St Martha's Hill

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"St. Martha's Church" redirects here. For the Episcopal church in Delaware, United States, see St. Martha's Church, Bethany Beach.

Coordinates: 51°13′29″N 0°31′44″W / 51.22472°N 0.52889°W / 51.22472; -0.52889

The hill and church from the south
The church and hilltop floodlit at night during Christmas
The Church of England church without surrounding hilltop

St Martha's Hill is a landmark in St Martha in Surrey, England between the town Guildford and village of Chilworth. It is the 18th highest hill in the county and on the Greensand Ridge, in this case at the closest point to the North Downs, commencing to the immediate north at the Guildown-Merrow Down in the parishes of Guildford and Merrow. The top of the hill provides a semi-panorama of Newland's Corner also in the Surrey Hills AONB. Its church is the main amenity of the small parish extending to the south into the streets of Chilworth, with some medieval stone incorporations from a 12th century predecessor (rebuilt 1848-1850 by Henry Woodyer) and is a wedding venue mainly to outside of the sparsely populated parish.

The knoll is crossed east-to-west by the Pilgrims' Way, which is otherwise on the North Downs.

History[edit]

The site contains several Megalithic and Neolithic artefacts, dating from as far back as 3500 BCE.

There is a traditional belief that the original name of this hill was Saints and Martyrs Hill, the martyr being St Thomas of Canterbury.[1][2]

Landmarks[edit]

St Martha's Church (also known as St Martha-on-the-Hill) is grade II listed by English Heritage under the statutory buildings' protection scheme — on the top of the hill — the building is accessible only by foot.[3] It is the only church in Surrey to be on the Pilgrims' Way and featured briefly in the 1944 film A Canterbury Tale. A 12th century church existed here before falling into ruin by the 18th century. The church was rebuilt in 1848-1850 to the designs of Henry Woodyer who incorporated many of the original 12th century architectural features including Norman arches to the main entrance as well as zig zag moulded lancet windows on the tower.[4] The interior is a plain, restrained style with the majority of fittings of a post 1850 date, the main exception being a 12th-century font (albeit re cut in 1850).[5] near the front entrance. Incised graffiti, often dated by year, exists on much of the exterior dressed stonework. The church believes it may have been built as a landmark or beacon to assist travellers or encourage pilgrimage to Canterbury or Winchester Cathedrals.[2][6][7]

Its current dedication to Saint Martha is one of the few in England: another example being St Martha's in Broxtowe near Nottingham. The church is floodlit during the Christmas season.

The graveyard of the church includes a memorial to actress and singer Yvonne Arnaud, whose ashes were scattered there. There is also the grave of Bernard Freyberg VC, which is in front of the south door of the church. Freyberg won his medal in 1916 as a Lieutenant-Colonel in The Royal West Surrey Regiment. He was a New Zealander who also won the DSO with three bars, and rose to the rank of Lieutenant-General. In 2007 a memorial service was held for him at the church, attended by the New Zealand High Commissioner.

The eastern end of St Martha's Hill is notified as part of Colyers Hanger Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).[8] This area was included in the SSSI for its heathland vegetation communities, including several characteristic acidic grassland plants. Other parts of the hill also have relict heathland vegetation.

The western end of St Martha's Hill is registered common land.[9]

The hill reaches a height of 574 feet (175 m), making it the 18th highest in the county; as with most of the top 20 hills in Surrey part of the slightly scattered Greensand Ridge.[10]

Close to the hill is Chilworth Manor.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Arnold-Forster, Frances (1899). Studies in Church Dedications: Or, England's Patron Saints. London: Skeffington & Son. 
  2. ^ a b Johnson, Walter (1912). "The secular uses of the church fabric". Byways in British Archaeology. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. pp. 131–132. 
  3. ^ English Heritage. "The National Heritage List for England". 
  4. ^ Pevsner, N and Nairn, I (1971). The Buildings of England: Surrey. Penguin. 
  5. ^ Pevsner, N and Nairn, I (1971). The Buildings of England: Surrey. Penguin. 
  6. ^ Historic England. "Details from listed building database (1029553)". National Heritage List for England. 
  7. ^ St Martha's Church
  8. ^ Natural England SSSI details search page, giving map, citation and other details for Colyers Hanger SSSI (search for "Colyers Hanger")
  9. ^ Open Access web page showing areas of Common Land (Select "Area 1" and "Conclusive map", type TQ027483 into the OS Grid Reference box and click "Go".)
  10. ^ Database of British and Irish Hills Retrieved 2015-03-06

External links[edit]