Horsham – St Mary

The west end and the base of the tower belong to a substantial late C12 church and most of the rest is C13, except mainly C15 and C16 windows and a C19 outer south aisle.

The C12 date of the west end of the nave and the first 30 feet of the north wall of the aisle is shown by a round-headed north window with a head formed from a single stone and a nearby doorway with a head of two plain orders and simple abaci.  The church was already substantial, for the lower part of the adjacent tower is of the same date with a round-headed west doorway of two orders, the inner one chamfered.  The tower itself has a clasping north west buttress and a south west stair-turret.  The pointed tower arch has two unchamfered orders facing into the church and three on the tower side.  It looks late C12 and was probably built with the rest of the tower.  At the apex is a grotesque head, possibly not in its original position.  The arch is off-centre, indicating that the C12 nave was later widened on one side or, less likely, made narrower on the other.

The date of the upper stage of the tower is open to doubt.  Though generally seen as C13 because of the large pointed bell-openings (the tracery is C19), a smaller round-headed opening on the east side, largely concealed by the roof, suggests that even if the top stage was remodelled in the C13, the structure may actually be C12.  The rather twisted broach spire, resting on head-corbels that are mostly original, is likely to be C13 at the earliest.

Definitely C13 are the rest of the nave and aisles and all the chancel.  The nave has strikingly tall clerestory lancets, some renewed ones in the eastern part of the north aisle and a single one at the west end of the south one.  Both arcades of five bays are earlier C13, of standard pattern with round piers and double-chamfered arches.  In view of the surviving C12 fabric in the north aisle, it seems that the C12 arcade that may be presumed was replaced within a sort time and if there was a south one, it suffered the same fate.  Unlike most large churches in Sussex at this date, there is no chancel arch.  Instead, thicker piers with a further hollow-chamfered vertical component incorporate semi-octagonal shafts rising to the clerestory level.  Unusually, the detail of the clerestory and arcades suggests that work proceeded from west to east.  Thus, the three bays of the north chancel arcade are distinctly later C13.  Round and octagonal piers alternate and the round piers have octagonal bases, suggesting a change of plan.  The separation of the two orders of the heads is less distinct, whilst the labels have head-stops.  The clerestory lancets are hollow-chamfered and Godfrey suggests they are C14 (1 p214), but it is unlikely that they would have been rebuilt so soon, so they too may be presumed to be late C13.  Though C19, the roof probably copies what was there before.

The main structure has changed little since c1300.  An early C14 outer north aisle chapel, said to have been founded as a chantry in 1307 for Walter Burgess (Lower I p242), is connected with a porch of the same period, in which there was a further chantry, though the relationship between the two was affected by works in the 1880s (BE(W) p438).  The porch has a hollow-chamfered outer arch, which is largely renewed.  The chapel is raised above a crypt, probably a charnel-house; a piscina in the upper part indicates the arrangement is original.  There are also two trefoil-headed lancets and curling stops on the doorway.

The east window is large and renewed, with seven lights of panelled tracery.  It is like that on the Sharpe Collection drawing (1802) but, curiously, the original had in fact previously been replaced by a weak imitation after it was destroyed in a storm before 1770 (VCH 6(2) p194).  This must be the window shown in Dallaway’s engraving (II(2) p254) (c1830), with five lights in a rusticated opening.  Other windows are early C16 and wills of 1513/14 and 1521 (SRS 42 p344), mention new south ones.  These must be the segment-headed windows shown by Adelaide Tracy in 1853 (III p34), which are now gone.  The panelled tracery of the east window of the south aisle may also be C15.  The east window of the north aisle and the panelling of the innermost north doorway are probably C16.  A vestry of the same date north of the chancel has two storeys.  A south chancel chapel had more windows like those already described.  Its roof-timbers remain with rudimentary hammerbeams and painted shields.  The rest, including the arcade to the chancel, is C19.

By the end of the C18 there were extensive galleries and Adelaide Tracy shows dormers in the south aisle to light them.  There were plans, possibly unrealised, for a re-seating in 1826-27 (ICBS).   S S Teulon drew up plans for a restoration in 1860 (Saunders p33), which included the replacement of the east window by a triplet of lancets (3 p227), but work was limited before 1864-65 (B 22 p774).  In 1865, correspondence with the ICBS indicates that A Ashpitel was involved, though probably he was only consulted.  The most obvious changes were the present east window, which reverts to the C15 work, and an outer south aisle, to provide more seating after the removal of the gallery.  Instead of continuing the line of the south chancel chapel, which is now its easternmost bay, Teulon, not the most reticent of architects, created a series of jagged gables on the new aisle, each with a traceried window, resembling the rows of gabled side-chapels in a French cathedral.  The arcade to the inner aisle is conventional, as is the smaller one between the north aisle and chapel.  Otherwise, the restoration was not unduly severe by the standards of the time and most renewed detail is trustworthy.   Much of the high cost of £8000 (PP 125) stemmed from structural problems, including straightening many walls and the north arcade (A Teulon p79), which had previously been in danger of collapse.  The north doorway was restored in 1884 and between 1962 and 1966 S Dykes Bower undertook works in the interior (Symondson p166).  These included redecoration, particularly a new painted ceiling for the Holy Trinity chapel, ornaments and seating.   In 2002 C Mercer made plans for a two-storeyed choir vestry and social area at the south western corner of the outer aisle (TAMS 17 (2003) p119).  It was completed after this practice had been merged to form HMDW Architects Limited (Practice website) and, built on a square plan, has a low pyramidal roof which is broken into in the centre of each side by the gablet above a long and narrow window.

