A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 6 Part 2, Bramber Rape (North-Western Part) Including Horsham. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1986.
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A church stood at Sullington by the 11th century. (fn. 1) The benefice was a rectory in 1246. (fn. 2) By 1402 a vicarage, with the rector as patron, had been instituted. (fn. 3) Vacant from c. 1415, it was merged with the rectory in 1441. (fn. 4) The vicarage was again mentioned in 1484, probably in error. (fn. 5) The combined benefice remained a rectory. It was held in plurality with Storrington from 1953, and was vacant from 1970. (fn. 6) In 1977 it was merged with Thakeham with Warminghurst as the united benefice of Sullington and Thakeham with Warminghurst, part of the Chanctonbury group of parishes. (fn. 7)
John Covert was patron of the rectory in 1330, (fn. 8) and the advowson descended with Sullington manor until 1626. Turns were often alienated, the advowson was briefly settled on Thomas Shelley in 1605, and in 1624 the Crown presented after the death of Henry Shelley. (fn. 9) In 1626 Thomas and Mary Warneford and Thomas Shelley sold the advowson to John May and Peter Cox, (fn. 10) who presented in 1627. (fn. 11) Cox was licensed in 1638 to sell to Thomas Hussey, but Robert Lambert of Alverstoke (Hants) presented in 1639 or 1640, George Chandler in 1670, and John Welbank in 1671. Welbank sold the advowson in 1673 to Edward Buckley, (fn. 12) who presented William Bodgeant in 1677. (fn. 13) Bodgeant later acquired the advowson and in 1698 he and his wife Anne conveyed it to John Spencer. (fn. 14) It passed c. 1700 to Michael Sorocold (d. by 1705), whose trustees sold it in 1710 under an Act of 1705 to John Hassell and John Burrell. (fn. 15) By 1720 it had passed to John Hawes, Richard Russell, and John and Catherine Bullis, who then mortgaged it. (fn. 16) John Bullis was described as patron in 1724, (fn. 17) but Hawes presented in 1725 and Catherine Bullis in 1737. (fn. 18) She and others sold the advowson in 1753 to Edward Tredcroft of Horsham, (fn. 19) who presented in 1766. He left the advowson by will proved 1768 to his son Edward William on condition that he took the living when vacant; on E. W. Tredcroft's failure to do so, the advowson was exercised under the will in 1788 and 1794 by his brother Nathaniel. (fn. 20) E. W. Tredcroft by will proved 1822 left the advowson to his natural son George Palmer, who presented himself in 1824, (fn. 21) was confirmed in his title to the advowson by Nathaniel Tredcroft's heir in 1850, (fn. 22) and died early in 1859 having left the advowson to his widow Charlotte. (fn. 23) She conveyed it to her son Henry Palmer, already rector, in 1894. (fn. 24) He died in 1931 leaving it to his daughter Lady Caldecott, who conveyed it to the Diocesan Board of Patronage before 1938. (fn. 25) The advowson of the united benefice was to be exercised from 1977 alternately by the board and the bishop of Chichester. (fn. 26)
The rectory in 1291 was valued at £10. (fn. 27) The income in 1340 included, besides great tithes and tithes of lambs and fleeces, £3 5s. 6d. from other tithes, £1 3s. 4d. from 30 a. of glebe, and 12s. from offerings and mortuaries. (fn. 28) The rector did not enjoy all the tithes. In 1073 William de Braose had given tithes of Clayton to St. Nicholas's college, Bramber, and they were confirmed to Sele priory, the college's successor, in 1150 (fn. 29) and 1235. (fn. 30) After a dispute between Sele and the rector, the tithes of fields round Clayton were divided between them in 1246. (fn. 31) The Clayton tithes were confirmed to Sele in 1438. (fn. 32) Sele may also have had tithe rights in Cobden, since in 1542 Magdalen College, Oxford, its successor, leased to Edward Shelley of Findon the best lamb of the tithes of Cobden. (fn. 33) In 1251 the rector lost the tithes of Broadbridge manor to Rusper priory, which claimed that the lands were in Horsham. (fn. 34) Moreover the rector of Thakeham had a right to part of the tithes on Barns farm, (fn. 35) which he reasserted in 1871. (fn. 36)
The rector's income in 1535 was £12 17s. 3½d., net of procurations, indemnities, and a pension of 9s. paid to Rusper priory. (fn. 37) The pension may have been connected with a redemption of the Broadbridge tithes, since the rector received a modus from Broadbridge in the 19th century, still paid in 1969. (fn. 38) The glebe in 1615 and 1663 included 29 a. in closes and 2 a. uninclosed in the demesne fields; in 1635 and 1663 the rector received moduses of 2s. from a farm in Broadbridge, 6s. from two warrens, 6 fleeces from Muntham farm in Findon, and tithes from two mills. (fn. 39) In 1795 tithes of 6 a. in Cobden titheable to Findon were exchanged with those of 2½ a. in Muntham farm titheable to Sullington; the rector of Sullington was to pay a modus of 10s. 6d. to the vicar of Findon, a sum lost when Findon's tithes were commuted in 1838. (fn. 40) The Sullington tithes were commuted for a rent charge of £443 in 1840. The glebe was 30 a. then (fn. 41) and 28 a. in 1887, (fn. 42) and the rector's net income £296 c. 1830, (fn. 43) rising to £380 in 1883. (fn. 44)
