Thursday, 9 April 2009

St Andrew-by-the-Ford, Ford

Ford has a tiny church of Saxon origin, at the end of a small gravel path, close to the bank of the River Arun and surrounded by a copse of trees. It must have been a lovely spot before the coming of the railway, the main road and Ford Open Prison. But walking up the gravel path, looking across the open fields towards the river, it is still possible to imagine yourself in a different era.

The church is a simple, two-cell structure, with a nave and chancel, and a porch added in 1637 in the Dutch style. The interior is dark - especially so since there is no electricity here (they is a small generator to provide limited lighting for the choir). It is dominated by the Norman chancel arch, which has mouldings with a simple X-shape decoration. The walls are pierced by small Norman windows, although the Chancel has a fine Decorated window of about 1320. In the vestry are the remains of a Saxon arch, dated from around the turn of the 10th-11th centuries.

The walls show traces - although very indistinct - of extensive wall paintings. Those above the chancel arch show the last judgement, with the remains of devils (their feet, actually) forcing the damned into the mouth of a great red beast. A picture by the doorway helps interpret the remains.

On the west wall is a depiction - again, fragmentary - of the Garden of Agony, with two dragons. The paintings are thought to date from around 1320. It is a great pity they cannot be restored further.

Ford Road, Ford, near Littlehampton, West Sussex

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