Church of the Holy Sepulchre


History of the early church and land 

Domesday Book provides evidence of a church in Warminghurst in 1086 served by a priest from the nearby town of Steyning, a condition which continued to at least 1563

The Abbey of Fecamp had the chapel of Warminghurst and held lands in the parish of William de Braose who gave a rent from the French abbey of 400 bushels of salt and ten casks of wine annually to Battle Abbey.

Warminghurst is mentioned in the Plea Roll of 1287 as one of the churches to which fugitives fled to take sanctuary.

Edward III took into his hands the English possessions of alien priories and in 1345 granted a licence to Richard, Earl of Arundel, to hunt in Warminghurst Park. The lands were granted to Eleanor, Richard's second wife, butthey eventually formed part of the endowment of Syon, a religeous house on the banks of the Thames founded by Henry V for nuns of the order of St Bridge. 

After the dissolution of the monasteries they eventually passed by sale in 1676 to William Penn, who in turn sold them in 1702 to James Butler, in turn whose descendant sold them to the Duke of Norfolk in 1805.


Architectural description

This as a simple rectangular building with a west doorway  and circular window set in the gable end above.  Set on the gable end is a simple tile-hung bell turret containing a single uninscribed bell.  (See below)

North and south walls have round topped windows, all of which were later rebuilds in brick of earlier windows.  



The room on the south side of the church hides what was once the principle doorway into the church.  The north walls of the nave have four round-headed windows, and the south wall three, all now with round heads, but set into splays in the walls which have pointed arches.  The windows in the chancel are of similar design and pattern. The round west window is 13th century and the east window, of three trefoil-headed lights. The fabric of the church dates from about 1220.



There is high backed pine seating, with high sides also, but no doors on the majority of the boxes so formed.  The side panelling to the nave has trefoil heads.

The pulpit and clerk's desk are a mixture of pine and oak, all, according to the church guide, "in good order as is the clerk's elmwood chair of Johnsonian proportions"

The pulpit is supported at the front by two turned wooded columns with moulded capitals and bases; the staircase has delicately turned balusters beneath a moulded hand-rail. 

On either side of the nave, at the east end, are large box-pews (complete with drawers for prayer-books)  for the squire and his family.  Two pews of lesser quality but similar design are behind the large one on the north and another west of the pulpit on the south.  These would have been occupied by  the farmers or other parishioners of standing.  All this work may date from about 1770.

The screen separating the nave from the chancel is of outstanding interest.  It is of pine, reaches to the wall-plates, and has three semi-circular arches with square columns and responds furnished with moulded capitals;  six applied panels are on the west and east faces of the screen.  There are iron sconces on either side of the central arch.  

Above on the west side is a Coat of Arms as used by Queen Anne after the Union with Scotland in 1707; the motto used beneath it is Semper Eadem, Queen Elizabeth I's favourite motto, rather than the usual Dieu et mon droit

There is a text from  II Chron. VI 40 on the opposite side.

[Let] thine eyes be open O God
so let thine ears be attent to the 
prayer that is made in this place;
Let thy priests be clothed with
salvation, & let thy saints rejoyce
in goodness.


The altar rails have twisted balusters set close together; they, and the oak altar table, are of late 17th century date. 


The single bell

This 18-inch uninscribed bell has been dated by George Elphick as one of the earliest in Sussex.  Using dendrochronology,  he has also dated the oak chiming lever attached to its headstock as being of the same date - this is possibly a unique survival of such a lever, as no other has yet been identified. 


Map reference

Warminghurst is a small parish some 11 miles north of Worthing.



Photographs: © David Greene



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