Posts Tagged ‘St Mary’s Church’

Lunchtime Concert St Mary’s Church

August 5, 2010
Lunchtime Concert St Mary's Church

Lunchtime Concert St Mary's Church

A Lunchtime Concert at St Mary’s Church in Guildford. Mathew Rickard on piano and Michael Jeffries on flute. The concert was in aid of St Mary’s building fund.

Beautiful and haunting music from Bach, Handel, Mozart, Debussy, Faure.

An excellent concert. It was a pity it was not recorded with a simple cross-paired microphone.

St Mary's Church

St Mary's Church


St Mary’s is the oldest church in Guildford. The tower dates from around 1050 AD and is the town’s oldest pre-conquest building. Norman columns and arches dominate the interior. Somewhat unusual it is twinned with Holy Trinity Church at the top of the High Street. I thought this was our secular society, churches and parishes having to time share the same vicar, but I learnt this was not the case. When Charles Dodgson was involved with St Mary’s this arrangement existed. I spoke with the Curate who took the service and he told me that the parish had two churches and this arrangement had existed since at least 1699. As well as occasionally preaching at St Mary’s, the funeral of Charles Dodgson also took place in St Mary’s.

Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) occasionally preached at St Mary’s. He and his sisters lived at Chestnuts, a house only a few minutes walk from St Mary’s.

Also see

Life of Lewis Carroll in Guildford

Life of Lewis Carroll in Guildford

July 19, 2010
Chestnuts – home of Lewis Carroll and his sisters in Guildford

Chestnuts – home of Lewis Carroll and his sisters in Guildford

Fight for your dreams, and your dreams will fight for you. — Paulo Coelho

It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting. — Paulo Coelho

An excellent talk by Mary Alexander, curator of Guildford Museum, on the Life of Lewis Carroll in Guildford, drawing upon his journals.

The Rev Charles Dodgson lived three lives (apart from that as the writer Lewis Carroll), he lived at Christchurch College Oxford, lived in Guildford with his sisters, spent time in Eastbourne on holiday.

Charles Dodgson came from a large family. His father was ordained, as was his grandfather. It was a tradition for the men of the family to go into either the army or the church. Charles Dodgson chose neither, his preferred profession was mathematics at Oxford.

To hold a position at Christchurch it was necessary to be ordained. He also could not marry.

He was very religious and would attend church twice on a Sunday. Not always the same church. Although ordained, he chose not to go into the Church, but he did occasionally preach.

After he was ordained, it was six months before he delivered his first sermon. He was pretty relaxed about it. He made no preparation the night before on the grounds he was too tired. Over breakfast he made a few notes.

He gave a few more sermons over the next few years, then nothing for twenty years.

He noted in his journal that he felt unworthy to enter the church, but intriguingly does not say why. This has opened the door to worthless speculation that too often gets reported as fact.

None of his sermons survive, but he was known as a good story teller, we can therefore only speculate. A contemporary account speaks well of his sermons.

One myth to be knocked on the head: He did not befriend children because he did not get on well with adults. He had an active social life whilst in Guildford. He also had several female friends.

Note: Edward Wakeling (Lewis Carroll researcher and editor of the Dodgson Journals) makes a similar point in a talk he gave a few years previous to the Lewis Carroll Society. Charles Dodgson was a socialite! Edward Wakeling slams biographers for perpetuating myths, for writing what readers wish to hear to sell more copies, for failing to use primary sources, and even when they do, failing to comprehend the context. All very basic for historical research. [see The Real Lewis Carroll]

In his talk Edward Wakeling cites a lovely example from the Dodgson journals relating to St Mary’s (only it was St Mary’s Oxford, not Guildford!):

Dec: 6. (Sun). “Preached at St. Mary’s, at the evening service. One of our Chaplains, the Rev. Sydney Baker, is curate in charge, and had asked for my help. It was indeed a privilege to be thankful for – but a formidable task: I had fancied there would be only a small audience, and the church was full, as well as the West Gallery, and the North one partly filled as well. I took as text Mark IX, 24, and the sermon lasted about 18 minutes.”

The Dodgsons moved to Guildford from Croft in Yorkshire when their father died and the rectory had to be vacated.

