A Short History of St. Andrew's
Kingswood was in existence before the Norman Conquest and is mentioned in the Domesday Book. It was granted by Henry II, together with Selwood (both as portions of the Manor of Ewell), to the Prior and canons of Merton Priory. We know that there was a chapel in the hamlet of Kingswood well before the middle of the 15th c. because such a chapel is specifically mentioned in the deed of endowment of the Vicarage of Ewell in 1458, when it was described as 'being of long standing'. It was then stipulated that the Vicar of Ewell should be under no obligation to celebrate mass or go to the hamlet of Kingswood, but that the Prior of Newark, who held the rectory, should provide a priest to do duty as chaplain. It was further ordained by this deed that if an inhabitant of Kingswood died and his corpse was taken to Ewell for interment the vicar should meet the funeral procession at Provost's Cross, on the south side of Ewell. This it was alleged 'had been a custom from ancient time'. Where this chapel stood and for how long it had been in existence is not known. No more is heard of it after the dissolution of Merton Priory in 1539. The Manor of Kingswood then reverted to the Crown and was annexed to the Honour of Hampton Court, Henry VIII's huge hunting domain.
From then on the inhabitants of Kingswood had to walk the 5 miles to Ewell (and back!) to worship at the Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin. This was still very much the situation when Thomas Alcock, already the owner of Kingswood Warren for several years, purchased the whole of the Kingswood manorial estate in 1835. One of the first tasks the new Lord of the Manor set himself was to provide the inhabitants of Kingswood with their own place of worship. Thanks to the generosity of the Alcock family and a number of other subscribers a small rectangular church, described as being 'in the Norman style', and substantially built of brick and flint with a slated roof, was erected along the Brighton Road. It was dedicated to St. Andrew and was consecrated on 14th January 1836. The new church contained 152 sittings, all of which were said to be 'free and unappropriated for ever'.
Kingswood still remained a part of Ewell Parish as it had been for centuries, but finally, by an Order in Council dated 11th September 1838, a new ecclesiastical district, which included an adjoining section of the Parish of Banstead, was created. The new district was to be known as the Consolidated Chapelry of St. Andrew, Kingswood and had a population of 561 inhabitants. It soon became apparent that the building put up in 1835 was too small to accommodate the number of worshippers in Kingswood and Thomas Alcock decided to build a new, larger church, this time entirely at his own expense. In younger years Thomas Alcock had been a frequent house guest of the Vansittart family at Shottesbrooke Park, in Berkshire. During his visits there he worshipped at the 14th c. Church of St. John the Baptist, situated on the Shottesbrooke estate and he was so taken with the building that he decided to have an exact replica of it built in Kingswood. He asked the architect Benjamin Ferrey to take charge of the project. Benjamin Ferrey (1810-1880) was eminently qualified to carry out this commission. He had been apprenticed as a draughtsman to the elder Pugin and had travelled widely with his master in England and Normandy measuring and drawing medieval buildings. He eventually became one of the best architectural draughtsman of his day. He later entered the office of William Wilkins, where he was employed on the detail drawings of the National Gallery. In 1834 he set himself up as an architect in Great Russell Street and in 1841 he was appointed hon. diocesan architect of Bath and Wells. In 1842 he superintended the restoration of the nave, transepts and Lady Chapel of Wells Cathedral. In 1843 he designed the Church of St. James in Morpeth and in 1845 he designed the Church of St. Stephen in Rochester Row, Westminster. This building in particular won him the support of the all-powerful Ecclesiologists, who saw the revival of Gothic architecture as a means of reviving the Anglican Church.
Building on the new St. Andrew's Church, on a site some 100 yards to the north of the 1836 chapel, started in 1848 and was superintended by a Mr. Sargent, using all local labour. It was finished in 1852 and cost between £8,000 and £10,000. The spire was only added some two years later, although it is not quite clear whythis was left out at the time. We know at least from the speeches made at the time of the Consecration that the reasons for the omission were not financial.
A ring of six bells, bearing the name of the masterfounders Charles and George Mears, with the date of 1852, was cast by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. Even today, these bells are acknowledged to be one of the best peals in Surrey.
The Consecration of the new church took place on 23rd September 1852. The Bishop of Winchester, Charles Richard Sumner, officiated at the ceremony, which was attended by neighbouring clergy, as well as local dignitaries and gentry. (It is worth noting that Kingswoood started off in the Diocese of Winchester, was then transferred to the Diocese of Rochester in 1877 and finally became part of the newly created Diocese of Southwark in 1905.) A local paper of the time reported that after the service 'a substantial dinner was served up in one of Mr. Edgington's large and elegant tents, to which all Mr. Alcock's tenancy, labourers and inhabitants of the district were invited. Altogether there could not have been less than 400 who partook of Mr. Alcock's hospitality, exclusive of a large party who dined at the hon. gentleman's residence'.
The old chapel down the road continued to be used as a day and Sunday school and as a parish room. When the Tadworth Board School was opened on the Common opposite the Old Vicarage in 1876 the old church was still used as a church hall for some time before finally falling into disrepair. The plot with what remained of the building was sold in 1930 and the proceeds of the sale, the sum of £105, went towards the building of a parish hall in Tadworth (which, it must be remembered, was still part of the Parish of Kingswood at the time). The ruins of the old Kingswood church were still visible as late as the 1950s and were often mistaken for the remnants of a much older building. A bungalow was built on the site in the 1960s.