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English Church Architecture -

West Sussex.

 

FORD, St. Andrew-by-the-Ford (TQ 003 037)     (October 2009)

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Upper Chalk)

 

This is an attractive little church (shown above from the south), most agreeably approached across the field that separates it from the footpath alongside the tidal reaches of the Arun.  It consists of just a chancel and a nave, with the additions of a S. porch, a cross-gabled N. vestry and a low western belfry, so its interest lies more in its antiquity than the scale or grandeur of its architecture.  However, its origins appear to lie in early Norman times rather than the late Saxon, as the brief church guide claims, for the walls are of characteristic Norman thickness and there is no evidence of long-and-short work at the angles of the building, or, indeed, of any other specifically Saxon features.

 

Externally, the church is lit to the north and south by a series of round-arched windows of two apparent dates, as shown by their different sizes.  There are two small windows of presumed eleventh century date in the N. wall of the nave, and two taller windows, still round-arched which are probably twelfth century. The N. and S. windows in the chancel, which are round externally but have pointed rere-arches, are probably Norman-Transitional work of c. 1200. The three-light E. window to the chancel, with reticulated tracery, is a Decorated insertion of c. 1330, and the two-light W. window to the nave, with a straightened reticulation unit in the head, is probably early Perpendicular. (See Appendix 2 for some close-dated examples of this tracery shape, albeit that they are all to be found in eastern counties north of the Thames).  The S. porch (illustrated left) is a delightful seventeenth century addition in brick (Ian Nairn dated it 1637 in The Buildings of England without giving his source), distinguished by its excellent Dutch gable.  The low N. vestry is Victorian.  The weatherboarded belfry with pyramidal roof, now painted white, is impossible to date by visual inspection from the ground, but the church guide says that one of the bells is inscribed with the name “Robert Ridre”, who is believed to have been at work from 1351-86.  The inner doorway to the porch is pointed and flat-chamfered, with the appearance of Early English work.

 

Inside the church, the chancel arch is by far the most significant feature.  (See the photograph, right, taken from the chancel.) This is very thick and unmoulded, but it rests on imposts decorated with a repeating cross-shaped ornament, like embryonic dog-tooth.  The imposts have hollow-chamfered under-edges and the jambs beneath are entirely plain.  There is a round-arched recess in the chancel N. wall (below left), of uncertain function, which is probably contemporary.  The recess in the nave E. wall, to the right of the chancel arch, probably once held a side altar, but here it is the date that is particularly uncertain.

 

Other features in the church include the very crude font with a plain square bowl of Romanesque (i.e. Saxon or Norman) date.  There are fragments of wall paintings on the S. wall of the nave and high up in the E. gable, of which the latter presumably once comprised a “Doom” painting.  The former include the “Agony in the Garden”.  Old woodwork may be limited to the braced collar-beam nave roof;  two tie beams towards the west support to the belfry.  The octagonal pulpit is interesting and unusual but may only be Victorian.