Arundel – St Nicholas and Fitzalan Chapel

A large cruciform church started around 1380.  The parish uses the nave and transepts and the chancel is the funerary chapel of the Dukes of Norfolk.  There is a C15 stone pulpit and in the chapel the monuments and brasses date from the C15 to the present.


Arundel is dominated by its castle and what has become the Roman Catholic cathedral.  The cathedral is C19 and the castle is mostly a recreation from the same period of a mediaeval original.  It is easy to overlook the tower of the parish church between them, though it is more prominent in Hollar’s engraving of 1642 in the absence of the cathedral.  There is likely to have been a minster here before the Conquest (VCH 5(1) p12), but the town only grew up after this around Roger de Montgomery’s castle, replacing Burpham over the river as the main settlement.  Montgomery founded a priory as a dependency of Sées in Normandy.  The early C19 buildings south of the church, called The Priory, occupy the site of the conventual buildings – some walling could be old and a round-headed doorway and C11 or C12 stones, some with diaperwork, were found in 1847 (see 9).

Most alien houses were small and the priory shared a church with the parish; it held the rectory from 1178 (9, vol II p579).  After a precarious existence (6 p15), it was dissolved by Richard II in 1379.  The 4th Earl of Arundel founded in the following year a college of secular priests in its place to serve as a burial place for his family, allegedly with plunder from the French wars (Lower I p18).  A new church, in place of one said in 1349 to be in poor repair (VCH 5(1) p90), was started soon after the foundation, with conventual buildings larger than those of the priory.  The parish occupied the nave and transepts, whilst the chancel served the college.  This was dissolved in 1544 (6 p16), when the buildings passed to the Earls and later Dukes of Norfolk and the chancel became their private property.  The Norfolks with few exceptions remained Roman Catholics, so the Fitzalan Chapel, as the chancel is known, remains separate; this may be the only surviving example of the mediaeval practice of two ecclesiastical foundations under one roof.  In 1879 the then vicar, unhappy at what he saw as Roman Catholic triumphalism, fought a lawsuit, claiming the chapel for the parish church, but lost (see 3 and 11 for the details).  As a consequence, a crude brick wall, on which Mee (p19) commented adversely, separated the two for 90 years until replaced by the present glazed partition.

Both parts were started about 1380.  John Harvey identified several possible masons, including Henry Yevele, the king’s master mason (Henry Yevele, p80 and Harvey’s Dictionary p141), but without documentary evidence no more can be concluded than that the mason responsible was almost certainly not local and probably close to the court, although much of the work is surprisingly plain.  Though of one build, it is easier to treat the church in two parts.

Parish Church

Despite the apparently homogeneous build of the church, it contains evidence of its predecessor. The materials are flint and stone and much re-used stone is embedded in the walls, including what has been identified as Purbeck marble, with Caen and Quarr stone as well (5 p12).  This confirms that the earlier church was of some consequence and one fragment with dogtooth moulding suggests it included late C12 work.  The relatively shallow transepts and the restrained central tower appear integral parts of the church as conceived in the late C14.  However, there are grounds for suspecting that neither feature is quite as might be assumed.  As regards the transepts David Parsons, in view of the fact that they are barely longer than the breadth of the aisles (ibid p13), has suggested that the previous church was also cruciform and that at least the dimensions of the present transepts survive from this.  That seems plausible, but his suggestion that the tower is also in part at least a survival from this early period is open to doubt.  Noting the discrepancies in its construction, he suggests that the earlier fabric was retained and that new openings were inserted in it.  In that case, it seems surprising that there is no trace of earlier work in the crossing arches beneath, which are all C14.  A possible way to establish whether there is in fact any old work in the tower itself would be by careful examination of its inside.  In the absence of this, it seems more probable that the tower is different because it was the last part of the church to be built.  This need not have been until some time later and a possible clue is provided by a bequest in 1509 towards its ‘bielding’ (SRS 41 p43).  Though this could refer to repairs, the detail would be consistent with this date, for both short stages have two-light openings under segmental heads and a low, leaded spire behind a plain parapet.

