Early written records are limited. The earliest is Domesday Book, which is available in several printed editions; most convenient is that by John Morris in the Phillimore series, (published 1976). Its limitations for the church historian are well known. Much has to be based on deduction, e g the presence of several priests may suggest a minster church, and the omission of a church does not mean it did not exist. Domesday Book is a record of property ownership and only mentions churches in that context.
The next oldest records are wills and churchwardens’ accounts, which start in the C15, though survival is random. Not all concern the architectural historian, but have much to interest the church historian. Many are published in SAC or by the Sussex Record Society. Fuller details are contained in section III, Primary Sources, of the Bibliography; from the C16 records include those of visitations and archdeacons’ courts and from the C17 and C18 there are personal works like the journals of Giles Moore (rector of Horsted Keynes 1655-79) and Thomas Turner (1729-93).
The earliest consciously historical source is the notes prepared by and on behalf of Sir William Burrell (1732-96), the son of an MP who came from a landed Sussex family and was himself a lawyer, specialising in ecclesiastical affairs. His interest was primarily in genealogy and he was assembling material by 1770. This consisted mainly of transcribing inscriptions on monuments (he is reckoned to have visited about two thirds of Sussex churches personally). On at least two occasions (at Isfield and Jevington) he took active measures to preserve antiquities. From about 1780, he commissioned Samuel Hieronymus Grimm (1733-94) and James Lambert senior (1725-88) and his nephew another James (1744-99), both of Lewes, to make drawings and watercolours of churches as an extension of this interest. Their work is also to be found in the collection of the Sussex Archaeological Society. Burrell intended to produce a history, but problems with a finding a publisher and failing health led him to bequeath his material to the British Museum (now British Library), where it soon became a major source for researchers. At a slightly later date, Henry Petrie (1768-1842) undertook a similar task, producing over 350 sketches between 1802 and 1809, amplified by a much smaller quantity by an anonymous artist, who had started work in 1797. Petrie was an antiquarian who did similar work on Kent and Surrey churches and later became Keeper of Records in the Tower of London. He was associated with the Sharpe family and the collection descended in their possession until after 1911, when P M Johnston (see below) was able to have photographs made, which were placed in the Library of the Sussex Archaeological Society. The originals were acquired for the Society in 1975 and, now called the Sharpe Collection, are held at Michelham Priory.
Most surviving parish records are now in the County Record Offices at Chichester and Falmer (for East Sussex). These contain much information, not only in the papers specifically about fabric matters. The latter are few before the early C19 and are mostly valuable for what they reveal about restorations and new churches. The Record Office at Chichester also has all diocesan records, of which to the architectural historian the most important are the faculties granted in the two historical archdeaconries, Lewes and Chichester. The granting of these was only systematised in the early C19. Frequently there is material in support of the application (mainly reports, plans and drawings). There should in theory be counterparts in parish records, but there are many gaps.
There are several mid-C19 collections of drawings. Pre-eminent is the set of bound volumes (in the West Sussex Record Office) by Adelaide Tracy (1831-1900). She was a member of the Borrer family in Henfield and married the then curate of Steyning. Before this she set out to draw every ancient parish church in Sussex. With some help from others, she achieved this objective. She had an eye for the picturesque but was also accurate, so her drawings are a valuable source for the state of churches in the late 1840s and early 1850s, i e before most restorations, though not all her helpers, mainly in East Sussex, were as skilled.
Two other sketchers of Sussex churches whose collected works are in the Sussex Archaeological Society library are near contemporaries. William Thomas Quartermain (1819-87) produced two bound volumes, one for each part of the county. These are dated 1865, but most drawings date from the 1850s and a few were added as late as 1875. Less consciously picturesque than Adelaide Tracy, his literalness complements her. Quartermain was an engineer whose main interests appear to have been gas and fire engines. Though born in Putney, he was living in Brighton by 1851. The earliest drawings in the book of sepia drawings by William Frederick Saunders (1832/33-1901) date from 1852, but most are from the 1860s and 1870s, with a few as late as 1900. Saunders was an insurance underwriter and though he travelled extensively in Sussex, lived in Surrey and London; because of his dates many churches he visited had already been restored so his work is generally more limited in value.
Gladstone’s brother in law, Sir Stephen Glynne (1807-74), visited churches assiduously and although he undertook the public duties that were expected of him as a baronet and landowner, such as becoming an MP, this was where his heart lay. His travels covered most of England and he saw well over 200 churches in Sussex. His visits there extended from 1825/26 to 1873, but he had little interest in making his researches more widely available. In the case of Sussex the first attempt at publication was by V J Torr in SNQ 16 from 1964 but he covered less than 20% and most remained unpublished until 2021, when Glynne’s notes were published in full by the Sussex Record Society (vol 101) with an extensive commentary on each church by David Parsons, who also contributed a general introduction. Glynne complements the pictorial representations detailed above and though his descriptions can be vague, particularly as regards style and dates, most date from before mid- to late C19 restorations and are therefore often essential reading for anyone researching a mediaeval church Glynne saw.
A later writer was William Edward Meads (1879-1956), who was a dentist in Bexhill. He produced a series of newspaper articles between 1931 and 1939 which covered all but one of the ancient churches of East Sussex, some of which are now in West Sussex as a consequence of boundary changes (for details see the section on published works on Sussex). However, the SAS Library contains his notebooks with not only the articles themselves, but also comments and corrections, together with photographs and sketches for a revised version that was never produced. He is strongest on straight description on which he is extremely thorough and also recorded the measurements of the churches he examined.
There are unpublished local sources, like A Brown’s notebooks on Eastbourne churches, which contain material dating from about 1920 to 1950 (it has not been possible to find out anything about Brown), but most significant is a typescript entitled Seventy Churches of East Sussex, dating from around 1950, by P Langdon, stated to have been Archdeacon of Hastings though not included as such in clergy lists of the period (both the last are in the library at Barbican House). Langdon was a competent researcher and made good use of his predecessors’ records (not all of which are now available), but limited himself to his archdeaconry and never found a publisher.
161 thoughts on “Unpublished, pictorial and manuscript sources – Sussex”
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