Kingston Buci – St Julian

A C11 nave with a C13 axial tower, chancel and north aisle.  Many windows are C15 and the box pews and pulpit are C18.

Only the church, manor and rectory are obviously remnants of the village, which is now otherwise part of the urban sprawl between Hove and Shoreham.  Domesday Book (113, 28-29) mentions two churches, attached to different manors, of which the second has been identified with Southwick.  A port here prospered in the C13 and C14, at the time when the shifting mouth of the Adur had reached its furthest point east of New Shoreham.

In 1964 foundations were found under the nave that were interpreted as belonging to two phases of construction of uncertain date, but older than the present church (1 p liv).  The present nave, though altered, has tall narrow proportions, especially when it rose to the original roofline visible against the tower.  The walls are only 2ft 3in thick (Fisher p135) and the rubble incorporates pieces of Roman brick, whilst to the south are what may be remnants of shallow buttresses.   All these factors point to a C11 date, though not necessarily pre-Conquest.

C13 work started with the north aisle.  The pier of the tall two-bay arcade has a spurred base, characteristic of the early part of the century, though the round pier and capital and double chamfered heads are less so.  The lower walling is of the same date, with a lancet west of the porch and, inside and out, the remains of another one further east, which was replaced by a C15 window.  The flint porch and plain doorway are also C13 and some timbers of the restored nave and chancel roofs may be also.

The church is built on an axial plan, which is unlikely to have been a C13 innovation though both the tower and the vaulted space below are now of that date.  It is unlikely that an aisle would have been added had there not already been a tower and chancel, so it is probable that these had C11 predecessors.  The rib-vault inside the tower fits perfectly, which suggests it was part of a wholly new structure (at least above the foundations), rather than being squeezed into an existing one, of which there is an example at Aldingbourne,  where a vault has clearly been inserted into an existing structure, in this case an aisle.  The vault at Kingston Buci rests on shafts, incorporated among those of the responds of the double-chamfered east and west arches, which have marble capitals.  Originally, there were side-lancets, of which part of a rere-arch remains over the C15 north window with both sills formed from reset lengths of the string-course that linked the sills of the C13 rere-arches.  The tower is squat and its proportions and heavy buttresses suggest it was meant to be higher, as Nibbs (1851) was first to point out.  It has small openings and a tiled pyramid roof.

The chancel is relatively short and though probably rebuilt in the C13 too, for no C11 work is apparent, it probably retains its earlier dimensions.  It was soon modified again, with early C14 ogee-quatrefoil windows, which have have internal sills, also linked by a string-course.  A plain pointed north doorway and an adjacent segment-headed squint have been assigned to the same date.  When found in 1925, they were assumed to be connected with an anchorite’s cell (6 p144), which was also connected with a roofline which is visible on the wall.  Also sometimes linked with this presumed cell is the blocked lozenge-shaped window with concave sides, in the east wall of the north aisle (4 p55).  There is a similar one at Wyck Rissington, Gloucestershire (7 p10), but the extent of later rebuilding here (see below) makes it possible that the window is a later assemblage of older pieces.   It is in any case doubtful if even the doorway is evidence of a cell here, for it cuts into the side of the squint and is thus later, whilst such cells were generally of timber or plaster construction.  The structure may in fact have been a vestry or chapel (see D Parsons: Sacrarium, in Butler and Morris (eds) p109).

There are C15 windows in the south nave wall with panelled tracery and also either side of the tower.  In the south wall of the tower-space inside is the upper entrance to the roodloft, entered from the tower-stair behind.  The lower part of the west wall is thicker and contains another C15 window (3 p144).  As the north aisle does not reach the west end, the nave may have been extended.

