Monday, 26 May 2014

St Mary the Virgin, Upwaltham, West Sussex

We visited a garden at Upwaltham Barns yesterday, halfway between Chichester and Petworth in West Sussex.  From the garden, across the main road, is the C12 church of St Mary the Virgin (otherwise known as  'The Church in the Fields').

The church is unusual in that it remains almost unaltered from when it was built in the 12th century. According to Chris Partridge on his excelent  blog 'Looking at Sussex Churches',  
'From 1833 to '51 the rector of Upwaltham and neighbouring East Lavington was the dynamic high churchman Henry Manning, later one of Britain's most high profile converts to Catholicism, second Archbishop of Westminster and a cardinal. He had East Lavington church so brutally restored and extended barely any original features survive today. Luckily, he never got round to 'beautifying' Upwaltham. Perhaps he just liked it the way it was – in in later life he described the church and its downland setting as "only less beautiful then heaven."'

Standing alone, halfway up the hill, the church is a simple rectangle with an apsidal chancel. The church is small - just 54 feet long by 23 feet wide - and only one of four churches in Sussex with apsidal chancels [the others are at New Marden, Worth and New 

Unusually, there is no east window. Instead, there are windows on either side. The chancel arch is C13 (C12 arch would have been considerably narrower).

The stained glass of the wetern window was commisioned by the parish to celebrate the millenium and shows the flora and fauna of the South Downs. It was installed in 2005 and is called Agnus Dei. It is by MEG LAWRENCE, a Kent artist

The church was designated as a grade I listed building in 1958.