Northchapel – St John the Baptist
The core of nave and chancel are C14. Alterations in 1832 included the west tower and the whole church was remodelled in 1876, with a new north aisle.
Northchapel, as its name implies, was a chapelry in the large parish of Petworth. Unusually for the date but like Duncton in the south of the parish, it became a separate parish in 1692 (1 p131), though the necessary Act of Parliament dates only from 1717 (ICBS).
The earliest documentary reference is to a chantry in 1535 (1 ibid), but on architectural evidence there was a chapel by the early C14; it is unlikely that it was an early foundation so far into the Weald. There is some C14 work in the south wall of the formerly aisleless nave and the Burrell Collection drawing shows a three-light east window with reticulated tracery, like the present C19 one. Nave and chancel were under one roof, without a chancel arch. The Burrell drawing also shows what appear to be two north lancets, which could be early C14 or indicate that there was at least some earlier work. Between them was a two-light window, which looks C17 or C18. The Sharpe Collection drawing (1804) shows on the south side of the nave two two-light windows separated by a dormer set higher. None looks pre-Reformation and the presence of the dormer implies the presence of a gallery. By contrast, no south windows are shown in the chancel, though there may have been blocked ones that are not visible.
Substantial work was done in 1832-33 (ICBS), when a thin tower with small bell-openings, battlements and an octagonal spire replaced the previous belfry; the plain west doorway is clearly part of this work, as the traceried window above is not. Adelaide Tracy (1849) (II p29) shows three-light segmental windows, probably dating from the same time, and there was a new gallery and a large, utilitarian north east transept, which faced the pulpit in the south east angle, to allow as many in the congregation to see the preacher as possible. W Bryder, a surveyor, signed the formal papers for a grant from the ICBS and the work looks utilitarian enough for him to have been the architect also. The cost was £661 9s 0d, of which the patron, Lord Egremont, gave £300 (SRS 75 p177).
The eminent architect A Salvin, who lived in the parish (Allibone p195), refaced the church in local Blackdown stone in 1876-77 (ibid) and provided new south windows in C14 style. He replaced Bryder’s transept by a gabled north aisle arcade, with a chapel, all also in C14 style, and rebuilt the chancel (ICBS) on the old lines. The roofs and south porch are by him and though he retained the tower, he inserted a new west window. The plain west gallery is probably a later alteration.
Font: Shallow square Sussex marble bowl on a stem, dated 1662 and related to that at Lurgashall, though different. The decoration resembles pilaster-strips.
1. (East window) Clayton and Bell, 1876 (BN 34 p508).
2. (North aisle, first and second windows) Clayton and Bell, 1884 (CDK 1884 pt 2 p152).
3. (South nave and south chancel first windows) J Powell and Sons, 1897, designed by G Parlby and 1921, designer E Penwarden (Hadley list).
4. (West window of aisle) W Geddes, 1930 (signed). It commemorates Louisa Lee Sargent (1867-1926), an American who had a cottage in the village, though the reasons for the choice of Geddes as designer are not known (Gordon Bowe p259). The choice of St Francis as subject recalls Miss Sargent’s love of both animals and Italy though the design, particularly the smaller scale figures in the side-lights, is not ideally clear. Nicola Gordon Bowe (ibid p264) suggests that the use of light colours, greater than usual in Geddes’s work, was a response to concerns of the church authorities that the glass would darken the church unduly.
Piscina: (Chancel) C14 trefoil-headed, heavily restored during Salvin’s work.