The land given by the Coussmakers for the building of St. Mark's, Wyke, during a period of national upsurge in church and chapel construction, enabled work to start in 1846, including the setting out of a churchyard. A young architect by the name of Henry Woodyer, with an office in Guildford and related to both the Coussmaker and Halsey families, was commissioned to design this church for Wyke. St. Mark's was his first venture into designing and constructing a church having been previously concerned only with restoration work. He went on to design many other churches in Surrey and neighbouring counties.
As befits a first foray into church design from scratch, St. Mark's is an unpretentious building consisting of a chancel, a north vestry and a nave. It is in the then fashionable Geometric Decorated or Second Pointed Gothic style and is built of Bargate Stone rubble with Heath Stone foundations and quoins and Bath Stone dressings. The roofs are tiled and there is a small bell turret at the west-end. The Coussmaker family maintained their Memorial chapel and private mortuary, added to the main building in 1848, until 1962 when the family relinquished the rights of the chapel to the Parochial Church Council. The Coussmaker monument stands against the south wall of this chapel. There is also a memorial tablet to Henry Woodyer's parents, Caleb and Mary Woodyer, nee Halsey. A description of the interior of the chapel and other details may be found in "Westwood, the Story of a Surrey Estate".
St. Mark's, Wyke, consecrated in 1847 and obtaining full parish status in 1867, was endowed principally by the Coussmaker and Halsey families and with contributions from the Incorporated Church Building Fund and the Winchester Diocesan Fund. The church immediately became the focus of life in Normandy, as early records of baptisms, marriages and funerals record during the period when the Reverend W A Paxton travelled from Aldershot to take the services. The 1851 census gives the number attending services, 105 for the morning service and 114 in the afternoon, signed by Henry Freeman Cheshire, the resident Minister who at that time lived with his family in what is now Wyke Lodge. Although he and his wife went to live in Bath after his retirement in 1877, both are buried in the old churchyard here at Wyke.
Until Woking Crematorium was opened to the public in 1886, most people of all faiths in the area around St. Mark's were buried in the churchyard and a sizable amount of additional land was needed at that time for future burials. Consequently a quarter acre of land was acquired from Colonel George Coussmaker and in the 1930s further land was bought for a new burial ground although a church room was built on part of the land.
Since 1977 part of the burial ground has been set aside as a Garden of Remembrance in memory of Cyril Dyson, an active member of the church and a long serving member of the choir. Today this garden may be used as a resting-place for the ashes of parishioners. It is perhaps fitting that the churchyard is now a designated Site of Natural Conservation Interest in which grass cutting has to be restricted in order to permit the cowslips, the wild orchid and other plants to prosper.
To commemorate the addition of the burial ground to the churchyard, Major Leslie Gordon-Alexander, a local resident until 1937, produced a Register of Graves, on which he spent many hours skillfully documenting, with detailed notes and illustrations, designs uniquely symbolic to the church. It contains pages of 13th century style decorated borders with illuminated capital characters. On the front page is the ornate initial T and it contains the heraldic bearings of Venice, which are representative of St. Mark, the church's patron saint.
The coats of arms in the border are those of the successor Patron Bishops of Eton, Winchester and Guildford, and of the Coussmaker family. The symbol of the daisy, featured in the border, is the flower of April, representing the month in which the Coussmaker family donated the land for the building of the church. Three Signs of the Zodiac are set into the borders. They are Scorpio, referring to the date of the Order in Council constituting the Parish of Wyke, Taurus the Bull referring to the Deed of Gift of land by the Coussmakers and Sagittarius the Archer referring to the 24 November, the date the church was consecrated. This Register of Graves was entrusted to Miss Emily Booty, organist and choirmistress of the church for 40 years until 1954, and as a result was referred to over the years as "Miss Booty's Book". It is a most fascinating book and a valuable asset of the church.
The organ then was non-electric and the air reservoir required regular manual pumping in order to maintain a sufficient volume of air to replace that blown out in producing the musical notes. It was usual for a boy to be detailed to the task of "pumping the organ". The two Booty sisters, Emily and Alice, were well known in the village. Alice, who was lame, often accompanied her more active sister and like her was a keen chorister and churchgoer. They both lived at The Croft, Glaziers Lane. Emily and her other sister Mary were co-principals of Denehyrst School, Guildford.
In the north east corner of the churchyard, close to the Guildford Road and standing in distinctive isolation, is the elaborate chest tomb of Henry de Worms, Lord Pirbright of Henley Park, first Jewish Privy Councillor and one time Leader of the Anglo-Jewish Community, who died in 1903. In life he had distanced himself from his old religion when he married a Christian. A representative of King Edward VII attended the funeral, but the Jewish Community, saddened at the gradually deepened rift between themselves and Lord Pirbright and shocked further by his Christian burial, boycotted the service.
