The Church - An introductory description is given below. For the full Church Guide Book - see the following pages.
The Church at Itchenor is dedicated to St. Nicholas of Barr. In 1175 the Lord of the Manor of West Itchenor obtained permission to build a chapel there and a few years later this was converted into a parish church with its own graveyard.
Standing on a small hill the building is in the most simple style of Sussex church and comprises a single chamber without a chancel arch. There is a ninteenth century south porch and a modern vestry on the north side of the chancel.
The bell turret at the west end of the Church was reconstructed in 1870 with a broach spire and is supported on massive buttresses and the arch between them. The spire was re-shingled in sweet chestnut in 1989. There are three bells. The oldest is dated about 1530 and the other two are seventeen century. The bells were re-hung in 1988 and a hand-chiming apparatus added.
A notable feature is the thirteenth century font, octagonal in shape with arcading of pointed arches and resting on five shafts with moulded capitals and bases.
There is some good modern stained glass in the windows which are of the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries period.
The Churchyard is well maintained by professional gardeners financed by an annual appeal to the villagers. Burials in the Churchyard average four a year. There is also a Garden of Remembrance for the interment of cremated ashes, used two or three times a year.
The Church has some valuable silver which is kept stored away under lock and key except at service times. At other times there is a simple oak cross on the altar
The three Churches of the Benefice share jointly in the monthly magazine tiparish News” which is edited by a member of the Itchenor congregation. The magazine has a circulation of 900 copies and caters for various groups within the area of the Benefice in addition to the announcement of Church Services and Church news.
In 1935 St. Nichoas, Itchenor was united with St. James, Birdham to form a single benefice. Under a scheme of Pastoral Reorganisation the ecclesiastical parishes of Birdham and of West Itchenor became one enlarged parish in 1987 and the augmented parish was at the same time joined with West Wittering parish as a single benefice under the incumbent of West Wittering. St. Nicholas and St. James each remain Parish Churches within the enlarged parish of Birdham with West Itchenor. There is one Parochial Church Council of 19 members. The two Churches have individual honorary treasurers and each maintains its own financial records.
THE PARISH CHURCH OF ST. NICHOLAS,
The place-name, ITCHENOR, is a combination of the personal name of Icca, an early Saxon chief who settled there and “ora”, a Saxon word for a bank on the shore. There is no mention in the Doomsday Book of a Church at Itchenor but there was probably a small one of timber or stone before the present Church was erected.
In about 1175 Hugh Esturmy, the lord of the manor of West Itchenor, obtained leave from John de Greneford, Bishop of Chichester and the Prebendary of Wittering, to build a chapel at Itchenor, the priest of which should be presented by the Bishop and should pay 5s. on New Year’s Eve to the Prebendary. Between 1180 and 1197 Bishop Seffrid II allowed the chapel to be converted into a parish church with its own graveyard. Hugh and his heirs were to present the rector who was to pay 6s. 8d. yearly to Seffrid the Treasurer and his successors in the prebend of Wittering. In 1243 the advowson with five acres of glebe was conveyed by Hugh’s granddaughter, Sara Godswewd and her sister Alice to Tortington Priory; near Arundel, with which it remained until the Dissolution (1536). The Church was valued at £5 6s.8d. in 1291 and at £6. 14s. 1d. in 1535. After the Dissolution the patronage remained with the Crown until 1932 when the Bishop of Chichester acquired a partial interest and the whole of the patronage was transferred to the Bishop in 1975.
The Parish of West Itchenor was united with the Parish of Birdham as a single Benefice in 1935. Under a Scheme of Pastoral Reorganisation on 25th December 1986 a new Benefice was created by the union of the Parishes of Birdham and of West Itchenor to form one Parish and the joining of such new Parish with the Parish of West Wittering as one Benefice whereupon the Vicar of West Wittering became Rector of the enlarged Parish of Birdham with West Itchenor.
West Itchenor’s Rectors are only recorded from 1363 and a framed list of the Rectors since that time is hung in the Vestry;
The church of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children, and of seafarers, is a rectangular building 50 feet long and 16 feet 6 inches wide with no structural division between the nave and the chancel. Changes in the window arrangement to give extra light were made in the late 14th century and there have been alterations and additions in the 19th century and more recently.
