The Church of St Mary Oatlands

St Mary's Church before the tower was builtThe land on which the church was constructed was purchased by "six gentlemen of Walton-on Thames" (William Chapman Hewitson, Edward Marshal, Samuel Francis White, Andrew Johnston, George Thomas Woodroffe and Frederick Paget. They purchased the land as "Trustees for the erection of a chapel" from Messrs John & George Jeffkins for the sum of £200. The Jeffkins family were owners of a considerable amount of land in Oatlands following their original purchase of ten lots when the Oatlands Estate was sold in 1846 and having acquired more later.

The church was erected between April 1861 and 2nd February 1862 to the design of Messrs F. & H.Francis at a cost of £3,000 which had been 'raised by subscription' and included a subscription of £400 from "The Board of Governors of the Convalescent Institution". In return for their subscription, the Institution obtained certain rights for the use of pews in the south aisle by inmates of the Institution. The subscription fund for the provision of the 'chapel' had been running since at least 1857 as the following press cutting reveals.

grotto for chapel

The Church was originally a very simple, and quite small, building until the North Aisle was added in 1873.

The photograph at the top of this page shows the church before the tower was added, dating it to around 1903 at the latest. The tower was constructed to the design of architect Mr.Compton Hall between 1904 and 1905 and was erected as a memorial to George Thomas Woodroffe, one of the original trustees, who had died in December 1900. The cost of the tower was met by George Woodroffe's step-son Henry Edward Burgess.  The tower was dedicated but not consecrated, reputedly due to the firm objections of one of the two churchwardens, MR.A.J.Butler (the other being Mr.J.B.Wood - who had the groger's shop at the corner of St Mary's Road and Oatlands Drive).

Living close to the church and being a regular railway traveller from Walton, Mr.Butler was in the habit of taking the short cut across the corner of the church grounds. If the tower had been consecrated, he would have had to remove his hat every time he passed beneath the tower to or from the station. Rather than upset the Vicar's Warden and run the risk of him being laid low due to the frequent colds that might result from the regular removal of his hat during the winter months, it was agreed that dedication of the tower would suffice.

It was originally intended that the tower would have a clock and this was part of the architect's design. One of the wealthier residents is said to have promised to provide the clock when his wife provided him with a son. As his wife bore him only daughters, no clock was forthcoming and the tower still lacks one to this day.

The eight bells of St Mary's were originally intended to be hung in India, in celebration of the Durbar of 1911.  However, the scheme was cancelled and they were subsequently used in the Festival of Empire at the Crystal Palace.  They also featured in an epic performance of Max Reinhart's play "The Miracle" at Olympia.  It was there that the Vicar of St Mary's heard the bells and was so impressed with their sound that an offer was made to the founders John Warners.  In 1913, the bells were hung, for a total cost of £550-10-0d.
St Mary's Church about 1910

The photograph above was taken about 1910 and shows the church pretty-much unchanged from today except that the trees and the gas lamp have gone.

There are two books on the history of the church available either from the church bookstall or from the church office:


Andrew Sturgis book - St Mary Oatlands 1862 - 1962St.Mary Oatlands 1862-1962 by Andres Sturgis

Bernard Day's book - St Mary Oatlands - a follow up history 1962 - 2012St,Mary Oatlands a follow-up history 1962-1999
by Bernard Day




The website for St.Mary Oatlands is at