A Very Brief History

St Mary’s, often known as “Chalk Church”, is from a geographical point of view quite separate from the village of Chalk and no one really knows why this is the case. Nevertheless, it is clear that the building has for many generations represented something highly significant to the people of the area. Indeed, there has been a place of Christian worship on the site for more than a thousand years. 

A church building existed here for the Synod of Chalkhythe in 785 and was noted in the Domesday Book of 1086. The current structure dates from the 12th century. Significant building also took place in the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries. The font is Norman and the oldest bell was first hung in 1348. The tower, a prominent landmark for navigation in the Thames, dates from the 15th century.

The church building was apparently well-known to and admired by Charles Dickens who on more than one occasion rented a cottage in Chalk, including for his honeymoon. (The forge in the village is thought to be the model for Joe Gargery's forge in Great Expectations.) The church building generally had a period of decline probably from the early 18th until the mid 20th century. This decline was partly halted by the energies of the Revd William Joynes who carried out a restoration in 1874. However, the real reversal of fortunes began after the Second World War. In this modern period, new bells, stained-glass windows, banners, a balcony and various modern facilities have been added in the same spirit as previous improvements, to the glory of God and the spiritual encouragement of all who come.

The building remains a wonderful historic monument and also a place of corporate worship for a committed Christian congregation. We have services at 10.30am every Sunday with a blend and pattern of traditional and some modern; we also have a quiet Communion Service at 8.30am on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of each month. In the evening there is a traditional service at 6pm at St Mary's on most Sundays. (The main exception is on 3rd Sundays of the month when there is usually an informal tea and service in the Parish Hall beginning at 5pm.) 

Every week over 100 people come to St Mary's because of a faith in Jesus Christ that is as relevant and enlivening today as it has always been. Through the lives of the congregation, day by day, St Mary’s tries to be at the heart of our community as a channel for God’s blessing. In particular, we hope that you enjoy and are blessed today and by any visit you make here in person.