The late C14 aisles also have parapets, with mostly renewed gargoyles, and the aisle and transept windows have panelled tracery.  There are west and south porches, the latter with a stone roof, which, though not old, is shown by an undated engraving in the church to be a faithful copy.  There is also a plain wooden north porch, which is at least partly original.  All doorways have square hoodmoulds with coarsely carved spandrels and the clerestory openings are encircled quatrefoils.  The spacious nave has five-bay arcades.  The piers, four shafts and four hollows in section, are more complex than most of the scarce late C14 work in Sussex and the crossing piers are similar but more so.  They show masons’ marks and possibly C16 graffiti (See 12 for details).  Also unusual for Sussex, though frequent in East Anglia, are the chamfered wall-arches containing the aisle windows.

The east crossing-arch is set in a larger one and has always contained a screen (VCH 5(1) p94).  To its north, are the upper and lower entrances to the rood-stair and the corbels for the beam remain.  The altar was in the south transept, which was possibly less inconvenient when the congregation gathered around the table for communion.  This arrangement lasted until 1874, along with the galleries in the aisles, possibly inserted in 1810.

The re-arrangement of 1874 was part of Sir George G Scott‘s restoration (B 32 p875), which cost over £6000 but was generally faithful.  The roofs have been replaced, but there is evidence that this work does not date from 1874.  Thus, it is known that in 1893, less than 20 years later, the nave roof was in a dangerous state and after J O Scott had been consulted (BAL/MSS ScJO/2/1), £1058 were spent on repairs under G H F Prynne (BN 64 p658); whatever their date, the present low pitched roofs with traceried spandrels beneath the tiebeams are likely to be accurate, at least in form.  In the 1970s a pavilion-like structure was inserted into the west end of each aisle, comprising meeting rooms beneath a gallery, and there have been recent repairs (in c2010) by J Jones-Warner Associates mainly to the exterior, including the spire (architect’s website).


Doors: (West end) Sand-carved glass by M Howse, 2009 (Artist’s website).
Font: Late C14 marble octagonal, with cinquefoiled arcading on each side.  It was moved to its present position from the south transept in 1874 (VCH 5(1) p94).
1.  (South transept east window) C A Gibbs, 1856 (signed).
2. (South transept south window) Burlison & Grylls, 1882-85 (the story of St Nicholas) (CDK 1882 part 2 p161).
3.  (North aisle, first window) A Gibbs and Co, 1878 ( retrieved on 28/1/2013).
4.  (North aisle, fourth window, Heaton, Butler and Bayne, c1864 (ibid).
5.  (South aisle, south east) Burlison and Grylls, 1885 (CDK 1882 ibid).
6.  (South aisle, second window) Mayer and Co, 1881 (signed).
7.  (South aisle, third window) J Hardman and Co, 1882 (Index).
8.  (South aisle, fourth window) attributed to W Wailes, 1851 ( retrieved on 28/1/2013), with the bright colouring characteristic of his work at this date.
9.  (West window) Mayer and Co, 1875 (CT 12 March 1875).
Graffiti: Texts (mostly names) and monograms with some geometric designs.  Most are pre-Reformation but Champion (p237) suggests some are later.
Lectern and altar: (South transept) Oak by K Walker, 2002 (Church website).
1.(North aisle near west end) Charles Bushby (1789?) by B and R Shout (Roscoe p1125). A sorrowing woman leaning on an urn, on top of a tablet bearing the inscription.
2. (Over south doorway) Charles Lane (1827?) by A J Stothard (ibid p1206). A cherub holding a portrait medallion above the inscription.
3. (South transept) Lady Caroline Kerr.  A modest wall-tablet surrounded by a rope-moulding, dated tentatively to c1829, by R Clarke (ibid p280).
Paintings: (North aisle) Late C14.   A wheel contains the seven deadly sins and the seven works of mercy, from which most of the colour has gone.  To the east is a crowned Virgin with angels holding her train.  These had been found before 1851, when Nibbs criticised the amount of retouching; the Virgin in particular is largely repainted and so are the black wings of the angel on the left.  The presence of what has been interpreted recently as a cloth of honour above and behind the Virgin’s head shows similarities to C15 Netherlandish painting ( retrieved on 29/4/2013), suggesting it is rather later than the wheel.  It has been suggested that the subject of the painting is the Coronation of the Virgin, but the only crown is already on her head and there is no space for an angel who might have performed the ceremony, so it probably represents an enthroned Virgin.  According to Anne Marshall (ibid) this type of representation is commoner on the Continent and she points to the significance of Arundel’s position near the coast.
Piscina:  (South transept) Late C14 cinquefoil-headed and unusually shallow.  Its position confirms that the placing of the parish altar here was original.
Pulpit: Stone and probably erected soon after the church was built. The triple canopy has slight ogees and vaulting.  In 1857 it was in use as a private pew (CT ibid) and has been much restored subsequently.  No other comparable example survives.
Reredos: Attributed to G H F Prynne with painted work by his brother E A F Prynne and likely to date from c1893 (www.gfp/
Royal Arms: (By south doorway) A painted panel of the arms of George III before 1802, though the frame with pilasters could be older.  It was discovered during renovations in 1991.
Screen: A fine late C14 iron grille, separating the Fitzalan Chapel from the crossing.  It has a crenellated top and small lights containing rudimentary tracery.