Cross given to St Mary's by sisters of Charles Dodgson

Cross given to St Mary's by sisters of Charles Dodgson


His sisters were also active in the Parish, helping with good causes. The brass cross on the altar at St Mary’s is believed to have been given by his sisters. They are known to have given St Mary’s a cross and there is no record of a subsequent cross.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was written in Oxford following a story telling for his friend Alice Liddell. Through the Looking-Glass was part written in Guildford.

He liked walking. He would walk to Albury. Or walk to Farnham along the Hog’s Back and return on the train.

His death was sudden and a shock. He took ill with flu, it went to his chest and he never recovered. His funeral was poorly attended. He lies buried in Guildford. His sisters placed a simple white cross on his grave with the words ‘Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) fell asleep Jan. 14, 1898.’

Mary Alexander has written a booklet, Lewis Carroll and Guildford, published by Guildford Museum (July 2010). The front cover is illustrated with Chestnuts, the house a few minutes walk from St Mary’s where Charles Dodgson lived with his sisters.

Mary Alexander was an excellent speaker, knowledgeable on her subject, it was therefore very unfortunate that most of her talk was drowned out by the ringing of the church bells. Pleasant walking to the church, but a headache once inside.

Mary Alexander and Edward Wakeling

Mary Alexander and Edward Wakeling


The talk was followed by Matins. Mary Alexander read the two lessons, Selwyn Goodacre, from the Lewis Carroll Society, gave the sermon.

Selwyn Goodacre spoke of the religious aspect of the life of Charles Dodgson. It was not the odd sermon, or regular attendance at church, it permeated all aspects of his life. Father of Selwyn was ordained and a good friend of Father Somerset Ward. Father Somerset Ward draw religious and spiritual insight from Alice.

I was reminded of Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho. Not because his style is similar to Lewis Carroll (as it is not) or that he writes nonsense (as he does not) but the spiritual element of his writing. The Alchemist is a fairy tale of sorts. Alice descends into a dream, Santiago follows his dreams.

Two of the hymns had a Lewis Carroll connection.

Breathe On Me Breath of God, written by Edwin Hatch, father of the three Hatch sisters who were friends of Lewis Carroll. Evelyn Hatch went on to edit the 1933 volume of The Letters of Lewis Carroll. Selwyn met Ethel Hatch many years ago when she was over 100 years old!

All Creatures of Our God and King, written by W H Draper who married one of Lewis Carroll’s friends. Selwyn has written a booklet about Lewis Carroll and W H Draper.

The pulpit from which Mary Alexander gave her talk and Selwyn Goodacre the sermon, is the same pulpit used by Charles Dodgson.

Matins was followed by sherry, which I thought was very kind and generous of St Mary’s.

Members of the Lewis Carroll Society went off to have lunch. I decided to follow the example of Charles Dodgson and took myself for a walk along the River Wey to St Catherine’s Lock.

St Mary's Church

St Mary's Church


St Mary’s is the oldest church in Guildford. The tower dates from around 1050 AD and is the town’s oldest pre-conquest building. Norman columns and arches dominate the interior. Somewhat unusual it is twinned with Holy Trinity Church at the top of the High Street. I thought this was our secular society, churches and parishes having to time share the same vicar, but I learnt this was not the case. When Charles Dodgson was involved with St Mary’s this arrangement existed. I spoke with the Curate who took the service and he told me that the parish had two churches and this arrangement had existed since at least 1699. As well as occasionally preaching at St Mary’s, the funeral of Charles Dodgson also took place in St Mary’s.

Charles Dodgson and his sisters lived at Chestnuts, a house only a few minutes walk from St Mary’s.

Curiouser and Curiouser: A programme of events in Guildford, part of (though extending beyond) the Guildford Summer Festival.

The Lewis Carroll Society meet at places associated with Lewis Carroll.

Serendipity: Little did I know when I took the photo at St Mary’s of Mary Alexander and Charles Wakeling comparing notes, that Charles Wakeling had made a similar point to Mary Alexander on Dodgson Myths in a talk he had given to the Lewis Carroll Society a few years earlier. A talk I literally stumbled upon a few days later! Synchronicity? [see The Real Lewis Carroll]

Also see

Legacy of Lewis Carroll

Tai Chi in the Jabberwocky Maze