At the west end of the north wall there is a modern two light window in place of the original north doorway. This window is filled with glass from designs featuring St. Michael and St. George by Liddell Armitage in memory of George Eric Goldsmith, 1914-1941 who was a member of the National Fire Service.
Next are two 13th century lancet windows, the most easterly having stained glass by Francis Skeat in memory of Francis Duckworth, CBE, MBE, 1881-1964 and recounting his educational connections.
Beyond the communion rail is a doorway made out of the opening for another 13th century window leading to the modern vestry. East of the doorway is a square recess with door rebates which was restored for use as an aumbry in 1995. Above this recess is a marble tablet:-“ In Memory of the Revd. William Williams/24 years rector/of this parish who died April 6th. 1824 aged 66.“
The three lancet windows in the east wall of the chancel are 13th century and match other windows of this date in the church. The east windows are filled with glass by Christopher Webb in memory of Sir Andrew Caldecott, GCMG, CBE, 1884-1951. The theme of these windows is the Benedicite and there are references to Sir Andrew’s work overseas in Malaya, Hong Kong and Ceylon and also to his interest in music and love of dogs.
The altar is furnished with a very fine silver cross and matching candlesticks designed by Mr. Robert Potter of Birdham and given to the church by Captain and Mrs. Norman Currey in 1965.
The lancet window in the south wall of the Sanctuary is 13th century and to the west of it is a single light window, probably 14th century, with a trefoiled head set in a wide pointed opening with a chamfered head dying into the jambs and a very low sill. The communion rails were given to the church by members of the family in memory of Stenning Johnson, curate here from 1843 to 1847 and rector from 1847 to 1865; he was grandfather of Sir Andrew Caldecott.
The south wall of the nave is lit by a 15th century window of two lights with four-centred heads under a depressed arch; this window, the pattern for the modern one in the opposite wall, is filled with glass by Joseph Nuttgens in memory of Malise Angus Graham, RNVR (Fleet Air Arm) who was lost on patrol in the Mediterranean in 1942.
The south doorway of 13th century date is a plain round-headed arch continuous with the jambs; above it is a marble tablet: “Sacred to the memory of Catharine, relict of the late Thomas Gibbs of this parish who died the 14th of December, 1835 aged 85 years and was interred at Oving in the vault of her former husband Thomas Cobden this tablet was erected by her children.”
The freestone font is an octagonal bowl with two shallow arches carved on each face, set on a squat central and four subsidiary columns on a moulded base. The font is a good example of 13th century work and is interesting for the way in which the bowl and columns are joined.
The 14th century window of two trefoil- headed lights beneath a depressed head in the west wall was completely rebuilt in 1991 because of the erosion of the original stonework and the ferramenta bars were refurbished. The west window and the modern roundel above it were filled with stained glass by Anne Goodman in 1992 in memory of Jeremy Oundjian who died young. The theme of the composition is the Resurrection.
The roof and all the furnishings are modern. The seating is of oak and was given in July 1931 by Mr. E J. Mizen of Mitcham. The sanctuary was repaired and the entire church re-floored in 1960 when the ledger stone, now in the central aisle, was discovered beneath the altar. This stone is inscribed: “Anna, wife of Murdoch MacKenzie, Esq. (Lieut. in the Royal Navy) Died October 31 1786 aged 39 years.”
Lieut. Murdoch MacKenzie RN (1743-1829) was an Admiralty Hydrographer who surveyed the South Coast of England, including Chichester Harbour, in the 1780s. A reproduction of MacKenzie’s chart of Chichester Harbour made in 1786, the year of his wife’s death, is kept in the Vestry and may be seen on application to a Churchwarden.
A handsome carved chest, illustrated in the Gentleman’s Magazine, in September 1803, has regrettably disappeared from the church.
The stone credence table in the south east corner of the Sanctuary was given in memory of John Tisdal. The wooden credence table was donated in memory of Georgina and Rodney Wallace who were married in the church in 1982 and who died in tragic circumstances in 1983.