Fitzalan Chapel

Though today approached from the castle, until the early C19 the two were separated by a road (VCH 5(1) p20).  The chapel lacks proper aisles, but the detail is more ambitious than the parish church.  The curves in the panelled tracery of the seven-light east window are characteristic of the late C14 and the restored south windows also have early panelled tracery, with two quatrefoils in the head.  The four-light segment-headed north clerestory windows look later.  The Lady Chapel is on the north side of the main one.  Its east window is related to the clerestory and its north side, though renovated around 1840 (6 p2) is no different in the Sharpe Collection drawing (1804?), so need not all be modern, as has been claimed (4 p67).  The detail is some of the finest in the church.  Above each four-light window of panelled tracery is stone panelling and an ogee-shaped label, rising above a fretted parapet.  The chapel was in use by 1421, when the 6th Earl was buried there, so that probably provides an end-date for this slightly later work.  Three identical though separate arches from the main chapel look part of the original building, and do not support the belief that a chapel was planned further east (VCH 5(1) ibid), where there is a low sacristy, featureless beyond a doorway dated 1842, but also probably mostly original.

The wooden vault of the chapel dates from 1886, re-using fine original bosses, including bearded heads (possibly prophets) and angels, which are in a darker wood.  Most fittings also date from 1886, but the impression of a mediaeval funerary chapel remains, with a clutter of monuments and brasses, which are listed below.  Most monuments are to Fitzalans or Howards (now the Fitzalan-Howards) and the mediaeval brasses are to members and associates of the college.  South of the altar is the chantry-tomb of William, 9th Earl of Arundel (d 1487) and his wife.   Its three openings are separated by twisted columns, each with a tall ogee-shaped label.  Inside is a pendant vault and on top are pinnacles.  It has been altered, probably in the C19 (4 p68) and again in 1982, when the effigies, which had almost touched the vault, were replaced in a more visible position after cleaning (1 pp65-67).  They were then found to retain traces of the original coloured decoration and were dated to soon after the Countess’s death in 1462 (ibid p69).

After the college was dissolved, the chapel in the late C16 attracted the interest of Lord Lumley, son-in-law of the 12th Earl of Arundel (7 p197), who had antiquarian interests and great family pride.  He undertook substantial repairs and added a monument to his father-in-law (see below) in 1592.  Remarkably, this resembles a chantry and commemorates not only his father-in-law but also Thomas, 10th Earl (d 1524), with the 11th Earl.   The bulging columns and arched balustrade are clearly later in style, as is the flat vault.  The flat tomb-chest lacks effigies.

