In 1882 the Vicar of Witley, The Rev John Brownlow Chandler, became concerned about the lack of worship facilities in the hamlet of Grayswood and began to hold weekly evening services in the Grayswood school, now the Grayswood Institute.
The Building of All Saints Church in 1901
In 1894 Alfred Harman, the photography pioneer who founded llford Films, came to live in Grayswood and in 1900 he offered to finance a church in Grayswood on land given by Lord Derby, on condition that a parish was created. So the new parish of Grayswood was formed from parts of the old parishes of Witley, Chiddingfold, Haslemere and Thursley, and in 1901 the Rev John Sherlock Leake, then the assistant curate at Haslemere, became the Vicar-designate for the new parish of Grayswood.
All Saints Church was designed by Axel Haig, a Swedish architect living in Grayswood. Haig was born on the Swedish Island of Gotland, studied naval architecture in Sweden and then in 1856, at the age of 21 he moved to Port Glasgow to work in a shipyard. In his late 20’s he moved to London to pursue a career as an ecclesiastical draughtsman, and he later became a world renowned etcher. The church is of early Gothic style, built of local sand-coloured Bargate stone, it has a square tower with an oak shingled spire. All Saints is thought to be the only church completely designed by Haig, although he supervised major restorations on a number of Gothic churches in Gotland, including the cathedral at Visby. Wood is used extensively on the interior of the church, giving it a warm and welcoming feeling and the construction of the pitch pine ceiling is similar to the hull of a ship. Many of the stained glass window designs and murals have Viking characteristics.
The First 50 years – The Edwardians, the 20s and 30s, and two World Wars
The Rev Leake ministered in Grayswood until 1929 during which time he set in motion the pastoral aspects of the parish, and it was largely due to his efforts that the new school was built in 1904.
Alfred Harman died in 1913 and is buried in the churchyard beneath the East window. Axel Haig was buried in front of the church on 27th August 1921, and his grave is marked by a memorial stone in the shape of a Norse Rune stone.
In 1925 a parishioner gave the church the magnificent new organ that is still in use today.
The Rev Patrick Bond (1929-1936) and the Rev F C Roberts (1936 -1960) continued to look after the needs of the parish and during the war years. The clergy gave special attention to the welfare of the families and children of those killed and Injured as a result of war.
The Post-war years and the 1960’s
The Rev Roberts looked after the needs of the parish in the changing and challenging times of post-war Britain. A parish appeal in 1955 raised sufficient funds to restore the exterior wall pointing and the interior woodwork. Many improvements were made during this period to the equipment and facilities in the church as a result of generous gifts from individual parishioners.
Into the 1960s
In 1960 Rev Roberts died and was succeeded by Rev Lionel Ouvry who remained at Grayswood until 1974. The changing lifestyles of the 1960’s put pressure on many churches, but Rev Ouvry worked hard to maintain a flourishing parish. In 1962 another parish appeal raised sufficient funds to restore the spire shingles, the organ, and renew the electrical system and the heating.
Times of Change for the Parish in the 1970s and 1980s
By the 1970’s, the Church of England’s finances were such that in small parishes, such as Grayswood, a full time Vicar could not be sustained, and so in 1974 when Rev Ouvry retired the prospect of a part-time clergyman became a reality. The churchwardens and parishioners fought hard to maintain the independence of Grayswood and were rewarded by the appointment of a Priest-in-charge who would combine his parish work with that of Diocesan Communications Officer. Thus it was in February 1975 that the Rev Geoffrey Curtis was inducted to the Parish of Grayswood and a new era had begun.
Geoffrey immediately began to use his considerable communication skills to reorganise the parish to provide full time support to a part-time minister and in this he was supremely successful managing to involve the laity in all aspects of church work. In 1976 he spearheaded the successful campaign to prevent closure of the village school, and throughout his time at Grayswood fostered the involvement of the people of Grayswood in village life and gave special attention to the needs of the sick and elderly.
In 1985, the Diocese wanted Geoffrey to spend more time on Communications and so they agreed to the appointment of Rev Geoffrey Tickner as curate to the Parish. During the next 5 years Rev Tickner, who was a keen musician and singer, strengthened the choir and encouraged other musical events within the parish.
The 1990s and the New Millennium
In 1990, Rev Tickner accepted a full-time post at New Haw and Rev Curtis was asked to work full-time on Communications. By the end of 1990 Grayswood had a new Priest, the Rev Jonathan Shaw, who would combine his parish work with that of Chaplain to the Royal Naval School, now the Royal School.
Jonathan was great family man and together with his wife Hazel they built up family involvement in the church. He used his skills as a teacher to good effect when he led the successful 1992 and 1995 campaigns to prevent closure of the village school. Two major parish appeals were launched in the 1990’s, one in 1993 raised £8,000 for the overhaul of the organ and the other in 1995 raised over £5,000 to help build the new village hall. The new village hall was opened in 1997, and was funded by grants, trusts, village events and appeals together with £150,000 from the Millennium Fund.
In 1999 Rev Shaw accepted a full-time position of Vicar in Mill Hill and once again the way ahead for the parish was in the spotlight. After much discussion it was agreed that Grayswood and Haslemere would become a United Benifice, but Grayswood would maintain a large degree of independence. In June 2000 the Rev Kate Atkinson was installed as Priest-in-charge, the position is unpaid, but she would live in Church house in return for ministering to the parish for 3 days a week.
Barbara Steele-Perkins succeeded Kate in 2003 and remains the incumbent priest at the Church to this day.
We are indebted to James Mackie for graciously allowing us to use information from his book “A Short history of All Saints Church Grayswood” in compiling this short profile of our church