Chaldon Church and Tollsworth Manor

chaldon church pulpit

After the unbearable temperatures of the previous days, it was a relief to feel the patter of raindrops as we walked up the path to St Peter & St Paul’s church in Chaldon not knowing what to expect from this building in the middle of nowhere. What a surprise awaited us! A huge wall painting covering a complete wall, aptly named the Doom Painting, would have welcomed pilgrims undertaking the long journey to Canterbury along the Pilgrims Way which passes nearby. These people, many of whom would be illiterate, would come face to face with a visual explanation of the journey to heaven - or hell - the Ladder of Salvation of the Human Soul! The painting was most likely done in the late 12th century by a travelling monk with a knowledge of Greek ecclesiastical art and is the most complete of its kind, with visitors coming from all over the world having seen pictures in virtually all mediaeval art reference books.

Tollsworth Manor

After a very interesting talk by Professor Ted Howard, Chairman of Friends of the Church, it was difficult to tear ourselves away, but it was time to move on to Tollsworth Manor, just down the road. There has been a building on this site since 674AD, originally as part of the monastic farm. Through the centuries it has had many functions, not least as part of the YHA organisation, resulting in a gradual deterioration in its condition. Fortunately, the current owner, Gordon, came to the rescue in the 1980’s and he and his wife dedicated their lives to bringing the house and garden back to its former glory - which they have certainly done! They managed to incorporate modern living with preservation of the historical features resulting in a cosy home not a museum. Gordon gave a fascinating talk on the history which included a fun quiz with chocolate as prizes, and even served tea and cake before departure! Sadly, Gordon’s wife has died but he has carried on as custodian and invites visitors into his home and magnificent garden as a way of raising funds for St Catherine’s Hospice.

Jan Chart