There is also an oak processional cross which was made and given to the Church by Mr. Peter Curry. The teak cross on the altar was made and donated by the late Mr. Askew (Arthur) Hague. Two silver headed churchwardens’ wands were given to the Church by Mr. John MacKenzie in 1991. For security reasons the wands are normally locked in the vestry together with a solid oak portable font donated by Mr. MacKenzie in 1993.
The vestry was built in 1956 by A.W.Stearn & Sons of Shipton Green to the design of Mr. McLeod Wallace, ARIBA.
The gallery at the west end was added in 1964 as a memorial to the men of Itchenor who fell in two Great Wars and whose names are inscribed on the Cross in the Churchyard. The builders were A.W. Stearn & Sons and the architects were Robert Potter and Richard Hare of Salisbury The ornamental metal work of the gallery was made by A.J. Stevens & Son of Halnaker, near Chichester. This gallery replaced a former musicians’ “west” gallery (dismantled in 1870) and is now occupied by a Compton organ presented by the late Mrs. M. Linton-Bogle who was organist here for 21 years until her death in 1973.
The cupboard beneath the stairs to the gallery is in Sussex oak erected by S.T Clements & Son of Chichester to the designs of Mr. Richard Meynell RII3A and was given in 1990 in memory of the late Mrs. Janet MacKenzie of Itchenor.
The embroidered tapestry kneelers in the pews were made and donated in 1988 by ladies of Itchenor and friends from elsewhere and include six made in the United States of America by Mrs. Grace Kremer of Atlanta, Georgia and her sewing circle. The kneelers feature various motifs horn within the Church, also flora and fauna from the countryside and Harbour and sailing vessels connected with Itchenor.
A new larger altar was installed after the 1960 alterations and a large red Florentine frontal for it was given by the ladies of Itchenor. This frontal was remodelled in 1990 by Mrs. Joyce Curry of Itchenor using a gold IHS motif from an old small frontal. Mrs. Curry also designed and hand-sewed a green patchwork frontal in 1988 and a white silk patchwork frontal in 1989 and donated them to the Church. in 1993 Mrs. Curry designed and made a violet frontal of hand-woven silk with hand-woven gold threaded silk ropes, tassels and balls, completing the Church’s liturgical colour collection.
The oak and glass Display Cabinet at the west end of the Church was made by John Kerly, Cabinet Maker, Chichester and was given in 1991 by Mr. Peter E. Brewis, CBE, and his sister, Mrs. Susan Ashton in memory of their parents. The cabinet contains the Book of Remembrance given to the Church in 1972 by the late Lady Seal and “The Annals of Itchenor” a book recording much of the early history of the Itchenor Parish together with a photocopy reproduction of the Church Register of Burials 1812 to 1982, the original Register having been deposited in the County Records Office in Chichester.
Photocopy reproductions are also held in respect of the Registers of Baptisms from 1812 to 1987 and of Marriages from 1813 to 1987, the originals likewise being deposited in the County Records Office.
Externally, the south doorway has a round head with a moulded label terminating in inverted lions’ heads which are very eroded. In the porch paving are two 13th century slabs with tapering sides; that on the east has an elaborate cross on three steps but the one on the west side is too eroded to enable a description to be given. The rest of the porch floor is paved with old memorial stones dating from 1735 to 1875 including one to Emma, daughter of John and Margaret Francies, who died aged 12 on 3rd July 1841; the text is Proverbs I, 17- “1 love them that love me, and those that seek me early shall find me.” The Porch is of 19th century date.
The walls of the Church are of rubble, mostly plastered. The roofs are tiled and there is a stone gable cross at the east end. At the eastern end of the south wall there are signs of a window blocked up in the 19th century. In the north wall the shape of the former round-headed doorway is visible below the sill of the westernmost window. The changes in the west, south and north walls of the church since 1803 can be seen..
The spire and bell-cote were re-shingled in sweet chestnut by P.P Lloyd of Hemel Hempstead in October 1989 and at the same time the wrought iron cross at the top of the spire was refurbished and gilded with gold leaf.
The bell-cote and spire rest partly on two massive buttresses against the west wall, partly on an arch between them and partly on the west end walls. Above the arch is a circular panel pierced with four sound- holes and there are also small louvred openings in the north and south sides of the bell-cote.
