History of Frimley Chapel

What was Frimley Chapel? Ash Parish Church is tucked away in the south west corner of Ash parish which made access difficult for parishioners who were expected to attend church or explain their absence. To help with this, a Chapel of Ease known as Frimley Chapel served the Frimley residents. The chapel was a small, low building of timber frame filled in with brick work, with a nave and a small North/South transept. For centuries, Frimley was a chapelry in Ash Parish until the separate ecclesiastical Frimley Parish was formed in 1813.

A Sketch of Frimley Chapel from 1789 ~ the earliest surviving drawing

Frimley Chapel – Some Important Dates

  • About 1500 John Stephens’s Chantry: At some date before the Protestant Reformation in the 1540’s, a chantry called ‘John Stephens’s Chantry’ was founded inside the chapel which was served by a priest from Newark Priory near Ripley and who was paid to chant (hence the name) prayers for the soul of John Stephens in perpetuity. He probably left money in his will to pay the priest and reimburse Frimley Chapel for the space needed, possibly a side altar where the priest chanted his prayers.
  • 1541 Survey: A survey conducted by the Diocese of Winchester showed that the community of Frimley chose Chapel Wardens to run Frimley Chapel and to collect money from residents to pay the salary of a Curate to perform services in the chapel.
  • 1544 Will: The will of Edward Fryday, Husbandman of Frimley stipulated that ‘My best sheet to be the covering of the sepulchre at Frimley and a diaper towel to serve for Easter’ which confirms that services were held in the Chapel.
  • 1549 Act of Parliament: Abolished all Chantries and sent out Commissioners to document each one.  William Goodwyn, Surveyor-General, visited John Stephens’s Chantry (inside Frimley Chapel) and issued a Chantry Certificate which abolished the Chantry and granted the incumbent priest (Thomas Snelling) a pension.
William Goodwyn, Surveyor-General
  • 1583 Petition by Thomas Pharre, Curate of Frimley Chapel in the parish of Ash, to Lord Burghley, Treasurer, complaining of his expulsion by Anthony Cowper (Chapel Warden) and asking that the matter be investigated by justices of the peace.
  • 1590 First Record of Births: Baptisms as Frimley Chapel had probably taken place since its establishment but the first records that have survived begin with a baby called Richard, the son of Richard Watts, baptized ‘ye fourth day of February 1590’.
  • 1598 Frimley Parsonage: Richard Gale, a Frimley Yeoman Farmer, leased Frimley Parsonage from the ‘Lord of Frimley Manor’. The lease excluded those parts of the Parsonage used by the Surrey Archdeaconry (a sub-unit of the Diocese of Winchester):
  • 1595 Money Towards Building a Steeple on Frimley Chapel: 1 shilling left by John Bartholomew, Yeoman, towards the building fund. (Father of John Bartholomew discussed in next item).
  • 1598 Frimley Chapel purchased Silver Cup: For use in Communion Services.
  • 1606 Agreement on the Consecration of Frimley Churchyard: Bishop Bilson of the Winchester licensed Frimley Chapel for marriages and consecrated a churchyard for burials. Frimley residents agreed to raise £6 to cover the cost of the churchyard and the Rector of Ash, William Matkyn, agreed to contribute £4 a year for a curate. The patron of Ash, Winchester College, also gave its consent. Frimley inhabitants agreed to attend Divine Service at Ash every Midsummer’s Day to acknowledge that they still belonged to Ash Parish Church. A copy of the 1606 Agreement was written on the first page of the Frimley Register by William Cobbett, Parish Clerk in 1656. The writing is much deteriorated with age but most of the details can be deciphered.
Frimley Register
  • Names in 1606 Memo: William Lacy, was Curate of Frimley Chapel. Humphrey Weston was a Yeoman of Frimley and was buried in Frimley Churchyard on 24 November 1627. Nowell Turner was a blacksmith listed in the 1598 Frimley Muster Roll. John Bartholomew, Yeoman Farmer, came from a prominent Frimley family. He was buried in Ash Churchyard on 13 August 1623.
