All Saints Church with its commanding view of the ponds, is undoubtedly the place with the richest history in all of Carshalton. But what are the very oldest parts of the building? You’re going to find out…
We’re investigating the remaining parts of the original church that date way back to the early 1100s. The majority of the church you see from the ponds is of Victorian origin built circa 1892, but let’s uncover some of the more ancient history. Take a pew my friends…
An advantageous viewpoint
The distinctive church tower of All Saints is a focal point of Carshalton High Street. The tower foundations are the oldest surviving part of the church, dating back to circa 1100. The church at this time was owned by William the Conquerer, with 1084 being the very earliest known reference to a priest. It’s possible the tower dates even further back to Roman times, or was perhaps some kind of Viking watch tower originally. This would need further archaeological investigation.
Meet the Norman congregation
During Norman times (1066 – 1154), Britain had a feudal system in which the wealthy prospered while the rest laboured on the land. Carshalton may have had some rich people in the congregation, but most of the population in England were poor, couldn’t read, and spoke old English. This was a language with a Germanic vocabulary, very different from modern English.
Incidentally, there’s evidence of settlements in Carshalton dating to the iron age (400 to 100 BC), and it’s conceivable this area could have originally been a place of pagan worship. There was, for example, a farmstead close by, further up the hill at the corner of what is now Carshalton Park.
Became part of Merton Priory
The church then went into the ownership of Merton Priory, founded in 1114. As you can see from the diagram above, All Saints church at this time was a lot smaller than it is now. The earliest record we have of a named priest is Alanus Presbyter in 1179, who was installed by Geoffrey de Manville, the serving Lord of the Manor of Carshalton.
Above, is the first known image of an All Saints priest. The early priests were part of Merton Priory, and it’s likely they lived at the church, probably in the church tower.
Fortunately, a lot of the original church from this time still exists. The chancel, where the vicar stands at the front of a church, is pictured below. It’s now named The Lady Chapel.
Looking out from the chancel, you can see the site of the original church aisle down the centre (known as the nave). Plus you can see some Norman columns, dated circa 1190, still intact on the left side.
Became Church of England
Merton priory was demolished in 1538, and although All Saints started out as a catholic place of worship it became under the jurisdiction of King Henry VIII following the formation of the Church of England in 1534.
The history continues
Inside the church are memorials to many well known figures from Carshalton’s illustrious past. Perhaps more on those another time.
We endeavour to get the facts as accurate as possible but are always happy to adjust if new info comes to light. Thanks to the Father David and churchwarden Andrew for showing me around. We hope you enjoyed this brief overview of All Saints’ early history. Found this interesting? Please let us know your feedback below.