It is generally believed that there has been a religious building on the site of St. Nicolas since Norman times. While just the font survives which is that old, mention of a church in Chute has been found going back to 1320, and it is known that Bishop Roger de Mortival consecrated a church in Chute, called St. Nicolas, in 1325.
Whether the previous 1815 church was destroyed by fire, as has been suggested, leading to the present building being built, nobody can be certain, but the current 1872 building was certainly constructed under the charge of J.L. Pearson, an eminent architect of the Victorian era. Shortly afterwards, he also designed St. Nicolas’ sister church of St. Mary’s, Chute Forest.
St. Nicolas is generally reckoned to have been re-built in 1869-72, and was reopened for worship, but not consecrated, on 15th August 1872 by George, Lord Bishop of Salisbury. The building specification is particularly notable with its original J.L. Pearson signature, and general advice that :
“The whole of the works to be done in the best manner in accordance with the drawings and specification and to the entire satisfaction of the Architect.”
Imagine defending that in a 21st century courtroom!
Built in the early English Geometric style, the current ‘Pearson’ church is a Grade II listed building, the listing document making specific reference to the flint with brick dressing construction, and slate roofs.
The oldest part of St. Nicolas is the font, which is mid-Norman (c1100-1150). It has been described architecturally as:
“having a large bowl with 3 bands of zigzag and lozenge ornament”.
Discovered in pieces in the wall of the Nave when the church was rebuilt in 1871, it has been skilfully pieced together, with only a small part of the stonework not the original. Miss Victoria Wellesley, a direct descendant of the Duke of Wellington, presented the beautifully carved oak cover on Christmas Day, 1876.
Standing in front of the font and looking towards the high altar, the viewer is presented with an unusual sight, in that there is a distinct angle in the aisle, under the Chancel arch. Some would believe that this is a deliberate attempt to reflect Christ’s body lying down – others would explain this phenomenon as an attempt by the Victorians to realign the church to face east. But arguably the most plausible suggestion is that when the Victorians rebuilt either the Nave or the Chancel, they encountered some remnants from the previous church that they tried to avoid, possibly a crypt under the choir stalls.
Notable monuments in and around the church include those to:
Samuel Collins (died 1679).
Lady Scroges of Chute Lodge (died 1746).
Elizabeth Earle (died in 1780).
Edward Scroggs and his wife Mary (the grand-daughter of Sir Philip Medows), who died in 1784 and 1805 respectively;
Sir Sidney Medows’ who died at the age of 92, in 1792.
Evelyn Philip Medows, Esq, who died in 1826, aged 89.
William Thomas Fowle, George Fowle and Revd. Henry Fowle, who died in 1837, 1863 and 1865 respectively.
William Fowle and his wife, Harriet, who died in 1840 and 1842 respectively.
Lt. Col. Sydney Scroggs (Edward’s son) and his wife Sibyll Jane, who died in 1845 and 1848 respectively;
Thomas Fowle who died in 1877.
Emma Everett (died 1888), the daughter of William Fowle.
Augusta Sophia Anne Wellesley, the Lady Augusta Wellesley (1820 to 1893).
Lady Sybil Eccles, wife of the former Lord Chancellor Viscount Eccles, who died in 1977.
In the north east corner of the sanctuary is a stained glass window presented in memory of the first vicar appointed to the present church, the Revd. Lancelot Ridley, who is buried in the churchyard to the north of the church. Both this window, and the east window, are by the London firm of Clayton and Bell. The firm was founded in 1850, and must have had a close connection with John Pearson as they made windows for a good number of his churches, including Truro Cathedral and St. Augustine’s, Kilburn. Unfortunately, the firm’s records, which may have included details of the two St. Nicolas windows, were destroyed by the 1940 Blitz.
The east window bears the dedication “To The Glory Of God And To The Dear Memory Of William Fowle Esq., Of Harriet His Wife And Of Their Sons William Henry And Frederick All Of Chute Lodge”.
St. Nicolas has a number of altar frontals that are changed periodically, including a blue one, with matching pulpit fall and collection bags, made from the same material used for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
A full history is available in the church itself.