Later C17 and C18 monuments are lacking, for the Dukes largely abandoned Arundel.  The chapel was desecrated in the Civil War (9, vol II p619) and was subsequently treated in many ways as part of the parish church, with visitations by archdeacons and bishops.  That of 1724 recorded the interior as ‘quite indecent and sordid’ (SRS 78 p58).  In 1782 the roof was removed and though some bosses were retained, others are now in Poling church. However,  there could be an element of exaggeration here since when Sir Stephen Glynne visited in 1826 he noted a roof, even though it was ‘out of repair & admits the weather’ (SRS 101 p17).  The chapel was used as a workshop and repairs only started in the 1830s under R Abraham (AH 42 (1999) p377), much later than at the castle.  An engraving of 1844 (see Webster (ed) p24) shows a plain plaster ceiling and chaotic fittings.  Around 1864 M E Hadfield added a small south chapel (VCH 5(1) p92), for the 14th Duke’s monument.  C A Buckler brought the chapel into its present form between 1885 and 1902 (ibid), as part of his reconstruction of the castle.

Fittings and monuments

1.  (West end) Adam de Eartham (d c 1382), small demi-figure of a priest in a surplice and cloak and the earliest of the chantry-priests to be commemorated;
2.  (West end) William White (d l419/20).  A full length priest;
3.  (By south doorway) John Threel (d 1465).  A small figure in elaborate armour, wearing the Yorkist emblem of the sun and roses on his collar (Mosse p15), and belonging to Series D (see London workshops).  His wife is missing and his effigy is worn;
4.  (North of 3) Thomas Salmon (d 1430) and his wife Agnes (d 1418), who is said to have been Portuguese by birth (Woodman p18), but this could result from confusion with the 5th Earl (see under monuments below).  Fine canopies but only the armoured torso of the man remains.  The woman wears an SS collar, thought to be linked with the Lancastrian interest.  The brass belongs to Series D of the London workshops;
5.  (Lady Chapel) Robert Ward (d 1474), priest. A demi-figure with a large head.  This is given by Emmerson (p140) to the Sub-group B that he suggests formed a link between the main Series B and D (see London workshops – Series B);
6.  (Lady Chapel) John Baker (d 1455/56).  A full-length priest with shallow engraving and a prayer issuing from his mouth;
7.  (Lady Chapel) Esperance Blondell (d after 1414).  A well engraved demi-figure, wearing mass vestments;
8.  Canon M A Tierney (d 1862);
9.  (Mounted on wall) Bernard, 16th Duke of Norfolk (d 1975). In Garter robes, designed by C Ironside and unveiled in 1979 (Meara p148).
Crucifix: (South side) Spanish C15 work.
1.  (East window) 1890-93 by J Hardman and Co (VCH 5(1) p94).  It displays historic and religious figures, including Thomas More and St Cuthbert, gathered around a figure of Christ in Glory.
1.  (Middle of floor) Thomas, 5th Earl (d 1415) and his wife, who was a Portuguese princess (Saul p126).  High alabaster tomb chest with mutilated weepers.  The effigies have elaborate canopies and part of the original iron surround survives;
2.  (Centre of Lady Chapel) John, 6th Earl (d 1421).  A tomb chest, with cusped quatrefoils and no effigy (see above), except a fragment of a brass;
3.  (Easternmost arch) John, 7th Earl (d 1435).  His armoured effigy lies on an open arcaded tomb above a cadaver, an early example of this arrangement.  It is made of alabaster and the high quality suggests it may have been produced in London, though by this date most such effigies were produced in the Midlands where the material was quarried (Saul p68).  At his head and foot are brackets resting on angels;
4. (South chapel) William, 9th Earl (d 1487) and his wife (d1462).  Built of marble and showing traces of colouring, this comprises three flattened arches beneath curved gables that are decorated with shallow carving in a style already far removed from conventional late Perp.  The front is decorated with twisted columns and there is an open balustrade across the front.  The tomb within, which is well off-centre, actually comprises two on top of each other, of which the smaller upper one is decorated with traceried niches and the lower one has more conventional cusped quatrefoils.  The effigies, formerly on top, are now placed to the east; the female one, though damaged, retains traces of colouring and of the wax used to create the finer detail.  N Saul (see 8) has established on documentary evidence that the lower tomb-chest was originally intended for a tomb for Richard Dallingridge, the last member of the family to own Bodiam castle, who was closely associated with the Fitzalans (ibid p131).  The circumstances in which his tomb was appropriated remain obscure and it may have been restored (i e altered) by Lord Lumley (7 p1298).
5.  (South side) Henry 12th Earl (d 1579) etc.  See above for a discussion of this tomb.  It has a restrained classical frame containing a verbose inscription composed by Lumley;
6.  (North wall of Lady Chapel) Robert Spyller (d 1633/4), steward to the 14th Earl.  A classical bust in a shell, set between the halves of a broken pediment.  Attributed to N Stone the Elder (A White (WS 61 p125), it shows the influence of Inigo Jones;
7.  (Middle of Lady Chapel) Lord Howard Molyneux Howard (d 1824).  A large black marble gothic chest without effigy with elaborate quatrefoils on the sides, which were clearly derived from 2 above, which is next to it.  It was erected 1842-43 and designed by E Cresy (Colvin (4th ed) p286).
8.  (South chapel) Henry, 14th Duke of Norfolk (d 1860) and wife – recumbent effigies of white marble;
9.  (Near west end) Henry, 15th Duke (d 1917).   A recumbent bronze effigy, lying amid much drapery on a marble chest, by Sir B Mackennal.
10. (Sacristy) F W Steer, historian of Sussex churches and archivist (d1978).  Slate tablet by K Child.
Niche: (Lady Chapel) restored C14.
Stalls: (Lady Chapel) These were restored in 1885 after damage sustained during the removal of the roof in 1782 (C Tracy p58).  They are originally C15 and though only two seats and some of the backs are original, Tracy considers the restoration was reliable.  He notes the ‘solid but rather provincial workmanship’, which he nevertheless sees as in the tradition of London workmanship.

