It is October 14th 1066.
The Battle of Hastings has just been fought. William, Duke of Normandy has been victorious over the Anglo-Saxon king Harold Godwinson who perished on the battlefield... This decisive battle paved the way for the Norman conquest of England.
William the Conqueror and his army then began their advance to London meeting small bands of resistance along the way. On Christmas Day 1066 William the First was crowned King of England.
One of Williams most trusted supporters was a Norman nobleman called William de Warrene who had fought alongside him at the Battle Hastings.
In 1088 William the First’s son, now King William the Second, or King Rufus as he was known, granted William De Warrene the title of Earl of Surrey which included the land known as the hundred of Cherchefelle. In the same year he was mortally wounded at the first siege of Pevensey Castle, whereby the earldom was passed to his son who became second Earl of Surrey.
It is believed that William De Warrene, Second Earl of Surrey ordered that Reigate Castle be built.
In 1150 the Earl de Warrene laid out a new town below the Castle. By 1170 Cherchefelle had become known as Reygate. This layout still forms the basis of modern day Reigate. If you look closely at the background of the mural you can make out a map of old Reigate. Most of the roads are still in place.
The large circular motif to the left The Seal of John De Warrene 7th Earl of Surrey dated to 1329. The image is a rebus which is a play on the family name of Warrene.
As well as Reygate, the Warrenes had several strongholds across England including Castle Acre in Norfolk, Wakefield and Conisbrough in Yorkshire, Stamford in Lincolnshire and Lewes in Sussex. The Castles were symbols of earthly power and next to them they built religious houses of faith and devotion. These were priories and small monasteries governed by a Prior. At Castle Acre and Lewes they built Cluniac priories but at Reigate the 6thEarl De Warrenne founded a priory and gave it to the new and popular order of St Augustine for a community of regular canons. His parents had already presented the Church at Reigate to the Augustinian Priory of St Mary Overie at Southwark.
The Augustinian order had reached England around 1100AD.They followed the rules laid down by Augustine, Bishop of Hippo in Africa in 395AD.
The Augustinian canons had more freedoms than monks from other orders and though they observed their rituals their vows included helping the world outside. The priory was a home for a religious community centred around a church. It would also provide a hospital, a dispensary, a refuge for the poor and homeless, a school, a guesthouse for travellers of all classes, pilgrims, merchants and even kings.
The large figure before you is Saint Augustine.
Augustine was a philosopher, theologian and doctor of the church.
He was bishop of Hippo Regius, the ancient name of the city, now known as Annaba, in modern day Algeria. He stands holding a crozier and wearing a mitre signifying his status as Bishop.
The symbolism of the heart can be attributed to two passages from the saint’s writings.
The first is from a comment on Proverbs 23:26,
“My son, give me thy heart and let thy eyes keep my ways.”
The second from Confessions IX 2:3,
“Thou hadst pierced our heart with thy love, and we carried thy words, as it were, thrust through our vitals”.
It is interesting to note that St Augustine is also the patron saint of brewers.
To quote Richard Symonds in his book A brewing Heritage, The story of Brewing in Reigate and Redhill,
English monasteries became noted for the quality of their ales and frequent references may be found in the regulations of the old monastic establishments. The duty of hospitality being the foremost function of the monks, the post of cellarer was an important one and not infrequently the cellarer was appointed Abbott. It is more than likely therefore, that brewing to some extent must have been carried on at Reigate Priory during its days as a monastery, and this inference may be borne out by the specific mention of hop fields among the lands of Reigate Priory in 1538.”
In the mural he stands looking towards the site of his priory.
If you look at the lower part of the mural you will see barley growing along the bottom.
Most monasteries and priories would have brewed their own beer.
They started brewing for reasons both religious and pragmatic. Beer was used as the sacred offering drink In an era when contaminated water killed people, beer was the safe drink to use.
The process was also considered a miraculous one.
Barley grains are steeped in water just until they germinate. The process is arrested by drying the grains, which are then cracked to expose the germinated seed. Germinated, dried barley is what is known to beer makers as malt.
The malt is then soaked in warm water to activate enzymes that convert the barley's carbohydrates to simple sugars.
After the malt cools, special strains of yeast are added, which ferment the brew by converting the sugars to alcohol. Fermentation then takes two to ten days.
The introduction of hops was the next evolution in brewing. Beer made using hops was imported from the continent. Initially the hopping of beer was severely discouraged by the authorities. The resultant beverage being described in 1437 as a ‘stew farmed by the foes of Flanders’
100 years later Andrew Boorde wrote in his book ‘A dietary of helth’ of beer having been much used in England to the detriment of many Englishmen.
This prejudice against hopped beer was quite widespread, for in 1531 Henry 8th- in some guidelines for the reform of abuses within the royal households -advised the brewer not to put any hops into the ale. It wasn’t until later in the 16th century that hops took the place of malted ale. From this point the term beer and ale became interchangeable.
Hops began to be grown extensively in the Holmsdale valley and continued as a valuable crop until the beginning of the 20th century.
You can see the hops growing around the border of the mural.
In 1530 John Lymden was the last Prior to be elected at Reigate.
In 1534 Henry 8th was refused an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. You can see him peering out behind St Augustine. King Henry decided to remove the Church of England from the authority of Rome. In 1534, the Act of Supremacy recognized Henry as "the only Supreme Head on earth of the Church of England". Between 1535 and 1540, under Thomas Cromwell, the policy known as the Dissolution of the Monasteries was put into effect. The veneration of some saints, certain pilgrimages and some pilgrim shrines were also attacked. Huge amounts of church land and property passed into the hands of the Crown and ultimately into those of the nobility and gentry.
In 1536 Lord Edmund Howard, the son of Lord Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey, was appointed as steward to manage the priory properties.
In 1539 Edmund died but in 1541 his daughter Catherine became queen of England and the priory was granted to Edmunds older half-brother William Howard.
After 300 years as a holy place and place of service to the community the priory had instead become a home to an important Tudor family.