Parish of Leatherhead - Isn't History Amazing?

A report of a WWI confirmation service in Leatherhead leads to the first Bishop of Guildford* and his son who was a Vicar of Leatherhead: both are buried in the parish churchyard and commemorated in the parish church's stained glass; the stained glass takes us on to the Titanic!

Peter Ford, who leads the band of ringers at Leatherhead, sought me out about the April 1915 WWI article in the April 2015 parish magazine. That mentioned a confirmation service here which included soldier candidates, taken by the Bishop of Guildford. Peter wondered if that was correct, as he thought the Diocese of Guildford did not then exist?

Yes, the article in the April 1915 parish magazine was correctly reproduced. Yes, Guildford did not become a Diocese until 1927.
Before then it was part of the huge Diocese of Winchester. It would have been Bishop John Randolph who took the 1915 confirmation service.
Now to explain the earlier asterisk - Bishop Randolph was a Suffragan Bishop of Guildford. He subsequently became Dean of Salisbury Cathedral.

The Suffragan See of Guildford had been created in 1874 to assist the Bishop of Winchester in overseeing his then even vaster diocese.
The first Suffragan Bishop of Guildford was John Sutton Utterton. His son Frank Utterton was for 31 years Vicar of Leatherhead.

Bishop Utterton is remembered in two stained glass windows in the Lady Chapel of Leatherhead Parish Church. These tell us that the Bishop died while celebrating Holy Communion in Ryde Parish Church:

Lady Chapel (window facing): 'Blessed are they who are called to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb' Rev XIX 9: To the Glory of God & in loving memory of John Sutton Utterton DD Bishop in the church of God who while celebrating the Holy Communion in the Parish Church of Ryde on St Thomas' day IVth Sunday in Advent 1879 was taken to his rest in Paradise. The window is dedicated by members of his family.'

Lady Chapel (window on right): 'I am the Resurrection and the the Life. He that believeth in me though he were dead yet shall he live and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. John XI 25-26. To the Glory of God and in affectionate remembrance of John Sutton Utterton DD 20 years Archdeacon of Surrey, 7 years Bishop of Guildford, who was called to rest on St Thomas' Day 1879* and whose body lies in this Churchyard. This window is dedicated by parishioners and other friends.'

[* 21st December 1879]

The Bishop Utterton windows in the Lady Chapel of Leatherhead Parish Church
Frank Utterton, Vicar of Leatherhead is remembered in the Chancel of Leatherhead Parish Church.

Firstly there is a plaque which reads: 'The East Window in this church was erected by the parishioners of Leatherhead to the Glory of God and in loving memory of the Venerable FE Utterton MA, Vicar of Leatherhead 1876 to 1907; Archdeacon of Surrey 1906. Died April 19 Easter Day 1908.' And then there is the window itself.

In front of the window can be seen part of the reredos erected in memory of Benjamin Chapman MA, of Christ's College, Cambridge and his 35 years as vicar here. He was buried in Leatherhead churchyard on May 4th, 1871.

Between them Chapman and Utterton had 66 years service as Vicars of Leatherhead.

Bishop JS Utteron

Canon FE Utterton
(from Parish Archive)

The Frank Utterton East Window

note the bishop's crook on the right

In Leatherhead churchyard, if you take the path next to Worple Road, you will come to the Utterton graves. On the left is Frank Utterton (1844-1908) and his wife Eveline (1851-1934). On the left is Bishop John Utterton (1814-1879).

The Old Chapel in St John's School Leatherhead, which later became the school library, came back into service for the school in 2014 after extensive renovation. The School Archivist, Sally Todd, found the following statement in The Johnian Magazine for January 1923: "The window in the apse is not remarkable except for the fact that the face of one of the disciples walking to Emmaus is a portrait of the late Archdeacon Utterton, sometime vicar of Letherhead and a governor of the School."

The full window can be seen on the right and the detail showing Utterton's face is below:

images: Sally Todd

The story now takes on a new twist. The Utterton window in the Chancel of Leatherhehad Parish Church replaced one donated by the Henderson family of Randalls' Park in 1863. Robert Henderson, an East India Merchant, later first Chairman of the Borneo Company, bought the property in the late 1850s from the bankrupt Nathaniel Bland, a Persian scholar who had gambled away his fortune. Randalls was eventually sold to Wimbledon Corporation in 1933 for use as a cemetery and is best known locally as including Leatherhead Crematorium.

The late Linda Heath, in a paper for the Proceedings of the Local History Society in 1991 and a parish magazine, article takes up the story - Fodder for Nightmares:

If you had gone to our church in the mid-1800s - wrote Linda - you would have been confronted by this gruesome figure looking at you from a panel of one of the stained glass windows. It is an illustration from about 1780 of Revelation 6 v8 - "And I looked and behold a pale horse; and his name that sat on him was Death".

