A Brief History of Albury


The Pugin Chimneys in Albury village

Only the tall ornate chimneys above the houses in the village street indicate that here might be a village with a tale to tell. Albury is in fact unique among Surrey villages, being the only example of a 'village transplant'.

Old Albury

For hundreds of years the village with its mill, pub and cottages clustered around the village green; its ancient church stood as the focus of the village from Saxon times to the mid 19th century. The only unusual feature was its remarkably close proximity to the manor house.

The manor house underwent many changes over the years, particularly in the 17th century whilst in the ownership of the Howard family. Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel and Surrey, was responsible for the first alterations to the old medieval house.

His grandson, Henry, Sixth Duke of Norfolk, also made extensive alterations, and had the gardens laid out to the design of John Evelyn, famous diarist and landscape designer - complete with a wide 'canal' fed by the Tillingbourne river, terraces, fine trees, vineyards and a long tunnel through the hill rising behind the quarter-of-a-mile long terrace. Many of the Howard alterations were destroyed by a major fire in 1697, and the house was rebuilt by the then owner, Heneage Finch, afterwards First Earl of Aylesford, Solicitor-General to Charles II.

The Finch family retained Albury manor-house throughout the 18th century, the Fourth Earl of Aylesford selling the house and estate to his brother Captain William Clement Finch in 1782, a naval captain who acquired a fortune as a result of his capture of a Spanish ship. This change of ownership coincided with the period when it became fashionable for the Lord of the Manor to live in the isolation of a big house in a private park.

Inevitably, Captain Finch set about creating more space for himself. He obtained magistrates' orders in l784/5 to close or re-route a number of roads through the Park, enclosed the village green, incorporated part of the churchyard into his grounds, and so harassed the villagers that some of them moved away to the nearby hamlet of Weston Street, (the present Albury).

After Finch's death in 1794, the village was reprieved for a while, although the harassment was to continue later. In 1819 Albury Park was purchased by the banker and parliamentarian Henry Drummond, an eccentric man with the wealth and influence to implement his ideas. He became a leading force in the Catholic Apostolic Church, and showed his single-minded pursuit of his beliefs by hosting an annual conference at Albury Park and by funding the building of the Apostles Chapel at Albury for the Catholic Apostolic Church.

In the meantime, the Parish Church was in urgent need of repair and maintenance, so it was against this background that Henry Drummond applied to the Bishop of Winchester in 1839 for the closure of the old church in Albury Park, offering to build a new church at Weston Street, where most of the parishioners were by then living. The old church was closed by Act of Parliament in 1840 and the last service held in December l841. Thus the present village was founded and the original swept away.

Although Drummond had arranged the closure of the old church, he maintained a close interest in it, retaining the architect Augustus Pugin to refurbish the south transept as a mortuary chapel for the Drummond family - a gem of 19th century church art.

Pugin was also employed to entirely alter the external appearance of Albury Park Mansion between l846 and l852. A prominent feature of the house, and of Pugin's work, are the 63 chimneys, all different and all researched from genuine Tudor originals.

The "village transplant" did not take place without opposition, which principally came from Martin Tupper, the philosopher and author who lived at Albury House. But his protest and petition to the Bishop of Winchester were of no avail.

He did however have more success when Drummond tried to prevent all access to the old church in 1855; the Bishop ruled that parishioners were 'free to enter at all reasonable hours'.

Albury Today

Albury Park and the Estate passed from the Drummonds into the hands of the Dukes of Northumberland in 1890 and remain there today, with the exception of the house and seven acres of garden.

The Old Church is vested in The Churches Conservation Trust as a building of outstanding historic appeal and architectural merit. It is open to the public daily throughout the year, and three services are held annually, an Easter Reflection, a midsummer service and a Christmas Carol Service.

The Street, Albury

Since the last of the 'Apostles' of the Catholic Apostolic Church died in 1901 the Apostles Chapel has not been used for services, but kept in readiness for the Second Advent of Christ. It is not open to the public, but its fine exterior stands out when viewed from the A25 coming down the hill from Newlands Corner before the turning off to Albury.

Much of the architecture of Albury stems from the mid 19th century when it experienced something of a rebirth due to the 'village transplant'. But it is the multifaceted chimneys commissioned by Henry Drummond that are the most distinctive feature - the chimneys are quintessential Albury, past and present.