Sources (for both parts)

1.  A Brodrick and J Darrah: The fifteenth century Polychromed Limestone Effigies of William Fitzalan, 9th Earl of Arundel, and his Wife, Joan Nevill, in the Fitzalan Chapel, Arundel, CM 1, part 2 (1986) pp65-94
2.  C J P Cave: The Wooden Roof Bosses in the Fitzalan Chapel, Arundel, SAC 73 (1932) pp 1-11.
3.  E A Freeman: The Case of the Collegiate Church of Arundel, AJ 37 (1880) pp 244-70.
4.  G McHardy: Church of St Nicholas and Fitzalan Chapel, Arundel, AJ 142 (1985) pp66-70
5.  D Parsons: St Nicholas, Arundel, NFSCHT 2011 pp11-13
6.  Francis W Steer: The Fitzalan Chapel, Arundel, 4th ed, 1974.
7.  J M Robinson: Triumph of Historical Piety: Antiquarian Taste at Arundel Castle, CL 27 Jan l983 pp 196-99 and 3 Feb 1983 pp 281-2
8.  N Saul:  The Cuckoo in the Nest: a Dallingridge Tomb in the Fitzalan Chapel at Arundel, SAC 147 (2009)  pp125-33
9.  M A Tierney:  The History and Antiquities of the Castle and Town of Arundel, (2 vols) 1834
10.                      :  A Recent Excavation in the College Chapel at Arundel, SAC 3 (1851) pp 77-88
11.  C F Trower: The Arundel Chancel Case, SAC 30 (1880) pp 31-51
12.  A R Warnes and F C Wood: Mediaeval Masons’ Marks and Graffiti in Arundel Church, SCM 12 (March l938) pp 188-91


1. Differentiated plan of whole church in Salter p81
2. Schematic plan of Fitzalan Chapel only in 6. inside cover