St George’s Church, Crowhurst
The church stands on a probable pagan site at the top of the hill on the road from Crowhurst Lane End to Lingfield. It was dedicated in 1191 to St George, the new patron saint of England. Enter the churchyard via the Lych gate to view the magnificent 4000 year old yew, one of the 50 Great British Trees named in honour of the Queen’s Jubilee. The hollowed out trunk was fitted with seats and a door. It was used for revelry, meetings and refuge
The church is of simple design, altered and expanded with a modern steeple due to a fire in 1947. The building was badly damaged in a skirmish during the Civil War and a canon ball, which still exists, was found in the yew tree. There are furrows in the stonework of the porch entrance caused by bowmen sharpening their arrow heads.
The font is a rare 13th Century example with fascinating medieval graffiti. Some are symbols to ward off evil spirits, homage to cult of Mary and others are unexplained. On either side of the altar are the 15th Century tombs of John Gaynesford and his son. In the floor is an iron grave slab, the only one in the country and a relic of the local iron industry. There are later memorials to the other great family, the Angell’s of the Mansion House. The East wall is covered in paintings and mosaics in memory of the Cottenham family and paid for by them. The Victorian window in the Vestry depicts St George and the dragon.
On leaving, take the southern path to see the old tombs, the flagpole and the War Memorial by the steps. Visitors from all over the world come to see the yew and discover the beauty of the church. It is a place of pervasive spirituality, peace and is very much loved.
Sunday services at St George’s are held at 11am. The service is usually a Eucharist but sometimes we have a non-eucharistic service.
On Sunday 1 March 2015 a confirmation service was held – the first time St George’s had hosted a bishop for 30 years! The picture below shows the full church on that occasion.
On Sunday 26 April Nick Mayhew Smith (author of the book ‘Britain’s Holiest Places’) preached at our morning service. He helped celebrate the significance for so many, regulars or pilgrims passing through, of the great yew in the churchyard.
The parish church is dedicated to St George, and is architecturally Grade II listed, mostly built from the 12th to the 15th centuries, has a chancel that was repaired and made plain in 1657. The spire was rebuilt after a fire in 1947.
Wall monuments are here to: Justinian Angell (d. 1680) Margaret Gainsford (d. 1691) and a wall tomb to Richard Marryott (d. 1675). A larger tomb chest is to John Gaynesford (d. 1450).
The small village of Crowhurst lies about two miles north of Lingfield and has what is thought to be one of the oldest yew trees in the country. Estimated to be around 4,000 years old the yew in St George’s Churchyard is more than twice the age of the church.
The church itself is of Norman origin and closely associated with the Gainsford family who lived in the nearby manor house Crowhurst Place between the 14th and 17th centuries.