C17 or C18 changes included a brick segment-headed east window, of which the outline is visible.  In 1724 the ruinous north aisle was shut off (SRS 78 p136) until rebuilt in 1843 with the re-use of much old work (Nibbs).  As rebuilt. it is narrow yet gabled and its proportions suggest it was intended to contain a gallery.  Its east wall, as well as the window already noted, has a blocked brick doorway and what may be the outline of a window over.  One of the buttresses of the tower bears the date 1738, clearly recording repairs.  With the exception of the east window, there was little obvious C19 work after 1843 and the interior shows how many churches looked in the C18, with a huge pulpit and box pews.  In fact, there have been alterations during the C20, not all for the better.  Thus, in 1978 the box pews beneath the tower, which faced west to the pulpit, were removed (vidi).  More successful is the west gallery of 1924, which looks convincingly C17 or C18, and a vestry has been added west of the aisle.   In 1988 the church was re-oriented so that the congregation sat facing the altar across the church and some of the older fittings have been moved in consequence.

The church was designated in 2003 as one of those for which no future use was foreseen in the replanned provision of churches in the Brighton area.  At that time it was little used, but it is now in full use as part of a united parish with St Giles, Shoreham and has the support of a group of Friends.

Fittings and monuments

Altar rails: C18 with turned balusters.
Aumbry: (Chancel) A square opening, around a pointed head, like that of a lancet, was originally an aumbry, for the grooves for a shelf remain.  The inserted head may have been altered when the Lewknor tomb (see below) was built (5 p123).
Bench ends: (West end of nave) Two C15 ones with the Lewknor arms.
Box pews: C18 and arranged to provide good views of the pulpit for as many as possible.  Until 1978 (CCC file) there were also some in the tower space, facing west.
Carving: (In the east angle between south porch and nave) This appears to have been a figure, but is in poor condition.  Thus, the suggestion ( that it is C12 and could come from Lewes priory is speculative.
Font: C11. Large square bowl, like that at Southwick.
1. (C19 west lancet of aisle) Late C15 with the Lewknor arms and Tudor roses.
2. (North chancel, first window) Heaton, Butler and Bayne, c1913 (signed).
3. (East window) J Hardman and Co, 1923 (DSGW 1930).
4. (South chancel, first window) Jones and Willis, c1928 (signed).
Monument: (North side of chancel) c1540.  Deep recess under a crocketed, cusped ogee-headed arch and associated with the Lewknor family.  In the centre is a defaced Resurrection with damaged carvings on the sides.  The chest has quatrefoils containing shields, separated by trefoiled panels. The type is found elsewhere in West Sussex, especially in and around Chichester, and this is by some way the furthest east.
Paintings: (Chancel) c1700. Faded outlines of cherubs holding biblical texts.
Pulpit: It looks C18 and dominates the interior, which is planned around it, though originally it was more in the centre of the western tower arch.  In fact it is a hybrid, for it incorporates C16 linenfold panels and the sounding board dates from 1928; a photograph of about 1920 (4 p53) shows it without one.
Screen: (Eastern tower arch) Late C15 and much restored, bearing the Lewknor arms.
Singing desk: (East end of aisle) C17 and a rarity, with a flute used by the church musicians mounted on the top of it.
War memorial: Tablet of marble and alabaster, designed by Sir Giles G Scott (Mee p232).


1.  Anon: Annual report for 1964, SAC 103 (1965) p liv
2.  P Brandon: Deserted Villages in the Brighton District, SAC 112 (1974) p163
3.  W H Godfrey: St Julian, Kingston Buci, SNQ 7 (Feb 1939) p144
4.  F Grayling: Kingston Buci Church, SAC 51 (1920) pp53-60
5.  E F Salmon: An Ecclesiological Puzzle, SNQ 1 (Nov 1926) pp122-23
6.  R Silver: Anchorite’s Cell at Kingston Buci, SCM I p144
7.  F W Steer: Guide to the Church of St Julian, Kingston Buci, (Sussex Churches No 34), 1965


Measured plan by W H Godfrey in 7 p13

The black and white photograph of the interior dates from 1977, before the removal of some of the box pews, particularly from the tower-area. 

The colour photographs are by Josie Campbell, who kindly made them available.