Domesday Book published with sections on Bletchingley and Chevington

Start of construction of present church (Norman tower and parts of chancel remain)

 BLETCHINGLEY HISTORICAL  TIMELINE: Part One

43AD – 410AD: Roman Period

Site of intensive human activity during the Mesolithic period excavated by the Surrey County Archaeological Unit (SCAU) during Summer 2005. Evidence found of flint working (circa 25,000 items recovered) with fires and/or cooking activities identifiable.

Unique site in the UK showing that humans repeatedly visited during the period from 8000BC to 4500BC.

Note: Site is now part of the operational sand quarry to the north of Place Farm Road and can no longer be seen.  See website for the SCAU for more detail & for the publication shown here. 

600BC Iron Age Period

Scheduled monument Hill Fort on White Hill - known as The Cardinal’s Cap. Defined as a multivallate hillfort and regarded as a centre of permanent occupation between the 6th and 1st centuries AD. Earthworks found to be nearly complete with the banks of the ramparts strengthened to provide additional defence.

Cardinal’s Cap is highest point in the parish at 750 feet above sea-level. Site is between Hextalls Lane and War Coppice Road on the hill to the north of the M25.  See Historic England website for more details the listing (No. 1008498) 

Very little Roman remains found in Parish. “The History and Antiquaries of the County of Surrey” published by William Bray in 1814 mentions the discovery the previous year of a stone wall by men working for Mr Perkins of Pendhill (now Pendell Court) a little distance North East of the house. The foundations of a room (believed to be a hypercaust) were found which had been almost filled with broken tiles of Roman workmanship. Another room with a floor paved with Roman tiles was also found and which went under the bridleway now known as Water Lane (between the Hawthorns School and Brewer Street). The site was covered over with a thatched roof with the intent to pursue the research in the following spring. The site is thought to be that of a Roman Villa.

The Roman period also saw the first known excavation of Reigate Stone.  Also known as Merstham Stone it is of the Lower Cretaceous Period. Conveniently local to London it was used extensively for buildings (as easy to carve) but being sandstone it led to a number of structures failing (Christopher Wren was quite rude about its suitability). Mainly used for boundary walls now.

5th – 10th Centuries AD: Saxon Period

No known pre-Norman remains exist in the Parish. No mention of the names Bletchingley or Chevington appear in Saxon records but the formation of the village names stem from this period.

The suffix “ley” comes from the Old English word “léah” meaning a tract of cultivated or cultivable land. It denoted arable or pasture land as opposed to woodland. The thick Wealden forest was slightly less dense on the Greensand Ridge. The suffix “ton” means an enclosed settlement and “ing” means “son of”. 

“Blecca” was the name of a powerful man form Lindsay in Lincolnshire who was baptised by Paulinus, a Roman General. Bletchingley may also be derived from the word “blac” (pronounced “blakk”) and meaning pale or white. This may point to the early industry of bleaching cloth using the nearby Fullers Earth. “Ceofa” was likewise an individual whose name was sometimes pronounced Cherfa or Cheefa (as in Cheva → Chevington).

 Three manors existed before the Norman Conquest and which were all part of the Tenrige Hundred (Tandridge): Civentone held by Alnod (Chevington); Blachingelei held by Aelfech, Alwin and Elnod and Pende (Pendell)

1086 AD: Domesday Book

1090 AD: Building of Bletchingley Church

Mappa Mundi produced by Gervase of Canterbury (monk and English chronicler) lists Bletchingley Castle as one of the four Surrey castles (others Guildford, Farnham and Reigate).

Earthworks only can be seen at the site which is at the end of Castle Street. Private property

Mesolithic and Iron Age Periods

It is said that the four knights involved in the assassination stopped at Bletchingley Castle overnight on their way to Canterbury but this is open to debate.

In 1170 the heir apparent, Henry, had been crowned at York even though his father Henry II was still alive and it was also deemed to be in contravention of the coronation privileges held by Canterbury Cathedral. Thomas A’Becket as Archbishop of Canterbury excommunicated those involved. There is some doubt as to Henry II’s exact reaction to this news but the upshot was that four knights, Reginald FitzUrse, Hugh de Morville, William de Tracy and Richard le Breton set off to Canterbury to rid the kingdom of “this turbulent priest”.

As it is known that the four knights had travelled from France and immediately met up at Saltwood Castle (a few miles outside Folkestone and en route to Canterbury) it seems unlikely they would make a detour the next morning of 100+ miles to Bletchingley. What is known though is that the knights did call upon soldiers to garrison the nearby castles in case of any trouble – this included Bletchingley Castle.      

Roman and Saxon Periods
11th - 12th Century
13th  - 15th Century

1215 AD: Signing of the Magna Carta

Richard de Clare and Gilbert de Clare were both participants at the signing of the Magna Carta at Runnymede on the 15th June 1215.

They were also appointed under Article 61 of the Charter to a council made up of 25 barons to ensure that the King (John) complied with the conditions of the document.

1233 AD: Roger the Hermit 

Roger the Hermit lived in a small room (a cell) inside Bletchingley Church. There is a small window, known as a Hermit’s Squint, built into the south wall of the church – as Uvedale Lambert has pointed out “... at least the Bletchingley hermit had the sense to choose the sunny side, and not the north side...”. The window allowed people to talk to Roger in order to make confessions and to ask for his advice on matters. He could also watch the sanctuary light inside the church by night and day.

In 1233 Court records show that Henry III gave one quarter of wheat every 8 weeks to Brother Roger. One quarter equals about 28lbs or 12.5 kgs. It is believed that Roger was one of the first Franciscan monks in England.    

1264 AD: Destruction of Bletchingley Castle

In accordance with Article 61 (see Magna Carta above), the barons (including Gilbert de Clare, grandson of the Gilbert who had been a participant at Runnymede) continued to check that the King was keeping to his side of the agreement. Henry III was on the throne and proving to be unpopular, especially with the barons. They, the barons, asked the powerful Simon de Montfort to act on their behalf and which led, eventually, to the Battle of Lewes in 1264 (the 2nd Baron’s War against the King). It is not unreasonable to think that de Montfort and Gilbert stayed at Bletchingley on their way to Lewes from London as it is on the route. Gilbert was in command of the vital central division at the Battle. The King lost and his son Edward was taken prisoner; Gilbert was rewarded by being made an Earl and was alongside Simon de Montfort when he in effect became the ruler of England.

The Kings Troop had been quartered at Tonbridge and hearing of the Royalist defeat headed to Croydon to recoup, but on the way stopped at Bletchingley to destroy the Castle. So successful were they, that the Castle was never rebuilt.

Later on, Gilbert changed sides after falling out with de Montfort – he later made a large contribution to the latter’s demise at the Battle of Evesham. 

This Gilbert was known as the Red Earl (probably due to the colour of his hair). His coat of arms is incorporated into the village sign and in the logo of this Society.

1283 AD The Village Fair

Edward I granted the right to Gilbert de Clare to hold a three day fair at All Saints’ tide (November 1st). Stalls were set up in the Village Centre; by 1296 tolls from the market were valued at 16s per annum (about £600 today).  

1160 AD Mappa Mundi

1066 AD Arrival of William the Conqueror

Invasion of England by William the Conqueror. His cousin Richard FitzGilbert fought alongside him and was handsomely rewarded with, amongst other places, Bletchingley. By 1086 Richard was the sixth richest Baron in England after William’s immediate family.   The last male heir died at Bannockburn in 1315. Family also known as de Clare (taken from Clare Castle in Suffolk which they also owned).

At some point between 1066 and 1160 the castle was built but was more like a fortified country house rather than as a military stronghold. It was to serve as the administrative centre for the area with the amalgamation of Chevington and Bletchingley manors.

1170 AD: Assassination of Thomas A’Beckett

1293 AD:  First Rector of Bletchingley

First recorded Rector of Bletchingley: Adam de Blechingley. 

There is a complete list of all the Rectors of Bletchingley in the Church. 

1295 AD First Borough and First Members of Parliament

The importance of the de Clare family meant that the village of Bletchingley was also important. It was one of the original boroughs enfranchised in the Model Parliament. This was the Parliament of England set up by Edward 1st in 1295. Each borough returned two “burgesses” to the Parliament – a right which Bletchingley continued to exercise until the Reform Act of 1832.

As a “burgage borough” the right to vote in elections was exercised by the owners or resident tenants of the 130 “burgage tenements”

The first two Members of Parliament were Richard de Bodekesham and John de Geyhesham.

1347 – 49 AD The Black Death

The Black Death decimated the population nationwide.

1460 AD: Major Changes to the Church

Major changes to the Church by Duke of Buckingham and Hugh Hextall (perpendicular style)

  • See Article on the Church under People and Places for more information (work in progress)
16th - 18th Century

1521 AD Visit of Henry VIII

Following the execution of the Duke of Buckingham,(the direct, unbroken, descendent of Richard of Tonbridge through sixteen generations) by Henry VIII, Bletchingley Place was transferred to the King.   

Henry VIII immediately made a visit to his new property stopping off at "The Maid" where he was welcomed by the good people of the village. The Maid is thought to have stood on a site very near to where the Red Lion now stands though probably not the same building. The King then made his way down the very steep Parsonage Lane (now Stychens Lane) to Bletchingley Place

The bell ringers were paid with a gallon of ale (price 2d) to celebrate Henry's arrival. The still extant Church Accounts clearly show this payment.  . 

1538 AD Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths

Birth, Marriage ad Death registers had been instigated by Thomas Cromwell.

The records (held at Surrey History Centre) for Bletchingley Parish are the oldest in Surrey starting in 1538 on Page 1 and have continued without a break ever since. 

1541 AD: Anne of Cleves

Henry VIII granted manor to his fourth wife Anne of Cleves as part of their divorce settlement, including Bletchingley Palace.

The only surviving portion of the Palace is the gatehouse - now Place Farm 

  • See Article on Anne of Cleves  in People and Places section for more information.

1566 AD First Village School 

John Whatman provided to the village a plot of land complete with a croft and orchard on the Bletchingley to Croydon Road (now Stychens Lane) so that a free school could be established. The rents and profits from the land should be paid to the schoolmaster “...towards his pains in instructing such children as should be born in Bletchingley”.

Unfortunately the school did not last and the buildings were converted to be used as almshouses for the poor people of the village.

  • See article about Schools under People and Palces for more information (work in progress)

1606 AD  Church struck by lightning

Church struck by lightning on the 17th November; spire destroyed in the following fire and “at the same time melt into infinite fragments a goodly Ring of Bells”.

During work on the tower in 1910 there were found traces of the fire on the timbers together with molten lead where it had trickled down into the spaces between the stones.

1631 AD Second attempt for a new school

John Evans of London, gentleman, had the “pious intention to lay out £400 for the foundation and maintenance of a free school in Bletchingley” and an agreement was made by local worthies to purchase land for the “aforesaid purpose”. Twenty three people made donations to pay for the repairs of the schoolhouse.

Mr John Harston was appointed schoolmaster who agreed to take twenty free scholars at £1.00 each, ten at 10s and another ten at 16s each. Believed to all have been paid for by Mr Evans.  The village still has a record of the first pupils to attend.  

1624 AD: A Disputed Election 

Like other  Parliamentary Boroughs before the Reform Act, Bletchingley came under the patronage of single, individual,  persons meaning that they could have undue  influence on the outcome of the parliamentary elections. These boroughs were often referred to as “pocket boroughs”. Bletchingley was more susceptible than most as two MPs were elected from the constituency – meaning double the influence.

By 1624, the pocket borough was in the hands of Lady Howard but during that election something remarkable happened as the election was disputed and it took three goes to get a proper result  – Lady Howard threatened to withdraw her charity from the village and three different sets of voters were involved. In the meantime the local rector, Nathaniel Harris, also upset Parliament – he was made to come on his knees to the Bar and apologise to the Houses of Parliament and also make a full apology to his own parishioners at the next Sunday service.

  • See Article under People and Places for full  information (work in progess)

1656 AD: More information from the School

Reported that Robert Blackwell should continue as schoolmaster of the John Evans School.

He should continue according to his labour and diligence; if he was found to be negligent or insufficient on learning or found to have committed any notorious crime or be infamous of life he would, with three months notice, be expelled. Whilst working he would receive 20 pounds  a year from the rents of the land.

He was required to teach in both English and Latin tongues and to teach basic arithmetic. There were a number of rules that had to be applied to both the teacher and his pupils.

Other teachers were Mr Heaseman, Mr Quilton and the Rev Steele.

  • See Article on Schools in People and Places for more information, including more on the rules imposed (work in progress).

1705 AD Robert Clayton, Mayor of London

Robert Clayton erected memorial in church to his wife (and himself)

1754 AD Parish Workhouse 

First building (known as The Godstone Union Building) erected just to the north of the Church  - on what is now the residential area of Clerks Croft. 

1780 AD New Bells for the Church

Eight new church bells cast and hung by Thomas Janaway of Chelsea. The churchwardens paid half the cost for transporting the bells (the other half was paid by the bell-founder).

Five of the bells were subsequently recast by Mears and Stainbank (Whitechapel) in 1912 and two more were added as part of the major restoration in 1991. 

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What’s In A Name? Some examples:

Blessinglee

Blecchynglegh

Bletchingle

Blechyngly

Blecchynggelagh

  • See Article on What’s In A Name for the 42 (known) different spellings of Bletchingley
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Picture of three of the Church Bells taken in 1912 by Jarvis Kenrick for the Photographic Survey..

Original pictures held at Surrey History Centre

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The English Reformation had led to a change in the style of worship in Parish Churches. The more ornate, flamboyant, style of Roman Catholicism was replaced by a simpler version. The original Church Plate (the silverware of the Church) had been removed and, usually, melted down by the State. Under the Protestant Elizabeth new designs were issued of which the Bletchingley Communion Cup is a particularly good example.

The cup was made in London 1568-9 and is now on loan to the Victoria & Albert Museum. 

1568 AD:  Communion Cup

Bletchingley Communion Cup.

Copyright V&A Museum

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Village Fair 1909 - Jarvis Kenrick.

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Picture taken from Wikipedia 

Pictures from the Photographic Survey - originals at Surrey History Centre

Hand drawn postcard - date unknown

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