 1571, being then of the age of 73 years.'.

His funerary helmet and his epitaph written by Thomas Churchyard, Court Poet to Elizabeth I, are displayed in the church.

Gardiner's gravestone is set in the floor of the Chancel.

Another eminent Courtier who owned property in Leatherhead was Edmund Tylney, Master of the Revels to the Queen and later to James I of England.

His house was on the site of the The Mansion in Church Street, presently the Register Office. Queen Elizabeth I dined with him there on 3rd August 1591 during one of her progresses.

Elizabeth I

Here friendly Robert Gardiner lies,
well born of right good race,
Who served in court with credit still,
in worthy realm and place.
Chief Serjeant of the Cellar long,
where he did duty show,
With regard to all degrees,
as far as power might go,
He passed his youth in such good frame,
he came to aged years;
And thereby purchased honest name,
as by report appears.
A friend, where any cause he found,
and courteous to all;
Of merry mood and pleasant speech,
however hap did fall.
Four children for to furnish forth
the table round he had
With sober wife, most matron like,
to make a man full glad,
Prepared to die long ere his day,
which argues great good mind.
We leave him where he looked to be;
our Lord receive his spirit,
With peace and rest in Abram's breast,
where we at length may meet.'

Epitaph to Robert Gardiner by Thomas Churchyard
Court Poet to Elizabeth I, displayed in the church

Civil War and the Interregnum

No Feast Days allowed and between 1653 and 1660. Even marriage services in church were forbidden.


Restoration of the Monarchy
Another Serjeant of the Royal Wine Cellars is buried in the Chancel - Richard Dalton, a friend of Samuel Pepys.

Also buried there is Lowde Cordell, died
1685, a Page of the Royal Bedchamber to Charles II.

Charles II

Richard Hanbury, Vicar of Leatherhead
1679-1689, is made Chaplain to James II.

Presumably this was a sensitive task, as the Catholic James was deposed in the 'Glorious Revolution' of 1688 by the Protestant
William of Orange.

James II

1701-20 Some 'modernisation', probably reflecting the religious prejudices of the time in favour of fundamentalism.

Elliptical arch inserted within Chancel arch.

Royal Arms, Commandment boards and paintings of Moses and Aaron placed over Chancel arch.


1703 original spire blown down in the storms of late November, never to be rebuilt, like many other churches in the South. The Eddystone Lighthouse was lost in the same storms.


1715 Following an endowment to the Vicars of Leatherhead, Great Bookham, Effingham and Shalford from Dr Shortridge, the Rector of Fetcham, there began the annual King Charles Sermon on January 30th, the anniversary of his execution in 1649.

The preaching of this sermon continues to this day.

A Tablet on the South Wall lays down all the conditions of this bequest, including a requirement that Holy Communion should be celebrated at least once a month.

Banqueting House, Whitehall, London

BBCwebsite for more information

1746 Gallery built across the front of the tower.