Notes on the churches in the counties of Kent, Sussex, and Surrey/Sussex/Introduction
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In the Domesday Survey of this county more places perhaps, now known as parishes, are omitted, than in that of Kent; which may be accounted for from the circumstance, that the great forest of Anderida, commencing in Kent, stretched completely through Sussex into Hampshire. (See the Note on Limpne in Kent.) In some localities however the churches, mentioned in Domesday Book, are more numerous than might have been expected; but in very many instances, more frequently than in either Kent or Surrey, it is expressly stated of those churches, that they are small; "æcclesiola" being the term used. Of many places also the description concludes by saying, that they have been laid waste, occasionally specifying that this has occurred since the time of King Edward, the Confessor; which devastations have been traced (by Mr. Hayley, in his MSS. quoted in Sir H. Ellis's Introduction to Domesday Book) in the probable routes of the two armies of Harold and William, previous to their conflict at Battle. A few parks are incidentally alluded to in Sussex: for example, one at Rotherfield; the Earl of Eu had a park, in Baldeslei hundred, and apparently in the neighbourhood of Crowhurst (where is now a park), but the precise spot I cannot identify. No park is positively spoken of or alluded to at Arundel; but the holdings of different tenants of Earl Roger, the owner of Arundel, were frequently reduced, because portions of their land were "in the earl's park;" and from these notices we may infer that he possessed two parks. Parts of Walberton and Tortington manors being so reduced would imply, that one park was at or near Arundel. Similar statements occur with regard to Waltham in Boxgrove hundred, probably Up Waltham, which must, necessarily, from the distance between the places, relate to another park; possibly the same as, or in the vicinity of, Selhurst park, now existing, though the latter is at present in the parish of East Dean. It could not be Halnaker, because "Helnache" is separately named more than once.
I have failed in verifying, comparatively, more single Domesday churches in Sussex, than in either of the other counties included in this undertaking; because the assistance to be derived from topographical historians is far less with regard to Sussex, than to either Kent or Surrey. In this county moreover there has been a considerable alteration with regard to the hundreds; and it appears to me, that those divisions have been less closely attended to in the Domesday Survey of Sussex, than in that of the other two counties.
Some interesting information relating to the early condition of this part of our island may be collected from Bede's Ecclesiastical History. The Saxon inhabitants of the district were the last throughout England to receive the light of the Gospel. Ædilvalch, king of the South Saxons, had indeed been baptised in Mercia about A.D. 661, but his people remained pagans till converted by the ministrations of Bishop Wilfrid; who, being expelled from his See of York on account of having excited the displeasure of his Sovereign, rather than continue inactive, undertook the evangelisation of this province, from A.D. 681 to 686, when the population is stated to have comprised 7000 families. Eor three years before Wilfrid's arrival a grievous famine had prevailed in Sussex in consequence of the want of rain, which, it is stated, fell copiously on the very day when the people were baptised. The Bishop however provided, to the best of his ability, against the recurrence of a similar calamity, by teaching the method of sea fishing, of which previously the natives were ignorant, though both sea and fresh water abounded in fish, of which the people had been accustomed to catch only eels. Eelnets therefore were the only kind, which Bishop Wilfrid was able to collect for his benevolent operations. (Bedæ Hist. Eccl. 1. 4, c. 13.)
In general estimation the existing ancient Churches of Sussex, it is well known, rank very low; but perhaps the notices, hereto appended, may serve somewhat to qualify this opinion: and happy will the writer feel, should he contribute to the removal of a stigma, only partially merited. It is freely admitted, that many of the buildings are very unpretending structures, while others are even mean; but on the other hand among only those churches described below from actual examination there are several of great richness and beauty, a still larger number, unattractive perhaps externally, possessing various points of more or less interest to archaeologists. However it is too much to expect, that a reputation of long standing will be easily overthrown or altered; wherefore Sussex must probably be contented to remain notorious for the contemptible character of her churches, just as Lincolnshire universally bears a name for the reverse, whereas it would be easy to refer to a district in that county, of which some of the sacred edifices would scarcely be paralleled even in Sussex. But this district will not be discovered without diverging to some distance from the usual track of travellers; and in like manner they, who, without trusting to common report merely, will take but a little trouble to look around them, and occasionally to look beyond the surface, may be well rewarded for their labour by finding much among the Sussex Churches, which is not only gratifying to the architectural student, but moreover pleasing to the eye of the unscientific observer. It may be stated farther, that this county is rich certainly in remains of Anglo-Saxon structures. In this category are included the churches of Bishopstone, Bosham, Botolph's, Clayton, St. John's sub castro Lewes, Sompting, and Worth. Several of these I consider to be as genuine examples as have yet been remarked in the kingdom, but others, as will be perceived hereafter, I conceive to be doubtful; to which latter class however I would add Eletching Church, and, possibly, that of Northiam. Whether or not those just enumerated comprehend all the Sussex specimens of ante-Norman construction can be decided only after completing the survey throughout the remainder of the county.
To Sussex the following Table contains an additional column, which, it will be perceived, is headed N. R.; the asterisks in the column signifying that the churches of the places so distinguished are mentioned or alluded to in the "Nonæ Roll," which document was compiled about A.D. 1341, temp. K. Edward III. It comprehends only a portion of the English counties, among which neither Kent nor Surrey appears.