The Pirbright Tomb, a Grade II Listed Building, is nine feet long and about four feet wide and high. It has panelled sides decorated with Jacobean-style strap work with ribbands and swags of pomegranate. The top is supported on the chest and eight detached fluted balusters with Ionic capitals and moulded bases. The Pirbright coat of arms and inscriptions to Lord and Lady Pirbright, both interred in the tomb, are carved on the top. The tomb stands on a plinth with ogee moulded edges, which in turn stands on a two-step slab covering the sealed vault which contains the two caskets. On the steps around the tomb are placed inscribed tablets commemorating relatives of Lord Pirbright buried nearby. At the west-end is a small urn with Greek key and vine swag decoration.
A fascinating glimpse into family life and history of the past can be gleaned from the memorial tablets and headstones placed in the churchyard. Apart from the re-occurring family names, the dates of birth and death, they sometimes provide other oddities about a person. We can shed a tear for three little Deedmans, William, Thomas and Charles who all died in the same epidemic in 1881 and are buried together, and be thankful for modern medicines. Another family tragedy for the Deedmans was the loss of Susan, Jane and Mary all aged between 23 and 31 and who died in 1907, the cause of which we may never know be it an epidemic or a tragic accident.
It is no longer so easy to follow the threads of family life through the church records, which have reflected the trades of the people of that time, nurserymen, farmers, bricklayers, basket-makers, sawyers, as well as those who were employed in other occupations in the service of the large estates. From the turn of the 20th century other occupations emerged, particularly of those associated with the railway, and of soldiers, due no doubt to the close proximity of the developing garrison town of Aldershot.
Our present day shifting population and modern lifestyle will provide future historians with a much wider framework for research than hitherto. However, a note of some family names in the churchyard, such as Horne and Deedman will undoubtedly remain familiar to many future generations when visiting Normandy.
In the church porch a board records the long and valued association of the Weston family with St. Mark's. Jack Weston, born in 1906, lived with his parents Henry and Mary Weston in the schoolhouse. After the death of his father in 1935, Jack took over the duties as verger and school caretaker previously carried out by his parents. For 50 years Jack and his wife Ada faithfully carried out the many necessary tasks to keep the church and its environs in good order.
From about 1898, and in addition to his principal duties as headteacher of St. Mark's, Wyke School, Arthur Beer was Choirmaster and Organist at the church, where the choir sang at Morning and Evening Services every Sunday, dressed in cassock and surplice. The Sunday school became popular with the children of the village, encouraging them in weekly religious instruction and hymn singing, the regular attendance to which was all important if one wanted to go on the annual summer outing or be invited to the Christmas party and prize giving. Later, for the older child there was the Girls Friendly Society and for the older generations there was the Young Wives Group and the Mothers Union.
Between 1964 and 1967, whilst the Reverend Donald Faulkner was Vicar, extensive alterations, initiated by him and his Churchwardens Captain Craddock and Albert Cook, were made to the interior of the church. The former Coussmaker chapel was converted into a second vestry. The original organ of 1887 was replaced by a James Chettle Gomme organ, with an electrically operated pump, which was installed beside the font at the entrance to the church and the choir moved to pews alongside the organ. Captain Craddock who, at the time, had presented two clergy stalls to the church, retired in June 1966 after eleven years as Churchwarden and eight years as Treasurer. By 1992, the organ of the 1960s was itself the subject of much debate as to its replacement. It was finally decided that a conventional pipe organ take the place of the old James Chettle Gomme organ.
Albert Cook was, in his late teens, a lay reader at the Congregational Chapel, Willey Green but in later life he became very involved with St. Mark's. Between 1946 and 1980 he successively occupied the posts of Vicar's Warden, People's Warden and Churchwarden during which time he provided continuity to the affairs of the church by helping in the refurbishing, as a Lay Reader and assisting at services. It was during the period of alterations that the first Ecumenical Service for the village was held in the church room in April 1966. Later in April 1970, Sister Carol Graham, from Farncombe Ecumenical Community, was the first lady to preach from the pulpit on the occasion of St. Mark's Patronal Festival.
The Old Vicarage
During the time of the Reverend Graham Hawkett's long ministry, music was a feature of the church and the choir flourished. The Normandy Singers, formed in the 1970s during his time, gave musical recitals with poetry readings by Louise Hawkett. He and his family were the last to reside in the old vicarage, for following his retirement in 1985 it was sold. An interdenominational choir also called the Normandy Singers, started in 1991, practiced weekly and gave recitals or performed religious works wherever their services were requested. The Normandy Singers were finally disbanded at the end of 2004.
Over the next 14 years, the Reverends Neil Turton and Andrew Knowles successively followed Graham Hawkett as Vicar to St. Mark's. In 1996, a celebration service to mark the 150th Anniversary of the church was held on Sunday 28 April, the nearest to St. Mark's Day, attended by the Bishop of Guildford. In 1999 the Reverend Pauline Godfrey came to St. Mark's as Normandy's first woman priest.
St. Mark's Church Hall, built in 2000, replaced the church rooms of the 1950s (modernised in 1975), which started life as an army hut, placed between the present vicarage and the churchyard. The first church room, placed nearer to the old vicarage in about 1910, came to an abrupt end in December 1952 when soldiers, trying to be helpful, scored a direct hit on it by felling a large nearby oak tree. Their exit from the scene of devastation was indeed very fast.