Tag Archives: church

Picture Postcard Parade: Interior of West Grinstead Church (Part One)

28 Dec

If you have read my last two Ancestral Profile posts (if not, why not?) about John FAIRS and Eliza WORSFOLD you will remember that the church at West Grinstead, Sussex was an important part of their lives. Both John and Eliza were baptised at the church, they were married there and both were buried in the churchyard.

This is the first of two postcards I have of the interior of West Grinstead Church. It was either published by Archibald and Frederick Baker or their partner Cecil Travers, it is not clear which one it was, or whether it was a joint effort. The date is probably between 1905 and 1910, or at least the original photo was probably from that date, as it was probably reprinted at least once.

Something Sussex: A Guide to the Shorehams [and it's vandals]

18 Nov

Whenever I visit a church I usually buy a copy of the church guide if there is one, they usually give a bit of background to the history of the church, its architecture and sometimes its people.

I wouldn’t normally bother with a little guide-book like this, which I discovered in a collectables shop in Eastbourne, East Sussex, on the basis that it is somewhat out of date and rather battered. However because I have ancestors from Shoreham I gave it a second glance, I noticed that the previous owner had actually written his name on it Arthur Harding Norwood and dated it Nov 1898.

What also stood out was that Arthur Harding Norwood had actually scribbled some comments in the guide-book, and that these comments were less than complimentary.

His comments begin on the front cover with the addition of the word VANDAL to name of the author and vicar of Old Shoreham Church the Rev. H. C. Adams, M.A.

We learn the reason for this on page 19, where the guide describes the church at New Shoreham:

Other improvements have been effected of late years. The heavy and unsightly pews have given way to open sittings and chairs, and the whole appearance of the church greatly improved.

At the foot of the page Arthur Harding Norwood has scribbled a note, Are chairs (especially ugly ones) in a church suitable or picturesque?

The guide-book itself begins by describing the situation of the two Shorehams:

The two Shorehams, Old and New, situated on the Sussex coast, half-way between Brighton and Worthing, are places of considerable interest, though no longer of the commercial and naval importance which attached to them some centuries ago. Their decay must be a matter of regret to all connected with them, and the more so because the local advantages, which in the first instance gave them pre-eminence, still exist unimpaired; nor is anything needed but a due employment of capital and enterprise to restore them to their ancient position.

The opening paragraph doesn’t escape Arthur Harding Norwood’s comment, “Capital & enterprise” would never restore Shoreham to it’s “ancient position,” if Shoreham were to be restored it would be converted into a hideous little Liverpool, with factories smoke & filth, the “restoration” began a few years ago with the hideous chemical works. The latest “improvement” being the hateful “Dolphin” Soap Works at Kingston.

The comment above is actually signed and dated (November 1898) but there is another comment, which is dated the 3rd October 1924, “Capital & enterprise” have built a hideous new bridge, in place of the Norfolk. “Enterprise” by the local Council of Vandals, in filling in the grand strips of water above the bridge – with reffuse from Shoreham dustbins, the stench from which is vile.

I would love to know why Arthur Harding Norwood made these comments, and whether they ever went any further than his own copy of the guide-book. I can just imagine him writing letters to The Times or a local newspaper.

I couldn’t help trying to find out who Arthur Harding Norwood was. It turns out that he was a painter, there are references to several of his paintings being sold at auction, but they give no idea of the value they attained (unless I subscribe). I have also found a reference to fact that some of his work was exhibited in London by the Society of British Artists.

Picture Postcard Parade: West Dean Church

16 Nov

This is probably going to be last of my West Dean postcards for the time being, I think I have exhausted my West Dean collection, but don’t worry I still have plenty of other cards to write about.

As the caption says this is West Dean Church (near Chichester, Sussex) seen from the west looking through the church gate to the ivy clad tower. There are no clues on the back of the card to suggest the date or publisher/photographer. I am guessing that it is probably before the fire in 1934.

According to the church guide book the tower “was built by the Woods family of Chilgrove (not Chilgrove Manor) in 1726, this date being on the sundial on the south side. It holds three bells, one of 1601, one of 1651 and one of uncertain date, all recast 1936. The Woods family would appear to have been very proud of this tower. The last Mr. John Woods, aided by some of his workmen, would be let over the top in a bosun’s chair in order that he might cut the ivy and point the stonework, a task that he always made his own.”

I don’t know who is responsible for the maintainance of the church tower now, but as you can see from the photo below (taken by me on the 16th June 2010) it looks in splendid ivy free condition.


Something Sussex: West Dean Church destroyed by fire

28 Oct

The interior of St. Andrew’s Church, West Dean (near Chichester), Sussex seems modern and light, which is not what you would expect from the outside. A memorial stone set into the wall not far from the door explains why.

