4th - How St Mary of Bethany Church came to be
For some people, the church can be a bit like a Tardis: it’s much bigger on the inside than it appears to be from the outside. We know our particular church building, squeezed between York Road and Mount Hermon Road in Woking, is a bit like that. It’s almost invisible from the road but, for those who step inside, there is a whole community which comes together, worships together, supports each other and serves our wider community.
In this series for Advent we want to open some windows so everyone can see a bit more of who we are and what goes on in a church like ours.
St. Mary of Bethany church is here because of the foresight of Rev. William Frederic Tucker Hamilton. He could see, while he was vicar of Christ Church, that a church plant was required for the rapidly growing south of Woking. He bought three plots, two in Mount Herman Road in 1896 and one in York Road in 1899. When he left to be vicar of Cromer in 1905 he paid for the building of the church.
William Hamilton was the last but one survivor (his unmarried daughter survived him) of a branch of the Hamilton clan. His Hamilton line can be traced back to the 13th century but our story starts around 1650 with William’s great-great-great-great grandfather John.
The book takes us through the stories of his family, his wife’s Stanley family and his mother’s Tucker family. Through marriage the families had links with a Governor of Bermuda, a director of the East India Company, William Booth the founder of The Salvation Army and the friendship of the Duke of Wellington. The families were influential, and wealthy. William, though, and to some extent his father, broke the family mould of military involvement and making money to become a Clergyman and spend his wealth for the benefit of others especially on the new town of Woking, Surrey in the late Victorian and early Edwardian period.
About me: I have worshipped at St Mary of Bethany almost since the day I was born. I sang in the choir from the age of 8 until it was disbanded in the 1990’s. I was a member of the Youth Fellowship, married Gill here in 1973 and have been a member of many house groups. No one seemed to have any thoughts about St Mary’s centenary in 2007 so I decided to research and write a history. Thanks to Raymond Lee, vicar 1962-1970, who had also been a keen collector of the church history and William Hamilton’s connection with St Marys I had a ready-made early history with newspaper cuttings from 1906/7. Finding that William Hamilton was not the first vicar set me on another 12-year research trail which has resulted in this book.