Up Waltham – St Mary

The apsidal chancel and aisleless nave have not changed since the C12, except for later windows and a C13 chancel arch.

The church stands above the road from Chichester to Petworth, which is all that detracts from the tranquillity of the sheep-cropped churchyard, with fields behind.  There are few houses left where there was once a mediaeval village and only the presence of the road can explain the survival of the church, when others like Bargham (see under Angmering) have disappeared.

The C12 plan of aisleless nave and apsidal chancel is unchanged, though the cement render of the exterior (recently repaired on the south side) and the plastered interior conceal any original feature that might survive.  The thicker west wall has been explained by the need to support a stone belfry (2 p2).  There are said to have been the remains of a blocked west doorway (GM 1793 part 1 p321) of uncertain date, which was probably the only entrance originally (cf Chithurst).  Inside, the square responds of the chancel arch with plain abaci may be C12 and are rather earlier in form than the pointed and slightly chamfered head, which looks closer to 1200 in date with corbels for the rood-beam on the soffit.  If the responds are indeed C12, the arch to which they belonged was unusual for its date in being as wide as the chancel itself.  However, it seems unlikely that the arch was built in two parts with the head replaced so rapidly, so the probability is that the whole arch is later C12; conceivably the presence nearby of Chichester cathedral accounts for the more forward-looking elements including the breadth.  The plain roof timbers of nave and chancel, which have kingposts, also look early.

Some windows were changed in the early C14, including large trefoiled lancets in the straight walls of the chancel; the plain pointed south doorway is probably of the same date.  The windows in the apse look early C15 with segment-headed rere-arches, though they still have trefoiled heads.  They are broader than the C14 ones and the heads outside are smaller, whilst those of the rere-arches are unusually flat, making for rather unhappy proportions.  In the nave is a C16 square-headed north window of three uncusped lights.

The flint and brick porch is C17, when the diminutive boarded belfry may have replaced the presumed stone one.  This today has a pyramid top, but the Sharpe Collection drawing (1805) shows a steeper spirelet.  The same drawing shows a plain oblong south east window in the nave, probably also C17, which has now been replaced by a C19 trefoil-headed lancet.  Together with the change to the belfry and the two-light west window (the form of its predecessor is unknown, but may have been similar), this is the only identifiable C19 work and there is no information about the date or architect.  However, when Sir Stephen Glynne visited in 1853 (SRS 101 p291), he noted that the church had ‘lately [been] repaired & put into good condition’ and this probably indicates approximately when the work was done.  In the C20 the fabric was well maintained and the only questionable feature is the dark red ceiling, dating from repairs in 1962 under B Taylor (BE(W) p674).

Further repairs were carried out by the Goddard Partnership shortly before 2020 (practice website).


Chest: (Formerly) Late C17.
Font: A C12 tub-font on a square base.
Glass: (West window) M Lawrence, 2005 (artist’s website).  This consists mainly of plain glass with birds, butterflies etc, with the lamb of god in the quatrefoil.
Graffiti: (Chancel side-lancets) Indecipherable but pre-Reformation.
Piscina: (South chancel window) In the sill is a hollowed-out C12 volute-capital. This is probably original and was perhaps part of a pillar-piscina.  Similarities with such capitals at Chichester cathedral have been noted, leading to the suggestion that it may come from there (www.crsbi.ac.uk retrieved on 22/4/2013).
Sedile: The sill of the chancel south window has been lowered for the purpose.


1.  W H Godfrey:  St Mary (now the Church of the Ascension), Up Waltham, SNQ 132 (Nov 1950) p86
2.  F W Steer: Guide to the Church of St Mary the Virgin, Up Waltham (Sussex Churches no 27), 1962


Measured plan by W D Peckham in 2 p3

My thanks to Richard Standing for the photographs.  Regular users of the website will recognise in particular the image adapted for use on the home-page