Walberton – St Mary

There is a C11 nave, possibly pre-Conquest, with irregular C12 arcades and a large C13 chancel and porch.  The nave and aisles were drastically restored in 1903.

Walberton church lies on the southern edge of the village near Walberton Park, a large early C19 mansion.  The nave is generally seen as C11, even pre-Conquest, on account of the relatively tall and narrow proportions, though no feature has survived.  There are fragments of Roman brick in the west wall and pieces of Anglo-Saxon pottery have been found in the churchyard (2 p194).  What was interpreted as a gable-cross of the period, which was found walled up, may in fact have been the work of a C19 vicar’s daughter (Fisher p204).  A round-headed west opening is too large to be old, but may predate the C19.

The arcades are probably C12, though P M Johnston is said to have considered them late C11 (SAC 87 (1948) p53).  He gave no reason and this seems too early.  The arches differ in size and have round-headed and plain heads, square piers and simple abaci.  There are four south ones and three to the north, the westernmost separated by a short stretch of wall.  This arrangement is most easily explained if they were inserted in older walls over a period of time.  They are much retooled and the bases are now below floor-level (4 p2).

The chancel appears early C13, with a marked deflection to the south and proportions similar to the nave, both of which might suggest that the walls of both were in part at least of the same age.  All the windows are lancets and their rere-arches indicate their date, as they lack scoinsons.  The three east ones are stepped and there are three each side.  The north ones are shorter and there is a plain pointed doorway on this side.  The broad, double-chamfered chancel arch of the same date has low responds with shafts supporting the inner order of the head.  The long north porch is also C13 and though both the inner and outer round-headed and shafted arches are renewed, they accord with the trefoiled side-openings shown by Adelaide Tracy in 1851 (II p8).

The aisles were rebuilt in the late C14 or C15, though by the late C19 only the east window of the north aisle with two lights of panelled tracery remained.  Inside, the upper rood-stair opening of the same date is over the easternmost arch on the south side.  In the C17 and C18 the aisles were rebuilt with dormers for galleries and square-headed windows, as Adelaide Tracy and the Burrell Collection drawing (1790) show.  The outline of a square-headed west doorway is probably also of this period.

By 1875 £750 had been spent on restoration (PP 125), probably of the chancel.  New glass, ordered in 1865 (see below) may give the latest possible date, though no architect is recorded.  E Christian made further repairs in 1894 (CDG 13 (1895) p12).  He rebuilt the east wall, but left a large amount of old work.  The nave was not touched until 1903.  The architect, R T Creed (WSRO Par 202/4/6), fell foul of a storm of protest (see for example 3), though many mid-Victorians had done worse.  He replaced the aisles, basing his work on the surviving C14 or C15 window.  This shows a change in taste, for an earlier generation would almost certainly have chosen the C13 style, irrespective of what was there previously. The walls were refaced in hard flint and the roof and belfry (replicating the previous one, including the substantial timber frame inside) were replaced.  The new west window in C16 style has a segmental head.  The interior walls and stonework were scraped.  The west end was adapted as a meeting room and vestries in 1992-93 (VCH 5(1) p242).

Fittings and monuments

1.  (Adjacent in the east wall of the chancel) Two C13.
2.  (South side of chancel) Pointed opening near the floor, probably intended for relics.
Font: Fine and large late C11 tub of irregular dimensions with a damaged cable-moulding on the rim.  It was found in a farmyard and placed in the church in 1903 in place of a font of 1843 (ibid), but further details about its provenance are unknown.
1.  (Three east lancets) C E Clutterbuck, 1865 (B 23 p666); all are now worn.  The south lancets contain similar glass, two of them dated 1874-75, which could well be by the same hand.  The north lancets contain decorative glass of the same period.
2.  (South aisle, east and first windows) Windows in memory of Lord Woolton (d1964) and his wife, C J Edwards, 1962 and 1968 (one signed).  They are both buried in the churchyard.  The window commemorating Lord Woolton leaves no doubt about his achievements.
Lychgate: War memorial of 1921, designed by P M Johnston (SRS 84 p332).
1.  (Churchyard to the right of the main path) Charles Cook (d1767).  He was killed by the fall of a tree, as his tombstone graphically shows.
2.  (Churchyard) Prime family mausoleum.  A massive pink granite and stone vault surrounded by iron railings.  If the date 1826 on the iron door is correct, this is an early example of sepulchral granite, so beloved of the Victorians.
3.  (Chancel north wall) Rev Philip Blakeway, vicar (d1915 in Ismailia, Egypt on active service).  Designed by E Gill (E R Gill p48) and surprisingly small, with the lettering taking up almost all the space.
Recess: (North side of chancel) The base of this is hidden, so it could either be a further aumbry or another piscina (less likely).


1.  W D Peckham: Walberton, SNQ 9 (Nov 1946) p82
2.  C Place and M Gardiner: A Collection of Late Anglo-Saxon Pottery from St Mary’s Church, Walberton, SAC 132 (1994) p194
3.  Report for 1903, SAC 47 (1904) p xv
4.  F W Steer: Guide to the Church of St Mary the Virgin, Walberton, Sussex (Sussex Churches no 49), 1976


Measured plan (1944) by W D Peckham in 1 p82