The first priest at Willingdon on record is Godfrey, mentioned in the Domesday Book. He was a sub-tenant of Robert, Count of Mortain, and held one hide and one virgate of land, about 100 acres. Before the Conquest in 1066, the Manor was held by Earl Godwin. It was granted to Robert, who was a benefactor of the Abbey of Grestain in Normandy.
Bishop Seffrid of Chichester in 1200 refers to a church here and Bishop Simon, two years later, to a vicarage, with endowments to the Priory of Wilmington, an offshoot of Grestain.
After the confiscation of the monasteries in 1413, Willingdon was granted by the King to the Dean and Chapter of Chichester.
Two bombs caused extensive damage to the building in June and July 1944, including extensive damage to the roof and the destruction of most of the windows in the south wall. In 1946-47 the church interior was redecorated and many alterations carried out.
The ancient dedication of the church is lost, however in 1946 the Bishop of Chichester dedicated the church to St Mary in recognition of the previous existence of a Lady Chapel.
Here is the view as you enter the church from the south door. Preparations for a service were in hand when we visited, the building was warm and all the lights were on. The rood, an anonymous gift in 1954, was designed by Sir Ninian Compter and is a copy of the one in Wakefield Cathedral, depicting Mary and John either side of the crucified Christ.
Here is a view of the altar and east window, and the nave looking west. Pictures and descriptions of the windows in the church are on a separate page, here. The nave roof is of a trussed design divided into five bays with king posts.
The font is located under the centre of the west (organ) gallery. It is late 14th century and is made from Eastbourne greenstone. The cover is from a design of Mr Randell Blacking in commemoration of Blanche Wells (1946). The gallery was erected and a new organ console installed in 1953. The unusual cross, clipped from yew, is in the graveyard to the north of the chancel.
Here is the final view of the church, taken form the road. The blocked doorway in the west wall is visible in this picture, this is believed to have once led to a vicarage, notice the roof line on the west wall.
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