HISTORY

Travelling along the busy A285 between Chichester and Petworth, motorists could be excused if they unknowingly passed through the hamlet of Upwaltham. In 1931, Revd. A.A. Evans wrote the following in The Countryman's Diary, published in Sussex County Magazine:

'When in your tramps you leave the black-tarred highway, you seem very often to enter and reach the soul of Sussex.  There are lanes innumerable, high-hedged, undulating, and with pot-holed surface - the motorist's agony - which breathe of an older England.  Some of them are untouched by the movement of time and looked just the same when Queen Bess made her royal progresses, and, after Boscobel, when King Charles bolted along them'.

 'I know a little church, and a hamlet which gathers about it, which has dwelt and slept among the high Downs of West Sussex, as a mother with her children, but little seen and little heeded by the great world, through many centuries.  It is Upwaltham.  You can read of the place in Domesday Book, where it tells you of the farmer, Earnwald, who held it under the great Earl Roger in 1086; of the amount of ploughland and woodland and swine, and the number of his cottars and serfs, and what the worth of it all was; also of the bit held by the Norman Abbey of Trearn-two hides - the cottars, and amount of hawth for fuel.  And when you reckon these together you find just about the same number of dwellings and same number of inhabitants to-day, as when the Conqueror ruled.  There they clustered farmstead and cottage, around the tiny Norman church, like children hanging on to the skirt of their mother'.

When the Saxons settled in Sussex they came into the Downs as well as the valleys, making their farm-clearings and villages among the dense woodlands and building their churches there. The church of St Mary the Virgin was built nearly 900 years ago to serve a small parish and it has remained relatively the same size as the original  builders left it. By then, England was 50 years into Norman rule, and it may be that the apse (the rounded chancel, where the altar is, and where the choir and clergy sit) was built at the wish of the Norman incomers. Few churches have never been extended, altered or reduced and even St Mary's has had some alterations, but none that have majorly altered it's shape.

Copyright 2018, St Mary’s Church, Upwaltham

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