This church was not, as stated on the plaque in the porch, built in 1847, however the ecclesiastical Parish was formed out of part of the Maresfield Parish on 17th June 1847. The building was actually constructed some three years earlier.
However there is no doubt that a church existed here long before then. There was a chapel dedicated to St Mary in the Manor House of Maresfield built and endowed by Richard d'Aquila who died in 1176. Mary's Field, hence Maresfield, seems to have been the original name of the parish. In 1372 this Free Chapel of Notlye, as it was called, was endowed with 60 acres of land and in 1372 it was included in a gift to his third son, John of Gaunt, by Edward III. John of Gaunt was patron to the great reformer John Wycliffe, and there is evidence that Wycliffe officiated in the chapel towards the end of his life when he was compelled to withdraw from active ministry and shelter under his patron's protection.
There also appears to have been another church, dedicated to St George, on the site between Nutley and Chelwood Gate, later occupied by Chapelwood Manor. It was on the site of this church, or possibly on the site of the Free Chapel, that in the mid 19th century, long after it had been used for worship, a receptacle which had been used as a drinking place for cattle was identified as the original church font! The then Rector of Maresfield had it moved to his church where it still remains, despite a few attempts to bring it to Nutley where some consider it should rest.
Here are two pictures of the nave, one looking East the other West.
The organ, below, replaced a worn out instrument of 1878 built by Holdich of Islington. The current organ was acquired from Wood Wordsworth of Leeds in 1968 for the sum of £2000.
The windows below are in the north wall. The one on the left depicts Mary and Martha, the two sisters of Lazarus, who lived at Bethany. It is memory of the Cook family who lived at Nutley Hall at the beginning of the 20th century. The second is of St George and St Christopher and is memory of Harry Peckham's eldest son, an army officer who was drowned.
The attractive lancet windows below are in the south wall.
From the 1882 Kelly's directory:
"The church of St. James the Less, erected in 1845, is a stone building, consisting of chancel and nave, in the Early English style, with a north aisle and vestry, added in 1871: it contains a very handsome carved wood pulpit and stalls, the work of and presented by Mrs. Noble, of Forest Lodge. The register dates from the year 1847. The living is a vicarage, yearly value £120, with residence, in the gift of the rector of Maresfield and is held by the Rev. Harry John Peckham B.A. of Balliol College, Oxford."
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