St Matthew’s Timeline

1875 – the first stone is laid
William Coulthurst, senior partner at Coutts Bank, funds the building of a new church and vicarage in open fields at a cost of £24,000. The first stone was laid in June 1874 and the church was consecrated on 21st September 1875 (St Matthew’s Day), although the tower was unfinished at the time. The speed of construction may reflect the fact that when Coulthurst laid the foundation stone he was already 82 years old.

The first Vicar, Rev. T.C. Griffiths, was chosen for St Matthew’s by Coulthurst, who had been impressed with his preaching while Griffiths was a curate at Immanuel Church in Streatham.

St Matthew’s School was built in 1878 and opened to pupils in 1881, becoming overcrowded by 1900. Pupils, many from disadvantaged backgrounds, came largely from the rapidly expanding area of Tolworth.

Below The Surrey Comet reports the consecration of St Matthew's in September 1875

Below Map from 1874

Below Map from 1896

1906 – Puritan Bazaar to raise money for the organ
Rev. Seaver leaves after four years due to the ill-health of his wife. He was popular with the congregation in spite of the fact that in 1902 many would have preferred the curate, Rev. E. Synnott, to be appointed Vicar instead. One of Rev. Seaver’s main achievements was the Puritan Bazaar in 1906, held over three days to raise money for the rebuilding of the organ. The event was opened by H.R.H. the Duchess of Albany to great excitement. The organ, built by William Hedgeland in 1875, was showing its age and was upgraded with new tubular pneumatic action by Leeds organ builder J. J. Binns.

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1921 – The carved War Memorial is installed
The War Memorial, carved by Thomas Tarran, a member of the congregation, is installed at the back of the church. At around the same time, churchwarden F. H. Clayton commissions a memorial window for three deceased relatives. The stained glass craftsman employed, Thomas Cowell, is also a local resident.

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Canon F. B. Macnutt, Vicar from 1907 to 1918, had served as a senior Army Chaplain during the last three years of WW1, writing frequent letters to the congregation from the battlefield.

He was succeeded by Rev. J. C. Banham, who was Vicar until 1928.

During the tenure of Rev. C. C. Thornton (1928-1935), an appeal was raised for the building of a new church in Tolworth to cater for the rapidly expanding population. Work began on St George’s in February 1934 and the church was dedicated on June 12th.

St Georges
1944 – A V1 bomb rocks St Matthew’s
St Matthew’s is rocked by a V1 which lands nearby in June 1944, destroying the East Windows and leaving permanent cracks in the Sanctuary wall below. In January the previous year, the top of the spire has been damaged in a gale.

Tolworth suffered badly from wartime bombing and many lives were lost. 9,000 people were evacuated from Surbiton and Tolworth.

The Vicar throughout much of the war, Canon Norman Clarke, left for Plymouth late in 1944 and became Bishop there in 1950.

1943 top of spire
The original windows by Henry Holiday
1953 – The East Windows are finally replaced
The East Windows are finally replaced, with designs by well-known artist Hugh Easton, and a plaque is installed in the church commemorating their dedication and the restoration of the spire.


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Rev. Roy Chamberlain became Vicar in 1945 and remained in post until 1958, earning a reputation for friendliness and boundless energy. He started a young people’s group, “Matt’s”, which became very popular.

In 1950 a booklet was produced for the 75th anniversary of the church, with reminiscences from the 80-year-old former churchwarden F. H. Clayton.
1975 – St Matthew’s undergoes major re-ordering
St Matthew’s undergoes a major re-ordering to celebrate the church’s centenary. Miss Sitzler, a long-standing member of the congregation, has died in 1972 and left the bulk of her estate (some £55,000) to the church to be used for building. The side aisles are closed off to create new rooms and a new hall is built at the back of the church, named the Sitzler Room in her memory. The pulpit, lectern and font are removed and a nave altar table installed on a new dais.

The church had adopted the national Stewardship initiative during the 1960s under the leadership of the Vicar’s Warden, “Bobs” Caporn. Canon A. H. M. (‘Jimmy’) Martin had taken over as Vicar in 1959, remaining until 1971. In 1970 a window was installed (after years of delay) in memory of Mr. Caporn and his wife, made by another notable designer, W. T. Carter Shapland. The Stewardship campaign was aimed at encouraging congregations to take more responsibility for the running of their churches both practically and financially.

The centenary celebrations and re-ordering took place under the leadership of Rev. Roger Lewis, Vicar from 1971 to 1989.

Above The front of the church before 1974

Above The original font from 1875

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Above Carter Shapland's Stewardship Window

Below A 1967 letter from Carter Shapland to the Vicar, Canon Martin

2017 – The Tower and Spire shows serious deterioration
Serious deterioration to the tower and spire is noted in an architect’s Quinquennial Report, leading to the setting up of the Tower and Spire Project. At the same time, plans are made to refurbish the church toilets in the Sitzler Room.

Rev. Simon Hones became Vicar in 1990. He introduced all-age worship with the ‘Come Together’ service, which helped to build the numbers of young families, and strengthened the relationship with St Matthew’s School. The Tolworth Team Ministry was established under his leadership, becoming the Tolworth, Hook and Surbiton Team early in 2016 under Rev. Helen Hancock. Helen became Team Rector in December 2012, moving into the new Vicarage (on the site of the two previous ones) a year later.

The restoration phase of the Tower and Spire Project was completed in February 2020, having started in June the previous year. The spire and tower stonework was extensively repaired, including the severely damaged window mullions in the belfry. Finial carvings that had been missing for decades have been replaced and the weathervane restored and re-gilded. The tower should now be safe and sound for the next century or so!

Above Surveying the tower before restoration

Topmost section of spire after
Above The top section of the spire after repair

Below The tower encased in scaffolding