On the 26th November 1934 the church was almost completely destroyed by fire. According to a report in The Times newspaper the following day the Fire Brigade “were practically helpless owing to lack of water, West Dean being in an area which has suffered severely from a deficiency of water owing to the droughts of the last two summers.”

The same report records that a “very fine Elizabethan full-sized recumbant figure is badly damaged, and a life-size recumbent figure of the late Mr. Willie James [a former owner of West Dean Park]by Sir Goscombe John has been destroyed.”

In the article the Vicar (Rev. H.E. Lyne) described how the fire was first spotted, “Miss V. Smith, of West Drayton, saw smoke and flames when she was practising at the organ in the church. She immediately dashed for help, but the roof and everything was ablaze in about 20 minutes. I was out at the time, and did not get back till the roof had fallen in.”

As should be obvious from the memorial stone the church was restored, according to the Chichester Observer (Wedenesday, 15th April 1936), “The restoration of St. Andrew’s Parish Church, West Dean, which was destroyed by fire in November, 1934, was completed last week and the dedication of the new building took place on Saturday morning in time for the Easter services.”

The Bishop appears to have used the dedication to encourage the continued attendance of the parishioners every week:

It was a house of God worthy of the God they came to worship, and he urged them to come there Sunday by Sunday to worship Him. There was no reason why the Church should not be as full every Sunday as it was on this occasion. “If it is not to be a witness of our work,” he said, “it might almost as well never have been rebuilt”

For the family historian one concern would be the survival of parish registers in such a devastating fire. Fortunately in this case it appears that the registers were safely stored in a fireproof safe and they are now held at the West Sussex Record Office.

Inside West Dean Church (16 June 2010)

Picture Postcard Parade: West Dean Church

19 Oct

The postcard below is one that I have had for quite a while. It shows the ivy clad St. Andrew’s Church, West Dean (near Chichester), Sussex and a few of the headstones in the churchyard.

West Dean Church

There is not a lot more that can be said about this postcard. The card was posted from West Dean on the 6th September 1920 and sent to Mrs C BOXALL of Brown Hill Farm, Ashington, Sussex. The BOXALL connection was naturally of interest, but from what I can find it doesn’t look like this Mrs BOXALL was a close relation.

In light of my current obsession with the parish of West Dean I have decided that I am going to start seriously collecting picture postcards of the parish. It is not that I haven’t been collecting them already, just that I haven’t been making a special effort to find them.

What makes collecting postcards of West Dean (in West Sussex) particularly challenging is the fact that not only is there another West Dean in East Sussex (as I previously mentioned), but also one in neighbouring Hampshire. From what I saw at the Shoreham Postcard Fair last Saturday most postcard dealers don’t distinguish between the eastern and western parishes, and sometimes Hampshire cards are to to be found amongst the Sussex cards. Likewise I probably should check for Sussex cards in with the Hampshire cards.

Examining postcards of an area, working out where the views were taken from and when, is a great way of learning about a place and how it has changed over the years, although of course the bulk of the postcards I am likely to find will only cover a short period of time, probably from 1900 to 1930.

Apart from learning more about the parish of my ancestors the other bonus is that my increased attention on West Dean postcards will hopefully turn up a postcard sent to (or by) one of my closer relations.

Picture Postcard Parade: St. Peter’s Church, Brighton

30 Aug

This fine looking church is St. Peter’s Church, Brighton, Sussex. This is the church where my 2x great grandparents Henry BATEMAN and Dorothy Isabella KINGHORN married on the 9th November 1881, and probably had their son baptised here the following year.

St Peters Church Brighton

There are virtually no clues as to the publisher or age of this card, there is only the number 1973 on the front which is definitely not the year of publication, because the back of the card (shown below) is undivided which suggests a date prior to 1902.

St Peters Church Brighton (back)

St. Peter’s Church is a relatively modern church and still forms a prominent landmark in Brighton. It is great to have a personal connection to this wonderful building, which I have passed so many times on my way into and out of Brighton.

Four font photos

23 Jul

After showing you the beautifully carved marble font at St James’s Church, Piccadilly, London yesterday I thought it would be a good idea to show you a few of the other fonts I have photographed this year.

They are all from rural churches in the counties of Sussex and Hampshire and all have a family connection. As you can see they are not quite as ornate as the one at St James’s and most of them are not as old.

From left to right they are:

Chilcomb, Hampshire – the VCH of Hampshire says that “all the internal fittings are modern, the font, with a small bowl on an octagonal shaft, standing on a marble coffin-lid”.

Exton, Hampshire – this font is not as old as it seems, according to the VCH of Hampshire, “near the south door is the modern octagonal font of thirteenth-century style.”

Singleton, Sussex – described in the VCH of Sussex as being “octagonal, perhaps 15th-century”, not very descriptive really.

West Dean, Sussex – much of this church was destroyed by a fire in 1934 and this is obviously a modern font, which doesn’t even get a mention in the VCH of Sussex.

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