Visiting Local Churches No. 16

St. Mary The Virgin, Pixham

Pixham is east of Dorking at the foot of Box Hill, sandwiched between the A24 and the A25. The church is not very obvious despite its position right on Pixham Lane, a short distance from the railway bridge. There is no spire, no tower or any overtly religious features that suggest that the building with its double gables and tall chimneys is a church. In fact it was designed so that it could be used for worship and for secular purposes.

A place to worship in Pixham all started in 1868 when a Miss Mary Mayo stood guarantee for a rent of a piece of land and a detached house in which evening services were held. Later in 1883 a corrugated iron building was constructed and evening services transferred to it from the house. In 1890 an altar and a small sanctuary were added. A dedication service by the vicar of St.Martins,Dorking was held in that year but no name was given to the church.

The ugly corrugated iron church was very hot in summer and bitterly cold in winter and Miss Mayo again came to the rescue. In 1903 a permanent "church room" was "allowed" and that resourceful lady commissioned none other than Edwin Lutyens, then a promising young architect, to design the building. The present building was born and dedicated on 10th December 1903. Lutyen's design was for a church room, a building that could be used not only for worship but also for secular meetings. He created one large room 25ft x 57ft, with a raised platform at the east end; beyond this a small room as a sanctuary, divided except during services by a curtain. To the north, a further room 16ft square with connecting lobbies completed the design. The west end was skilfully designed by Lutyens to indicate the religious aspect of the building; the semicircular tympanum of brick and stone.

The church still did not bear a saint's name until 22nd April 1990 when the Bishop of Guildford bestowed the saintly name of "St. Mary the Virgin" on Pixham church during its centenary year celebrations - some 57 years after its founder, Mary Mayo, died aged 98 years and 10 months.

Services every Sunday and other events are held at Pixham Church. It is not open weekdays, except by prior arrangement. (tel: 01306 882065); St Mary's is the daughter church of St.Martin's, Dorking.

Eric Burleton - from Abinger Common & Coldharbour Parish News, June 2003

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