Didling – St Andrew
The small Downland church is mostly C13, though the chancel was partly rebuilt in the C14 and there have been later repairs. However, despite these, it keeps its unspoiled character.
Didling consists of a small group of houses well north of the church on the Downs. This was probably founded about 1220 by Alan de St George (VCH 4 p7) and the benefice has always been poor; since 1535 it has been united with Treyford (now Elsted) (ibid). The Bishop’s visitation of 1687 describes it as ‘soe ruinous that it is like to fall’ (SRS 78 p30).
The C13 plan, a nave and chancel without a division, survives unchanged. Built of rendered flint, now whitened, the chancel has two east lancets and the north wall, also with lancets, is narrower than the nave. The rere-arches of the lancets are depressed rather than having proper scoinsons, but this has something of the same effect, so they are likely to date from well into the C13. The south wall continues that of the nave and two ogee-headed lancets show it was rebuilt in the C14, probably because of structural problems. A join in the wall and the lopsided effect are apparent inside. The roof can be no older, though only the wallplates and tiebeams are exposed. At the west end are the sawn-off ends of a beam to support a former belfry. The jambs of the roughly pointed south west nave window suggest it has been altered from a C14 one.
C16 alterations included a square-headed north doorway with rounded angles and, possibly, the south east nave window, which has a renewed wooden lintel. Subsequent repairs were done in brick. Some smaller bricks in the west wall are C17 – the larger ones are later – and the four-centred west window also looks C17. Though the east and south east walls of the chancel are of brick, the lancets have old rere-arches and beneath the east ones is an image-bracket, so the walls can only have been refaced. The probable date, to judge by the type of brick used, was around 1800. After further neglect, the incumbent restored the church in 1873 (KD 1874), probably without an architect, and there was more work after lightning damage in 1878 (VCH ibid). Neither affected the atmosphere of the church, which comes from the varied architectural details and the fittings of different periods, for nothing was thrown out. The only obvious feature added at either date was the small stone belfry which had previously been entirely lacking, as the Sharpe Collection drawing (1805) shows. Even now there is no electricity.
Benches: The simple ends are probably C15, though the backs and seats have been renewed. At the outer ends they are fixed directly onto the walls.
Chest: (Not now visible) Plain and hard to date.
Font: Rough tub-shaped bowl, which has been called C12 (VCH ibid). If so, it is either from elsewhere or there has been a church here for longer than assumed. However, as has been pointed out, in such a setting the rough and rustic workmanship could equally be C13 (www.crsbi.ac.uk).
Pulpit: C17 in origin. It has either been cut down in size or has been assembled from existing panels at a later date.
Rails: C17 with turned balusters beneath a broad decorated band.
W H Godfrey: St Andrew, Didling, SNQ 5 (Nov 1936) pp119-21
Measured plan by E F Harvey in VCH 4 p7