Tuesday, 24 March 2009

St Nicholas, Poling

Poling really is hidden Sussex. It’s not remote, by any stretch of the imagination: it’s only a mile from the busy A27 between Worthing and Arundel, and two miles as the crow flies from Littlehampton. But it’s tucked quietly away, a mile down a small minor road off the A27, just over a mile east of the junction with the A283 to Littlehampton.

The lane is lined with old farms, brick cottages and newer houses: all are beautifully kept, not to say prosperous, with lovely gardens. In one of them, the author AA Milne and Christopher Robin once lived, and a swan from a local lake, ‘Hopper’, features in one of the ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’ stories.

The church itself is rather hidden: after a bend in the road, there is a name board for St Nicholas, but to get there you walk down the adjacent path and turn left past more immaculate gardens, around the back of Manor Farm.

The churchyard, like the rest of the village, is immaculately kept. The church is modest, and very Sussex, with flint walls and a low but well proportioned tower, with a sweeping roof of red tiles and Horsham slates. The interior is whitewashed, but charming.

Inside, the proportions give away a Saxon nave, to which was added a south aisle with an arcade of two bays of plain pointed arches and a chancel. The church guide and Sussex volume of The Buildings of England (Nairn & Pevsner) disagree about the date of the aisle: the guide gives 1180, whereas Nairn & Pevsner give 1300. I’m inclined towards the former, but both agree about a date of 1380 for the chancel. The tower was added around 1420 and the porch in 1830.

The nave and chancel are, unusually, the same height, so there is no chancel arch. Instead, the remains of a 14th century rood screen separate nave and chancel, and the composition is very attractive. There is a small Saxon window high on the north wall, and preserved below are the (incredibly rare) remains of the original wooden shutter.

Apart from the East window, which was replaced in 1830, the remaining windows are all attractive Perpendicular square-headed single or twin lights, dating from 1380 to 1420. The East window contains a small fragment of 17th century glass.

For a small country church it has a set of remarkably interesting furnishings. Pride of place goes to the brass on the chancel floor, to Walter Davy, vicar of Poling 1442-1499, decked out in his best ecclesiastical garb. The interior has other 17th and 18th century memorials, but by the south door is very rare survivor indeed: an iron-bound poor box on a pedestal. On the top are the initials Rt de H I C of A, and a date of 1285, thought to refer to Robert of Hastings and his wife, Isabella Countess of Arundel. On the front is the date 1797 (more likely to be the true date).

Above this is a stone inscribed (complete with spelling mistake): PRAYE REMEBER THE POORE. Opposite is an ancient stone tub font, thought to be Saxon, with a rather odd, modern decorated font cover from 1946. The west wall of the Nave bears a fine painted Royal Coat of Arms of George I, dated 1714.

But my favourite item is a headstone, located in the porch. It is dedicated to Alice, the wife of Robert Woolldridge, who died on 27th May 1740, aged 44 years. It has a wonderful rhyme, and one which is not entirely inappropriate for our own celebrity- and wealth-obsessed times:

The World is a round thing
And full of crooked streets
Death is a market place
Where all Men meets
If Life was a thing
That money could buy
The Rich would live
And the Poor would dye

The church is still a focus of its tiny community, and judging by the state of the graveyard and the beautiful flowers, it is well loved.

Poling Street, Poling Village, Arundel, West Sussex BN18 9PT

1 comment:

  1. My great grandfather's family lived in Poling -the Tompkins. His brother was a vicar of Tortington. My great grandfather became vicar of St Peter's in Southsea. This was from about 1840. I've found out so much about them from the internet. I would love to visit all these churches around Arundel and Worthing one day.

    Till then - thanks for the photos.

    Tim - PS I have a blogger site called overthestiles about some of my walks in Wales where I live.