Rev James Dallaway, Vicar from 1804 until 1834, had given the whole window. He also liked collecting old glass, particularly coloured glass, and there is mention of his going to Rouen for that purpose. When he had enough pieces he put them together to form the chancel window. Although in his view it was no great work of art, he liked the rich effect of sunlight projecting colours through it onto the whitewashed walls of the church. Indeed, Leatherhead Church became well known for its colourful glass as a result.

Death on a pale horse

So what happened to it, you may ask? It remained where he had put it in the chancel until 1863 when the Henderson family of Randalls Park replaced it with a memorial window. The Dallaway glass was moved to the South transept only to be replaced by the memorial window to Bishop Utterton, which is still there. The Dallaway glass, along with the macabre gentleman on his pale horse, seemed then to disappear.

A Pictorial Guide to Leatherhead, issued in the 1930s, puzzled the Vicar of the time, Rev Gerald Coleridge (Vicar 1926-44 and great-grandson of the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge). In it, reference was made to the Dallaway glass but no one whom Coleridge consulted on the subject could throw any light on what had happened to it. That is until the church was being "rewired for electric light". Then in a long forgotten loft over the choir vestry were found some packing cases containing the missing glass, which must have been put there in 1881.

An expert from the Victoria & Albert Museum, having examined the glass, said the medieval fragments were worth preserving by the church; the remainder of it was of no value except for the two panels showing Death on a Pale Horse and Saul visiting the Witch of Endor, which were of interest to the V&A as documents for the study of contemporary taste. As Rev Coleridge thought Death on a Pale Horse was "fodder for nightmares" he was pleased the PCC agreed to give those two panels to the V&A.

However he was attracted to the idea of having the medieval fragments made up into a window. Shortage of money and the outbreak of [WW2] prevented it. On Rev Coleridge's death, soon after the war, it was decided a fitting memorial to him and his wife would be the incorporation of the medieval fragments into a window. This is in what is now the Chapel of Remembrance.

Another mystery concerning the 1863 Henderson family East window was also solved by chance. It seemed to have disappeared when the present one commemorating Rev. Utterton was put in its place in 1909. A lady, who was researching the history of St Mary's Church, Bishopstoke (near Southampton) wrote to our Vicar about a newspaper cutting from 1909 she had come across. It described the consecration of the newly built tower, saying that the beautiful stained glass windows were a gift from Leatherhead - clearly the missing Henderson windows.

The Rector of Bishopstoke in 1909, Rev SN Sedgwick, had spent eight years serving as Curate with Canon Utterton here in Leatherhead. That, presumably, is how the windows found their way to Bishopstoke where they can still be seen today. The transfer of the Henderson window to Bishopstoke was done with the consent of the Henderson family.

Sidney Newman Sedgwick (1873-1941) was curate at Leatherhead from 1897 to 1905. Linda Heath wrote of him in the December 2002 Leatherhead Parish magazine that he was such an interesting and talented person that she thought readers might like to read more about him. She was grateful to Alun Roberts for providing much of this information, and for obtaining copies of some of Sedgwick's operettas.

Sedgwick wrote a book called Letherhead and its Legends, first published in 1901, which too many people have taken as a factual history, but as he himself pointed out, they were written as "legends", and "do not pretend to any strict historical accuracy".

He also wrote several novels, some of which were about Roman Britain and, to fill in his "spare time", so to speak, he composed both words and music of several very amusing operettas in the Gilbert & Sullivan style. Not great music, but very entertaining, and some of the libretto is extremely funny. Several of these operettas were performed in the Letherhead Institute. One wonders how he ever had time to write sermons and visit parishioners! He lived at No.3 Fairfield House, now part of what became the Working Mens' Club! Quite appropriate, as he was very interested in improving things for working class people.

His housekeeper there was Charlotte Tate, who married Harvey Collyer, a member of our church, in 1903. When Sedgwick left here he became Rector of Bishopstoke, near Portsea, and the Collyers went there too. Charlotte's health was not good, so in 1912 they decided to go to California. Tragically, they sailed on the Titanic, and although Charlotte and her daughter Marjorie survived, poor Harvey drowned. Marjorie was a script consultant on the 1958 film A Night to Remember. As related above it was through Sedgwick that our former East window went to St. Mary's Church, Bishopstoke, when our present one was installed in 1909. A notice board in St Mary's Church Bishopstoke was dedicated to the memory of Harvey Collyer.

In 1922 Sedgwick became Rector of Liss in Hampshire, and in 1934 his final parish was Warnford, also in Hampshire. He retired in 1938 and died in Liss in 1941 in a house in a small housing development, which he had arranged to be built during the Depression in the '30s to provide work for some of the many unemployed local men.

Linda concluded: "He was a man of exceptionally wide interests and talents, and was remembered with great affection in all his parishes. We hope very much to put on one of his operettas in the relatively near future."

The Henderson version of Leatherhead's East window now at Bishopstoke: image courtesy of Martin Baxter

More about Charlotte Collyer and the Titanic can be see at Leatherhead Museum

Isn't history amazing?

Frank Haslam, Parish Archivist: with thanks to Peter Ford, John Morris, Sally Todd

page created 13 Apr 15: last updated 30 Apr 15