East Marden – St Peter

A single-cell church, probably all early C13, with a C17 porch.  It was repaired in 1744.

East Marden church stands in a group of houses at a crossroads.  A long flint rectangle, it has no division between nave and chancel and the join is only marked outside by shallow buttresses either side.  It was given to Chichester cathedral in the C12, with some land in the parish, to form a prebend (VCH 4 p107).

The interior of the church is undivided and has probably always lacked a chancel arch.  Although it has been suggested that the nave is C12 (BE(W) p505), it is more probably of one build with the chancel, which is certainly early C13.  The concentric yet pointed rere-arches of both some nave lancets and the three east ones are convincing evidence of their being of one date, though the round-headed rere-arch of the north doorway in the nave (now leading into a vestry), itself pointed, is if anything earlier.  The western side-lancets in the chancel are not opposite each other, an irregularity that suggests that, though renewed, their positions are original.  All are small, but the centre of the three eastern ones is slightly taller.  Their sills are connected inside by a string-course.  The roof has its original tiebeams, set unusually close in the nave.

There was no subsequent work before the C17 brick south porch, a late example of gothic survival with a four-centred arch.  The plain, square-headed south doorway is no older, though hard to date more precisely.  Extensive repairs in 1744 (WSRO Ep I/40/9) were largely in brick and mainly at the west end, with a round-headed window and irregular buttresses.  The boarded belfry is of this date, though older roof-timbers may have been re-used inside.  Work also extended to the south side of the nave, where the round-headed window east of the porch resembles the west one.  It was widened from a lancet, for the voussoirs of its head do not fit properly.  Two Sharpe Collection drawings (one 1805) show little later change.

In 1875-77 L W Ridge restored the church (CDK 1878 pt 2 p85).  He renewed most exterior stonework and refaced some walls.  Yet he kept the C17 and C18 repairs and additions.  The sombre chancel has a boarded roof and panelled walls, but the nave roof is still plastered.  Stencilled decoration Ridge designed two years later for the interior is no longer visible (Beevers, Marks and Roles p 94).  According to the church guide, the vestry was added in 1906.


Aumbry: (North chancel, now hidden by the panelling) C13 trefoil-headed.
Font: Probably late C12 and unusual, shaped like a chalice, with a cup-shaped bowl on a single slender stem.  The stone of the stem is different as it is finer.
1. (North nave, first window) Heaton, Butler and Bayne, 1905 (Bayne p126).
2. (South chancel, second window) Heaton, Butler and Bayne, 1921 (WSRO Fac).
Organ: A small portable instrument, said to have belonged to Prince Albert and to have been brought here from St James’s Palace in the late C19.


Measured plan by W D Peckham in VCH 4 p107