Catholic Apostolic Church

Catholic Apostolic Church

Henry Drummond was a man of ability and distinction. He was a Member of Parliament and a leading figure in the City of London, he was also the patron of the parish of Albury and, as such, possessed the right to nominate its Rector for appointment by the Bishop. Drummond's interest in the church, however, extended far beyond the power and influence that it conferred on him. He was a man who had a developed spiritual awareness.

Within five years of his buying the mansion in Albury Park in 1819 Drummond had gathered about him a group of associates to examine and discuss the teachings of the charismatic Scottish preacher, Edward Irving. Irving's interpretation of the Book of Revelation, which excited wide interest at the time, was later to evolve into the doctrines which were to distinguish him from his Presbyterian origins and, eventually, to his establishing a distinct church.

Drummond's group met regularly, and from 1826, it conducted series of annual conferences at Albury Park to examine the manifestations and teachings of Irving's ideology. The Rector of Albury, the Reverend Hugh McNeile and a number of other Church of England clergy joined in these events. But as Irving's teaching took a stronger hold over Drummond's associates, and particularly after 1832 when his followers established their own Catholic Apostolic Church in the Newman Street Church in London, the Reverend McNeile became anxious to disassociate himself from them. Relations between McNeile and Drummond worsened and the two men were set on divergent courses. Drummond withdrew from the Parish Church in that year and it is said that he did not attend services in it again. McNeile began to preach against the Irvingite movement, but by 1836 the new Catholic Apostolic Church had sufficiently grown in strength and confidence to be able to assert itself by delivering to the Church of England and to King William IV a statement of its distinct, but catholic, position.

The leaders of the new Apostolic Church continued to meet in the mansion only a short distance from the Parish Church that had represented the established Church of the country in Albury for hundreds of years, and Drummond and McNeile remained neighbours.

Drummond's idea for the parish was that it would have a new Parish Church a mile away from the Park in the resited Albury village and a separate Catholic Apostolic church would be built across the Tillingbourne, in sight of his mansion.

The Old Saxon Church would be closed, but would be repaired and its thirteenth century south transept would be transformed into a mortuary chapel for the Drummond family.

In 1839 Drummond engaged the twenty seven year old Augustus Welby Pugin as architect for the new mortuary chapel in the Old Saxon Church. It was he who was responsible for the design of its elaborate glowing red, blue and gold interior that visitors see today.

In the same year Drummond began to build the Catholic Apostolic Church near Sherbourne. For both new churches Drummond appointed as architect William Macintosh Brookes, who at that time had a number of commissions in the Winchester Diocese in which Albury found itself then. Brookes had been admitted to the Royal Academy Schools in 1822 and had done work in Peterhouse, Cambridge and had built the Town Gaol in Cambridge. Brookes' first major ecclesiastical work was repair work on St Michael's, Wood Street, London, and in 1835 he was engaged to build Dorking Church. This was completed in 1837, only to be demolished thirty six years later and replaced by the St Martin's church we see there today. Brookes was working in London on St Ann and St Agnes' Church, Gresham Street when he was invited to undertake the building of the two Albury Churches. Drummond, characteristically, had decided views about the style of his two new churches, and Brookes was a competent interpreter of them.

The Catholic Apostolic Church at Sherbourne was to be in the 15th century Gothic style, and Brookes' design for it was an early example of the Gothic revival that was to play such a significant part in English church architecture later in the century.

He completed the Catholic Apostolic Church in 1840. It is a remarkable example of the Gothic style set in idyllic surroundings, and it immediately achieved Drummond's aim of establishing for the young Apostolic Church a distinctive and distinguished focus.

The two new churches were, in architectural terms, to refer back to the mediaeval orthodox style of building. This was the style that the young Pugin and his followers had begun to identify as the essential link between church building and the doctrine of Catholicism, in its widest sense, which was shared by both the Church of England and the Catholic Apostolics.

The interior is rectangular under a single span roof. The Rose Window was designed by Pugin. The windows in the north and south transepts were designed by Drummond's younger daughter, Lady Rokewode Gage. There is some fine woodcarving by the local craftsman Anthony Browne.

The materials used to build the Chapel are local, the stone from Ewhurst and the timber from Drummond's Estate.