  • May 1606: The First Grave The ceremonial grave dug in March 1606 was not used until May of that year. The record is much deteriorated but we can make out the following:  John Emes Servant to ? buried 26 May 1606 First that was made (in) Frimley Churchyard. This entry was written in 1656 by William Cobbett (copied from an earlier register now lost) and he added the note about the first grave which matches the wording in the Memorandum discussed above. Opposite the entry of the burial of John Emes is a random but interesting note which says John Bartholomew was buried 4 July 1684 and he died of the small pox‘. This was the grandfather of John Bartholomew who was present in Frimley Churchyard in 1606 when the ceremonial grave was dug.
  • 1636 Frimley Residents Petition Winchester College: This petition called ‘for the allowance of a yearly stipend due from the parson of Ashe, for the maintenance of a chaplaine at their chappell of ease in Frimley’.  The Rector of Ash was not forwarding the funds as had been agreed in the 1606. Winchester College took the occasion to remind Frimley residents that they should be attending their mother church in Ash. Winchester College owned both Ash Manor and the right to appoint the Rector of Ash.
  • 1654 Frimley Chapel Bells: Chapel bells were recast due to cracking from wear and tear of use.
  • 1713 Memorandum by Dr. John Harris, Rector of Ash: This shows that little attention continued to be paid to the 1606 Agreement to pay the Frimley Curate a regular salary. Clearly, the Rector of Ash wanted his generosity to be recorded, but it is also clear that the Frimley Curate had to rely on the stipend paid by the Frimley Wardens and to hope for some type of remuneration from the Rector of Ash.
Ash Parish Register
  • 1750’s Frimley Chapelry Receives a Windfall: £20 was awarded to Frimley through the complicated process of land enclosure.  The Chapel Wardens used the money ‘to build an almshouse on the north side of Frimley Chapel. The building … was used for many years for the housing of parish paupers, but having become a public nuisance due to its ruinous state, the building was taken down (around 1810). The materials … were used in building a new workhouse, to complete which the inhabitants of the chapelry were under the necessity of borrowing £200”.
  • 1784 Repairs Needed: Churchwardens’ accounts show repair work was done to Frimley chapel.
  • 1818 Frimley Chapel Falling Down! Frimley Chapel was in a bad state of repair and it was decided to build a larger, more permanent structure. A petition was sent to the Lord of the Manor stating the case for a new Church: ‘we beg leave to solicit a small quantity of land of a very small value contiguous to the present churchyard for the erection of the new building and the extension of the burying ground’. The Society for Promoting the Enlargement and Building Churches (a voluntary organization set up to assist with the rising demand for new or restored churches in the 19th century) assisted with the funding.
  • 1824 Frimley Chapel Wardens Petition Rector of Ash: In 1675, Rev. Michael Woodward (Rector of Ash) left an annuity in his will to be yearly divided among the poor of Ash and Frimley. For 150 years, the Ash Rector passed on 1/3 of the annuity to the Frimley Chapel Wardens each year. In 1824, Frimley Chapel Wardens successfully petitioned for the money to be divided equally between the 2 communities “the increased population of Frimley fully warranted an alteration”.
  • 1826 St Peter’s Church, Frimley: A 450-seat Church, designed by J.T. Parkinson, was built just to the south of the old Frimley Chapel and was dedicated to St Peter; this is the present-day Frimley St Peter’s.

Images of Frimley Chapel by John Revell done in 1822

Frimley Chapel with Parsonage to the left
Baptism Font in Frimley Chapel
Frimley Parsonage
  • Select Sources
  • Exploring Surrey’s Past at https://www.exploringsurreyspast.org.uk/ (including Revell Sketches)
  • Chantry certificate for Frimley Chapel, Ash, issued by William Godwyn [Published in Surrey Archaeological Collections, vol. XXIV, p36]
  • Surrey Archaeological Collections, various volumes (available on Google Books)
  • The Victoria History of the County of Surrey (available on Google Books)
  • National Archives at https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/
  • Report of the Commissioners for Inquiring Concerning Charities 1824 (available on Google Books)
  • Surrey Church of England Parish Registers; Reference: FRM/1/1-3