Fittings and monuments

1.  (Chancel floor) Thomas Clark.  Headless early C15 effigy of a priest.
2.  (By entrance to south chapel) Elizabeth Foys (d1515). The effigy is small and lacks an inscription, which disappeared when removed from its original position in 1864, along with an effigy to her husband Richard (d1513) (2 p242).
Chest: c1250-1300.  The lid is later though it retains the original ironwork, including the hinges.  It is plain except for a moulding round the edge of the front and is clamp-fronted with mortice and tenon joints.  The large feet have also survived, each bearing a design of tracery placed on its side (See 4 passim).
Font: C15 octagonal with a shallow bowl.  Each side has a quatrefoil containing a rosette.  The bowl has been damaged and the arcaded stem looks C19.
1.  (East and west windows) M O’Connor, 1865 (B 23 p804).  The east window in particular is a crowded if lively composition.
2.  (South chancel – two)  W Wailes and Lavers and Barraud, both c1863 (www.stainedglassrecords.org retrieved on 11/3/2013).
3.  (South chapel, east and first south windows) Clayton and Bell, c1865 (ibid).
4.  (Outer south aisle, first and second windows) Clayton and Bell, 1891 and 1870 (ibid).
5.  (Outer south aisle, Cox and Sons, 1878-1892 (the latter attributed) (ibid).
6.  (Outer south aisle, fifth window) Clayton and Bell, c1867 (ibid).
7.  (Outer south aisle, fourth window) C E Kempe, 1892, designed by A E Tombleson (Little (ed) p119).
8.  (North chancel, second window) H Bryans, 1910 (www.stainedglassrecords.org retrieved on 11/3/2013).
9.  (North chancel, third window) Lavers, Barraud and Westlake, 1867 (ibid).
10.  (North chancel, fourth window) Figure of Christ, 1924, F Etchells (Watney p49).
11.  (North aisle west rose and first and second and south aisle west windows) Heaton, Butler and Bayne, 1865 (www.stainedglassrecords.org retrieved on 11/3/2013).  The detail of the west window on the north side has worn badly, focusing attention on the glowing colours.
12.  (Chancel clerestory four windws north and South) Heaton, Butler and Bayne, 1905 (ibid).
13.  (North chapel, east window) c1876, O’Connor and Taylor, c1876 (ibid).
14.  (North chapel, first window) C C Powell, 1928 (DSGW 1939).
15. (North porch, inner and outer windows) Lavers and Barraud, 1865 (www.stainedglassrecords.org retrieved on 11/3/2013).
16. (Parish centre) War memorial window from the former Manor House School, 1947 by J Powell and Sons, designed by ___ Blackford (www.stainedglassrecords.org retrieved on 11/3/2013).
17. (Parish centre) Lunette by J Powell and Sons, 1960, designed by E L Armitage and placed here from the former Manor House School (ibid).
1.  (Sanctuary south) Sir Thomas de Braose (d1395).  Armoured effigy, his head resting on a helm.  The tomb-chest has quatrefoils and shields.
2.  (Sanctuary north) Weathered, late C15 tomb-chest without an effigy, probably to Thomas, Lord Hoo (d1486). The fan-vaulted canopy has lost its pendants.  An angel playing a lute and other details under the cresting may be C16 alterations.
3.  (South chancel aisle) Elizabeth Delves (d1654).  Black and white marble table tomb with an effigy with her hand on her breast, attributed to E Marshall (A White (WS 61) p89).
4.  Olive Duncomb (d1705) by J Hardy  (Roscoe p574).
5.  (In tower) Percy Byssche Shelley, the poet (d 1822).  A simple tablet.  He was born at Warnham Place outside the town.
6.  Captain Marriott (d1805) by Sir R Westmacott (ibid p1359).
Paintings: Wall paintings, probably C13, were found in 1865 above the tower arch (SAC 38 opp. p16).  They were thought by J L Andre (1900 p298) to have depicted the Annunciation and the Last Supper and he dated them to the C14. These were said to have been replaced by what were described as reproductions of the old work (B 23 p804) and were seen by Arthur Mee (p206), but nothing now remains.
1.  (Inner south aisle east end) C13 moulded.
2.  (Chancel east wall) C13 trefoil-headed with a shelf.
3.  (North chapel) Early C14 pointed.
Pulpit: In memory of Thomas Sanctuary of Roffey Park, 1877.  Designed by —- Hicks, architect of Dorchester, with standing figures of saints (B 35 p385).
1.  Part of Teulon’s design for the east end (BE(W) ibid).
2. (North aisle) Painted triptych, 1894, Sir A W Blomfield.  it was brought here from the demolished church of St Mark, Carfax (ibid).
Royal Arms:
1. (High up on west wall of nave) Early Hanoverian painted panel, bearing the cipher of George II. However the ‘II’ is placed rather awkwardly to one side of the crown and lion and could have been inserted as an update after the death of George I.
2. (North aisle by north doorway) Small painted arms of George III dating from 1801-16.  Both the lion and the unicorn are charmingly if naively vivacious.
Tower screen: Brought here from St Mark Carfax (ibid).


1.  W H Godfrey: St Mary, Horsham, SNQ 6 (Aug 1937) p214
2.  H R Mosse: Horsham – the Foys Brass, TMBS 7 (1934-42) p242
3.  A Nesbitt: Thoughts on Church ‘Restoration’, SAC 33 (1883) pp225-36
4. C Pickvance: The Medieval Chest at St Mary’s Church, Horsham … , SAC 155 (2017) pp203-07


Measured drawing by W H Godfrey in 1 p214

My thanks to Nick Wiseman for the photographs

Categories: ,