The external face of the east gable was repaired in 1964. External floodlighting of this gable enables the windows to be particularly well seen at night. This was a gift from the late Mrs. Ethelwyn Duckworth. It was necessary to undertake roof repairs over the north east and south east corners of the east gable again in 1992.
The three bells, which were originally hung for swing-chiming were re-hung in December 1988 by Whitechapel Bell Foundry with new fittings in the existing 19th century wooden frame. An Ellacombe hand-chiming apparatus was then installed so that the bells may be either swing-chimed or chimed by hand. Details of the bells are as follows:
Approximate weight: 2 cwt. 3 qtr.; diameter: 23 inches,
Date: 1994 Inscription : Uninscribed.
Founder : Whitechapel Bell Foundry, London
Approximate weight: 3 cwt. 1 qtr.; diameter 24 inches;
Date: 1665; Founder: William Purdue, Chichester;
Inscription: Richard Clark Church Warden 1665 WE
Approximate weight: 4 cwt. 1 qtr.; diameter: 27 inches;
Date: 17th century; Founder: unknown;
The Treble was cracked by “over exuberant bell ringing” by a member of the church community in 1994, and despite much research it became impossible to repair the bell by stitching or welding. The final decision had to be made to replace it, and a new bell was cast by Whitechapel, and put into place at considerable expense, but paid for by the very generous offer of a parish resident. The process of the work involved is shown in the pictures accompanying this guide. The cracked bell could not be placed anywhere safely locally, and so it was melted down by the Whitechapel Foundry for other bells.
The chiming mechanism which had contributed to the cracking action was also modified at the same time. The bells can now be either chimed using that mechanism or rung freely.
The wooden chiming wheels which were removed in 1989 when the bells were rehung and levers installed in their place were of an early design for full wheels and not made in two sections as modern wheels are. In view of their rarity the wheels have been preserved within the bell-cote. The oldest of the three bells has a decorative initial stop bearing the arms of Chertsey Abbey, the reason being that the bell founder, John White of Reading who had been employed to cast bells for the Abbey had authority to use the stamp with its arms as his trade mark on other bells.
The lych-gate was erected in 1950 by A,W. Steam & Sons to the designs of Mr. McLeod Wallace ARIBA as a memorial to Francis Edward Wilkinson, 1859 to 1946.
Within the Churchyard there are a few early decorated headstones; a good stone sarcophagus to the memory of Clara Gibbs, died 31st May 1733, aged 15 months and to Thomas Gibbs, died l9thAugust 1820, aged 67. There are some brick and stone altar tombs; footstones dating from 1711 have been used to make a path on the north side of the church.
By the south buttress of the west wall is a slightly tapering slab with moulded edges and a very slender ornamental cross; near the north buttress is a similar slab, probably broken at the foot but too badly weathered for any design to be deciphered. These 13th century slabs, like those in the porch would once have been inside the church. In 1972 a small section of the Churchyard was set aside as a Garden of Remembrance for the interment of ashes. With the consent of the Chancellor of the Diocese four trees were planted in the Churchyard in 1994, the gift of Mr. Peter Harmer of Nashville, Tennessee, in memory of his parents, Mr. Gordon Revel! Harmer and Mrs. Ida Albertha Harmer, whose ashes are interred in the Garden of Remembrance.
Two teak garden seats were installed in the Churchyard in 1992. One was donated by Mrs. Susan Ashton in memory of her husband, Tony, and the other was given in memory of the late Mrs. Rose Tilsley by her many friends.
The Church has an Elizabethan chalice of about 1568 made by a local silversmith and very like the cup at Selsey. The chalice is inscribed:
“FOR ECH.ENE.RPAR.IFSE” (“For Itchenor Parish”).
This inscription is on a band of zigzag ornament; reed moulding is around the base of the conical cup and its stem, and the foot is decorated with conventional foliations. The chalice is kept in the Cathedral Treasury in Chichester under a Loan Agreement dated 26th April 1976.
For ordinary use the Church has a plated chalice and a second plated Chalice and a paten were donated by Mr. John MacKenzie in 1990.
Two silver patens and a flagon were the gift of the Halstead family 1853.A silver ciborium made by Mr. Hampton of Birdham was given in 1972 in memory of Mrs. Ethelwyn Duckworth (1878 to 1971), a granddaughter of Stenning Johnson, Rector from 1847 to 1865.
