Bisley parish church of St John the Baptist

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List of Incumbents
Thomas<1283 - 1316
William de Lascore1316 -
Register 1346 - 1366 lost
Stephen Hayne1390 - 1391
John Lotewyk1391 - 1396
John Sherman de Nortwych1396 - 1397
Philip Palmer1397 - 1402
John Pynford1402 -
Register 1414 - 1446 lost
John Browning1450 - 1455
Thomas Smyth1455 - 1456
Thomas Russell1456 - 1460
John Everley1460 - 1465
Richard Strother1465 - 1565
William Horne1465 - 1467
John Carethorpe1467 - 1475
Richard Cadey1475 - 1477
Roger Mortymer1477 - 1484
John Williamson1484 - 1489
Register 1492 - 1500 lost
Thomas Preston1509 - 1530
Robert Grous 1530 - 1560
Richard Ode 1560 - 1561
John Hill M.A. 1561 - 1588
Anthony Harrison1588 - 1610
Richard Massey M.A.1610 - 1659
Register 1616 - 1628 & 1643 - 1664 lost
Dr Andrew Lamont DD1660 - 1711
David Kineir1712 - 1713
John Campion1713 - 1739
Thomas Ganton1739 - 1748
Allen Walter1748 -
George Clarke Gayton M.A.1779 - 1786
Richard Cecil M.A. 1786 - 1810
John King M.A. 1813 - 1845
Robert George Lewis1845
George Robinson1845 - 1857
F B Gourrier1857 - 1861
Thomas Joseph Farr1862 - 1865
George J Wild1865 - 1872
Walter Eaton M.A.1872 - 1881
Walter Landon-Smith1881 - 1886
Joseph Cater1886 - 1895
John Gwyon L.D.1895 - 1928
Charles Montagu Horley1930 - 1954
Windsor Roberts1957 - 1962
William Mervyn Bowen Francis1962 - 1976
Peter Douglas Gotelee1976 - 1985
Clive Edmonds1985 - 1992
Ian Terry1992 - 2002
Andy Armitt2003 - 2020
Fiona Simon2020 -

St John's - Bisley

Photo: Trevor Howard

The church of St. John the Baptist is a small building consisting of a chancel 20ft, 10in, by 13 ft. 8 in., south vestry, nave 37 ft. 6 in. by 18 ft. 2 in., north aisle 6 ft. wide and a west porch of wood.  The site of the church is about half a mile east of the village in an isolated position.  The churchyard is small and surrounds the buildings; there are several large trees on its boundaries, and near the porch is a yew-tree.

The nave is probably that of a 12th-century building, but no details of that or even of the two following centuries are left; in the south wall is a 15th-century inserted window, which is almost the only old feature remaining.  The present chancel is modern; the former one was of brick and timber of 15th-century origin, but fell into a dilapidated state and the arch into it from the nave was closed up.  In 1872 the present chancel was built and the church enlarged by the addition of the north aisle.

In 1900, a tradition still remained in the village that the time for elevating the Host at High Mass was de­pendent upon the moment at which a sunbeam shining through a south window reached a particular spot on the north side of the nave.

The chancel is of brick and is lighted by three eastern lancets and two in the north wall.  The chancel arch is modern of two orders of which the inner is carried by corbel shafts.  The north arcade of the nave is of two bays, the middle pillar being circular with a moulded capital, and the pointed arches are of two chamfered orders. West of the arcade is a modern lancet window.  Of the two south windows the first is a modern one of three lights and tracery under a pointed head; the second is a 15th-century window of three trefoiled lights under a square head, the middle light being wider than the others; it has modern mullions and sill.  Between the windows is a small trefoiled niche formerly a piscina, which was found at the restoration of the church beneath the ruins of the chancel.  The west doorway is modern, of 15th-century style. The north aisle has a single-light window at each end and two two-light windows in the side wall.

The walling of the south wall of the nave is of conglomerate and of the west wall of roughly squared blocks of Heath stone.  The roof of the nave is old, with plain collar beams which were formerly plastered.  Over the west end is an old bell-turret covered with modern boarding, including the upper half of the west gable the vertical face of the turret is seen inside the nave with its old timbers; it is capped by a modern wood spire covered with oak shingles.

The west porch probably dates from the 14th century; its sides are open, with five square bays divided by hollow-chamfered mullions; the entrance has a pointed arch formed by two solid pieces of wood with hollow-chamfered edges; the barge-board of the gable over is foiled with rounded points, the middle foil being of ogee shape.

The altar table and font are modem; but the pulpit is a 17th-century one with carved and moulded rods.

There are three bells; the oldest, which is the second, has this inscription in capitals on the shoulder:
"+ Fraternitas fecit me in honore beate Marie"
It is said to have been brought from the abbey of Chertsey, to which Bisley formerly belonged, and was probably cast early in the 14th century.  The treble is by Thomas Swaine 1781 and the tenor by William Eldridge 1710.

The communion plate includes a silver cup of 1570 with a cover paten of 1569 the cup is a finely chased example, but somewhat misshapen; there are also a plate of 1795 and a small paten of 1872.

The first book of the registers is a vellum copy beginning in 1561 and contains baptisms to 1672, burials to 1669, and marriages to 1670; also some briefs for 1661 and tithe rents of 1625; the second book has baptisms from 1673 to 1755, marriages 1673 to 1753, and burials from 1673 to 1757; the third contains burials from 1678 to 1812; the fourth has marriages from 1754 to 1807; the fifth, baptisms and burials 1760 to 1806, whence all three are continued in the later books; there are also a few loose sheets with accounts of 1673 and from 1682 to 1773.

Early Christians at Bisley ?

There is some little evidence that Christians lived in our area towards the very end of the Roman era; A Roman Christian ring has been found at Bagshot. It is also possible that there was an early Christian site at Bisley.   John Blair states:

"The Pyrford charter-bounds of 956 pass around the irregular west end of modern Horsell parish.  Unfortunately they cannot be plotted exactly, but at some point between per leage (Parley Farm) and mint byrge (Mimbridge) was an inclosure or meadow called eccles hamme.  This must have lain near, perhaps almost adjoining, the medieval church of Bisley some fifty yards from the boundary.  Bisley is an enclave on the edge of the great Chertsey Abbey estate; the nondescript little church need be no older than the 12th century, though it probably appears in the Domesday Book as a chapel of Chobham. [it is more likely that the now Chobham church of St Lawrence was the chapel, whilst St John the Baptist was the church]  Although the area is not one of intensive Roman settlement, this seems a significant association  between an eccles name (a derivative of the late Latin eclesia - meaning 'church') and a standing church: it is conceivable that some cult had survived around the church site, or around the nearby holy well of St John the Baptist where parishioners were still being baptised within recorded memory."

The location of Bisley Church is interesting since it is in a lonely spot out of the village.  So maybe the location was sacred.  The old walls of the church are certainly very interesting.  They include blue sandstone (which is not local), thin tile (that conceivably may have come from an earlier nearby Roman building) and iron-slag (not just the more common puddingstone) which may indicate nearby iron working - see photo.  As for the spring near the church, we know that the Celts venerated springs and these sites were adopted by the Romans - as excavations have shown at Bath.  However, like the temples, they tended to be dedicated to pagan deities.

The site may be very ancient, the nearby St John's well may have religious overtones dating back to Roman times.  It is possible that the original religious building on this site was not constructed to serve the community but was intended as a shrine for visitors to the well.