Chaldon, St Peter and St Paul Church
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: Superb early 13th century wall paintings
The earliest church at Chaldon was recorded in a charter dated 727AD and was associated with the Abbey of Chertsey. The timber structure may have been built as early as 675AD. The current church was built in the late 10th or early 11th century, with a simple rectangular nave and the high walls characteristic of Saxon architecture. Of that Saxon building the west wall is original, and the wall pierced by the chancel arch may be as well. There was certainly a church here at the time of the Domesday Book, which mentions 'Chalvedune' possessing 200 acres of land and a church. The church remained connected with Chertsey Abbey until the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII. In the early 13th century a south aisle was added to the Saxon structure, inserting Early English arches into the Saxon nave wall. The chancel arch was inserted at roughly the same time, with a similar north aisle added 50 years later.
Off the south aisle is St Kateryn's Chapel, bult in the 14th century and now acting as a Lady Chapel. A stained glass window and plaque act as a memorial to the Lambert family, while the north aisle opposite has a window to the Gardiners of Rockshaw.
The oak pulpit is in Jacobean style but actually dates from 1657, making it a rare example from the Cromwellian period. Hanging in the south aisle is a plaster cast of a medieval bell; the original, one of the oldest bells in Surrey, was stollen in 1970. The font is unusual, made of Merstham stone, with a square bowl standing on an octagonal stem. in the porch is a broken 12th century coffin lid.
The west wall is almost covered by this superb example of medieval art. The Chaldon paintings are thought to be the work of a travelling monk well-versed in Greek art. The vividly coloured painting shows the Biblical Day of Judgement, with a central Ladder of Salvation making a cross shape with Purgatory above and Hell below. The painting is made of yellow ochre and red ochre, and spans just over 17 feet across and is over 11 feet high. It was whitewashed during the Commonwealth period and only discovered in 1869 during restoration work. Rev Henry Shepherd, the Rector, noticed colour as the walls were being made ready for lime-washing. Thankfully he stopped the work to investigate, but not before further paintings on the north wall arch were destroyed. The paintings were initially cleaned by the Surrey Archaeological Society, and later 'preserved' with a wax coating. Over time the wax caused discolouration, so it was removed in 1989 and the paintings restored to their original splendour.
The Chaldon paintings are easy to describe, but the description cannot do them justice. They truly are superb, a word often misused, but in this case easily justified. They are a national treasure, and it is exciting to think that the church is usually open so that travellers or even modern pilgrims can appreciate them.
THE WALL PAINTINGS
Address: Church Lane, Chaldon, Surrey, England, CR3 5AL
Attraction Type: Historic Church
Location: Down a lane off the B2031 at the western edge of Chaldon village, near the M23/M25 junction. Small parking area beside the churchyard.
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest
Bletchingley, St Mary's Church - 2.9 miles (Historic Church)
Reigate Fort - 3.7 miles (Historic Building)
Farleigh, St Mary's Church - 4.9 miles (Historic Church)
Little Holland House - 5.5 miles (Museum)
Titsey Place - 5.9 miles (Historic House)
Honeywood Museum - 6.1 miles (Museum)
Carew Manor & Dovecote - 6.3 miles (Historic Building)
Whitehall Tudor House Museum - 6.8 miles (Museum)
Nearest Accommodation to Chaldon: