Hammerwood – St Stephen

The scattered community lies near the Surrey border north east of East Grinstead and until 1880 was mostly in that parish, though when it was separated, a part of the parish of Hartfield was added.  The church was started in 1878 (BN 35 p522) and was completed two years later at a cost of between £5000 and £6000 (B 38 p469).  A tablet inside records that Oswald Augustine Smith, a banker who lived at Hammerwood Park, met all costs, including the vicarage and an endowment.

Small country churches could be built for less than half the price and Hammerwood is quite elaborate.  Built in C14 style to the designs of E P L Brock (ibid), all windows are traceried, including the single-light ones.  It has a south aisle only, at the east end of which is a tower with a substantial stone spire behind battlements.  The external walls are finished in rough cut stone with prominent smooth diagonal and horizontal bands.  Beneath the sills all round the church, as well as on the east wall and under the tower parapet, is a band of flint and stone chequerwork and the tower also has gargoyles.

Some of Brock’s work with his erstwhile partner M E Habershon is wilfully perverse, but at Hammerwood he worked on his own and there are few surprises.  The elaborate detail of the exterior is repeated inside, with foliage capitals on the arcade and chancel arch and shafts on the rere-arches of the east and west windows.

There were repairs starting in 1963, for which the architect was W E Godfrey of Carden and Godfrey (ICBS).  The subsequent history of the parish was complex since in 1977 it was united with the adjacent ones of Cowden, Kent (which was transferred to the diocese of Chichester, though historically in the diocese of Rochester) and Holtye Common which had also been financed by the Smith family.  The latter church was subsequently made redundant and a similar scheme in respect of Hammerwood church came into effect in 2016.  The parish of Hammerwood was divided between those of Forest Row (formerly part of East Grinstead) and Hartfield, thus restoring the situation before the parish of Hammerwood was established (information from James Drever).  The church is currently (2018) for sale, stated to be suitable for conversion for a number of purposes.

Fittings and monuments (before redundancy)

Chandeliers: Only two remain of the original brass ones; the others were stolen in the 1970s.
Font: Large carved and octagonal and of a piece with the church.
1. Ornamental glazing with geometrical patterns of plain glass by Brunton of Kensington (B 41 p12).
2. (East and north west windows) 1880-81, by Clayton and Bell (ibid).  The work consists of single figures under canopies in mostly dark colours, which is unusual for the company’s work by this date.
Lectern: Ironwork by J Joad, probably 1920s (information from Derrick Joad)
Monument: (South aisle) Anthony Clouston (d1943) by E Kennington (BE(E) p415).  A relief of Elisha and the Shunamite woman with a rather stiffly carved child between them.
Reredos: Wood and almost certainly of the same date as the church.  It bears the Lord’s Prayer and the Creed, a late example of this practice.

My thanks to Nick Wiseman for the photographs