History of the Shrine in Minster Field

Ladywell Retreat shrine

The Shrine

A Brief History of the Shrine in Minster Field, Godalming

We know that there was an Anglo-Saxon settlement in Godalming in the late 6th and early 7th century. Because of the Anglo-Saxon belief that evil spirits or even human enemies would not cross water, the settlement was situated at the bottom of the present Holloway Hill. The ground was raised here and was bordered by the Rivers Wey and Ock. The rise of land behind Holloway Hill afforded perfect protection and the broad sweep of land in front down to the river gave good pasture and grazing land. Woodland surrounded the settlement and it was in that woodland that the Anglo-Saxons built their shrine to the God of War – Tew or Tiw, hence we have the name Tuesley in use today.

The Shrine itself

A visitation carried out by Dean Wanda in 1220, and recorded in the Register of the Cathedral Church of Salisbury, reads as follows – “There is also a chapel in the common field of Godalming towards Tiwerlei which is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin where was established the first church at Godalming. Celebrations are now held only three times during the year, that is to say on the Eve of the Assumption, the Purification and Nativity of the Blessed Virgin and this is done by reason of the great devotion for that place. And there has been a cemetery there from ancient times.”

It is difficult to put an exact date for the building of this church but when consideration was given to the materials used, the manner of construction, the position of the church itself, the opinion of those whose views one would feel inclined to accept, put the date as somewhere in the 7th century. At some stage it was certainly used for pagan worship but reverted to Christian use. Excavations carried out by J C Ramsden in 1869 revealed foundations of stone showing a nave, an eastern extension, a chancel. One compartment contained nine skeletons lying east to west. The site was again covered and the place marked.

Ladywell Retreat shrine