About this church
The church of St Nicholas lies half a mile from the village of Godstone, which may originally have been a farm, Goda’s Ton. The church was part of the Saxon village of Wolcnested, also Wachelsted, later Walkingstead. In 950 Byrhtric, a wealthy thegn, left land at Stratton to the Minster. The Domesday Book records that Count Eustace held Walkingstead but there is no mention of a church. This could mean the Minster was destroyed during the Norman advance.
The Normans built a church where St Nicholas church stands today. The ground was higher than at Stratton and on the main road, after the old Roman road had sunk beneath the marshy land where Godstone now stands.
Nothing is known about the earliest church on the site except that it had typical Norman chevron moulding around the round headed doors. This church was replaced by an early 13th century building consisting of a chancel and aisleless nave of about the same length as at present. A tower was added later in the same century, the base of which still stands.
In 1846 it was reported at a Vestry Meeting there was a deficiency of church sittings and a north aisle was added to the building. A few years later a south transept was tucked in beside the tower but only lasted until Gilbert Scott’s 13th century style restoration in 1870-71. There is almost nothing of the 13th century church now visible except inside the base of the tower.
There are several monuments of interest in the church, notably in the Evelyn chapel, where a black and white marble altar tomb supports the full length figures of Sir John Evelyn and his wife Dame Tomasin, dated 1664.
Nearby are other tablets and brasses to the Evelyn family who lived at Marden, Leigh Place and Felbridge. They carried on a gunpowder industry at Leigh Mill. The Diarist came of this family. There are also brasses to George Holman and his wife.
Under the tower is the Macleay chapel dominated by a marble effigy of Barbara Macleay, wife of Sir George Macleay. Several members of the Macleay family were noted natural scientists particularly in the field of entomology. Such was the esteem in which the Macleays were held in the world of the natural sciences, a variey of fauna and flora carry the Macleay name notably the Macleaya cordata and the Macleay's Swallowtail. Several wall paintings in the chapel, until recently painted over, reflect this assocation.
Almost all of the windows date from the 19th century. However, to mark the new millennium, the villagers of Godstone gifted a glorious new glass window depicting the village past and present.
John Trenchman, the pirate, is buried outside the south door. His stone is marked with skull and crossbones. Trenchman was a notorious local smuggler who in the mid 1600s ran contraband between the south coast and Croydon. He died in the Fox and Hounds Inn after being ambushed on Tilburstow Hill, south of Godstone.