This church is not mentioned in the Domesday survey. Its style suggests a construction date of c.1140 to serve the small community living locally as tenants of Tortington Priory. The church has changed little since it was built, the major change being the addition of the south aisle in the thirteenth century. This later fell into ruin but was rebuilt in about 1860.
The church comprises a nave, chancel, south aisle and north vestry and is faced with flint, with expensive Caen stone reserved for the window surrounds, corner reveals and the fabulous Norman arch over the south door. Due to the erection, subsequent ruination and final rebuilding of the south aisle, this doorway must have been taken down and re-erected three times! It has survived this treatment very well, with all the stones being correctly reset.
Immediately on entering this delectable building, attention is drawn to the great Norman chancel arch, constructed of pale Caen stone.
Above the arch hang two hatchments to William Leeves (d. 1781) and Richard Leeves (d. 1787).
The arch (west side) is shown below. Apparently the design is cut with an axe, and it depicts grotesque and rather alarming, round eyed faces, sprouting leaves or feathers, and alternating with odd long-beaked birds' heads.
A closer view of the carving at the top of the arch. These motifs are thought to be Scandinavian in origin.
The eastern side (in the chancel) doesn't have the decoration - the keystone, inserted much later, bears the date 1750 and carries the name and arms of W F Leeves, who bought the priory estate in 1706.
The round headed windows are plain; those in the east and north windows were widened and refaced in the Victorian restoration. The two windows in the north wall of the nave contain lovely glass depicting St Richard of Chichester and St Mary Magdalene by Charles Kempe. His trademark, a wheat sheaf, is in the lower left hand border oi the westernmost window.
It has been claimed the east window contains some ancient stained glass, however the guide is clear that the present window depicting the symbols of the Lamb of God, the Holy Trinity and the Four Evangelists is rather crude bright 19th century work perhaps by Thomas Willement.
The 17th century oak pulpit is a locally constructed. It was reduced in size in the 19th century and has paneled sides and decorated carving on top. Unusually it has feet instead of a pedestal, although this may be a later alteration.
The bell cote is accessed via a ladder through the beams of the nave roof. Notice the reinforcing beams to support the weight of the small tower.
The simple red cross in the west window of the south aisle (above the font) is rather attractive.
The font itself is Norman, of the same date as the chancel arch and of similar stone. It has an unusual cup shape, the rim decorated with cable moulding. The sides have miniature Norman arches and attached columns. Between each pair of columns there are patterns similar to those on the tomb slab of Gundreda, daughter of WIlliam the Conqueror, in Southover church near Lewes. This type of font is unique in Sussex, the only similar one being at Bishop's Teignton in Devon. The font is mounted on a 19th century column.
The south arcade is supported on an unusually short Caen stone central pillar (just 1.5 m). The base and capital are of contrasting sandstone.
This small ceramic plaque depicting the patron saint hangs on the south wall of the aisle.
The aisle is also home to this 15th century oak pew which has carved panels on its ends, the upper part with trefoil arches, the lower with quatrefoil.
The small white painted weather boarded bell cote dates from 1904, but this replaced an earlier one of similar design which had become dilapidated. It contains two bells, one medieval carrying the inscription S. THOMAS TREHERNE, the other by Mears and Stainbank (1873).
The final picture of this truly lovely little church is from the south east. This view shows a small recess (blocked) on the south side of the chancel. This may indicate the former presence of a low side window.
The church was declared pastorally redundant in 1978 and is now in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust; the historical details on this page have been extracted from their guidebook available in the church. Photographs and transcriptions of the memorials inside the building may be found on the Sussex OPC web site.
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