Parish and Other Records
The parish records include a register commencing in 156!; it is the parchment ‘transcript’ and has this inscription at the beginning:-
“By me Edward of westiechenor
Richard Bridger and John lye Churchwardenes of the saide paryshe of westiechenor in the yeare of or Lorde god 1598 in the same yeare was this same booke Aqounted to be bought by A parlyment holden in the fortieth yeare of the raine of or gracious Sou’aine Ladie queene Elizabeth that now is and mayny yeares god grant she may Continue Amongest us. Edward Rose wrigter but not vicar,”
This register also contains notes of briefs collected between 1662 and 1665, and records the marriage of John Knight, rector 1640-1662, and Margaret Taylor on 7th April 1642. All the parish records of West Itchenor have been deposited in the Diocesan Record Office at Chichester.
Reference in wills are not so numerous or interesting from West Itchenor as for the neighbouring parish of Birdham, but one Rector, Stephen Parker who was only here for a year and whose will is dated 7January 1556-7 desired that his shirts and sheets be given to his poor neighbours. William Penrethe (1559) directed that his widow bake bread made of twelve bushels of wheat and distribute it together with three barrels of beer to such persons as shall attend his ‘month’s mind’, that is, the mass to be said a month after his death. Penrethe must have been a true lover of baked funeral meats for at his year’s mind his widow was enjoined to bake in bread and pies a further six bushels of wheat and dispense it with two wether sheep and two barrels of beer. Another homely touch is provided by the Will of Thomas Cobden who appointed Oliver Chype (Rector 1557-1561) as one of the overseers of his Will and bequeathed to his ‘gostlie father aforesaid’ a coffer.’
William Hoskyn left to the Brotherhood of Itchenor one ewe; at the abolition of the chantries, this Brotherhood had stock worth 56s.4d.2
An unhappy state prevailed at West Itchenor in 1621 when the Rector presented ‘that the churchyard is not sufficiently fenced according to the canon but lyeth offensive and open to all beasts, whereby the graves are rooted up, to the grief of many of the parishioners’. In the same year we have a record that the Book of Common Prayer was ‘lacerated and tome’, that there was neither cushion, pulpit cloth, nor a decent and comely surplice.3 There were one or two persons of doubtful character in the parish in the 17th century; for example, Thomas Styant was presented more than once for being a malicious, contentious and uncharitable person, he sought the unjust vexation of his neighbours and was a drunkard and common swearer, ‘and such a one as is not fitt to be harboured in any parishe’.4 John Payne detained money which had been given to buy bread for the poor and John Osborne money which had been bequeathed for church uses.5 In the days when the parish bounds were beaten, food was customarily provided for the poor who took part in the procession, and we find George Staple being presented for failure to contribute his share.6 Such glimpses of parish life, not necessarily associated with the church, could be multiplied by continuing the search through printed books and original records.
This pamphlet is mainly a sample of samples, many of which have been gathered from the pages of the volumes published by the Sussex Archaeological and Sussex Record Societies,7 and a full measure of thanks is due to those whose scholarship has put so much Sussex History within the reach of us all.
1 WH.Godfrey (ed) Transcripts of Sussex Wills (Sussex Record Society Vol.43), pp. 48-50.
2 J.E. Ray (ed.) Sussex Chantry Records (Sussex Record Society, Vol 36) pp. 114, 130.
3 H. Johnstone (ed.) Cburchwardens’ Presentments (Sussex Record Society, vol. 49), p. 19.
4 Ibid., pp.18, 30.
5 Ibid., pp 97,98, 125.
6 Ibid., p.3.
7 New members are welcomed to these two county Societies; Sussex Records Society is based at the West Sussex Record Office, Sherburne House, Orchard Street, Chichester; the address of the Sussex Archaeological Society is Bull House, 92 High Street, Lewes, BN7.
1. Front Cover drawing C Mr. L.W. Balding.
2. Photographs: Plates I, II and IV Mr. I K. Chrismas.
3. Guide revised 1995 by John Mackenzie and Edward Thomas, Churchwardens.