What to call Singleton Church?

18 Jun

After walking part of the South Downs Way on Wednesday I took the bus to Singleton, West Sussex, just to have a quick look around the village and especially the parish church, which is really the only place that I knew for certain had a connection with my BOXALL ancestors.

Singleton parish church

A notice on the door proclaimed the church to be dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and it wasn’t until I was on the way home that I thought something was quite right with that.

Somewhere in the back of my mind I remembered seeing a postcard which had referred to it as being dedicated to the St John the Evangelist, now I was confused. It is not unheard of for postcard publishers to get their captions wrong on postcards, but I am sure it wasn’t just on one postcard that I had seen that name, had I imagined it?

I went online in search of an answer, to the catalogues of the West Sussex Record Office on Access to Archives, and soon found the answer among the catalogue of records for the parish of Singleton:

Administrative history:

Surviving medieval sources indicate, but do not prove absolutely, that Singleton church was originally dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The dedication appears to have been lost after the Reformation, and the church was simply referred to as the parish church. A misreading by C. Gibbon in ‘Dedications of Churches and Chapels in West Sussex’ (SAC vol. 12, 1860) of money bequeathed to Sir John of Singleton as money bequeathed to St. John of Singleton, led to the belief for the next century that the church was dedicated to St. John the Evangelist. When the error was discovered, the church was rededicated in March 1979, and is now the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Singleton. (See SAC vol. 118, p.385-387)

So it seems that I hadn’t imagined the wrong name, it had once been dedicated to St John the Evangelist, mistakenly as it turned out, and then in 1979 it reverted back to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The postcard would almost certainly have been published in the early 1900s when it was known as St John the Evangelist. It also seems that for a period it didn’t have a dedication at all.

This raises questions for my research and I certainly need to be careful how I refer to the church in my research. Would my ancestors have known it as St John the Evangelist? or just the parish church? What do the actual parish registers record as the dedication? I sure know how to make things more complicated for myself.

Interior of Singleton parish church

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