There was a rectory house in 1615; it was demolished between 1635 and 1640 but a new one was being built in the latter year. (fn. 45) It was again ruinous by 1724, (fn. 46) and was extended in 1802-3. (fn. 47) It was rebuilt in 1845 with a loan from Queen Anne's Bounty. (fn. 48) In 1875 the rectory house stood east of Sullington Lane and north-east of the church. (fn. 49) It was sold in 1938; later owners included A. J. Cronin and Lady Cynthia Asquith. A house on Washington Road was bought as a new rectory. (fn. 50)
There was a chantry in the church, with an income of £4, by 1366. (fn. 51) It was presumably the same as the chantry of St. Mary mentioned from 1399, (fn. 52) of which the lords of Sullington manor were patrons (fn. 53) and which was worth £4 in 1535. (fn. 54) In 1548 the income was derived from a £4 rent charge on Arundel castle, a garden in Sullington worth 2s. 4d. a year, and 2s. 8d. rent from Cobden. The revenues were then being used to support a boy at grammar school. (fn. 55) The Crown sold the chantry house and garden in 1602 (fn. 56) but still held the Cobden rent in 1629. (fn. 57) John Wase left a cow to maintain a sacrament lamp in 1533, (fn. 58) perhaps the lamp and cow recorded in 1548. (fn. 59)
No rector before 1514, and only two before 1600, are known to have been graduates. (fn. 60) Assistant curates are recorded from 1533; there was often a curate between the late 16th century and the late 18th, except between 1669 and 1761. (fn. 61) The rector in 1579, though also incumbent of Hurstpierpoint and employing a curate, lived at Sullington and preached regularly. (fn. 62) Hugh Robinson, rector 1627-39, was a canon of Lincoln, archdeacon of Gloucester, and rector of Dursley (Glos.) and presumably an absentee, (fn. 63) but in 1640 the rector apparently resided and celebrated communion five times a year. (fn. 64) In 1724 communion was held thrice yearly, with c. 16 communicants. Services were supplied by one of the patrons, John Bullis; the rector, instituted in 1677, was perhaps incapacitated. (fn. 65)
In the 19th century the rectory became almost hereditary: George Palmer (1824-59) was the son of E. W. Tredcroft, briefly rector in 1794, and was himself followed after a short interval by his son Henry Palmer (1859-1928), also rector of Parham and from 1909 a prebendary of Chichester. (fn. 66) George celebrated communion four times a year in 1838, as in 1844, when he claimed a great increase in communicants. (fn. 67) On Census Sunday 1851 morning service was attended by 40; services were held alternately in morning and afternoon. (fn. 68) By 1865 Henry held sixweekly communions for generally 15 communicants; the average adult congregation was 30 in the morning and 50 in the afternoon. In 1873 he was holding services at Cobden and in the schoolroom at Sullington. Communion was monthly by 1884, and the parishioners were then said to be 'fairly hearty'; in 1903 only 6 or 7 per cent neglected public worship. (fn. 69) There was an assistant curate in 1926. (fn. 70)
The church of ST. MARY, so called by 1831 (fn. 71) but possibly dedicated to St. Bartholomew in the 14th century, (fn. 72) consists of chancel, nave with north aisle, north vestry, and west tower. The long and short quoins of the tower and of the east wall of the nave indicate that those parts were built in the later 10th or earlier 11th century. In the later 11th century the chancel was added or rebuilt. In the 12th century the tower was remodelled. The upper stage was added, the tower arch widened, and the much renewed west doorway was inserted. A window in the north wall of the chancel also dates from that time. In the 13th century the chancel arch and tower arch were rebuilt, the latter on its earlier responds, lancet windows were inserted in the north and south chancel walls, and the north aisle was added, although the west respond of the arcade is probably earlier. The north doorway of the aisle is re-used 12th-century work. The chapel of St. Mary mentioned in 1367 (fn. 73) was in the aisle by 1534 (fn. 74) and the aisle east window is of the earlier 16th century. The chancel east window was enlarged in the earlier 14th century. In the later Middle Ages the nave walls were raised and the nave and aisle roofs replaced. A three-light window was inserted into the south wall of the nave. (fn. 75) In 1602 the church was in serious decay, (fn. 76) but it had been repaired by 1640. (fn. 77) It was perhaps at that period that the tower was heightened and given a square upper west window. The church was restored in 1873 to the designs of Lacy W. Ridge; new lancet windows were inserted in the nave and a vestry was added. The roofs of nave and aisle were repaired. It has been suggested that a low side window exposed in the chancel may indicate a former hermitage. (fn. 78)
Margaret Covert in 1367 left money for gilding the silver cross in the church. (fn. 79) The octagonal font with quatrefoil panels is 15th-century. (fn. 80) The church was reseated shortly before 1851, (fn. 81) and again in 1879. (fn. 82) In 1876 or 1877 an organ and wooden reredos were given. (fn. 83) A stone effigy of a cross-legged mailed knight on a table tomb under the tower is believed to represent Sir William Covert (d. before 1274). (fn. 84) A medieval stone coffin found in the north aisle in 1873 was then moved to the tower. (fn. 85)
A bell for Sullington was cast by John Tonne in 1522. (fn. 86) There were 3 bells in 1724. (fn. 87) The church had plate worth 6s. 8d. in 1548. (fn. 88) A communion cup and paten date from 1672. (fn. 89) The registers date from 1555, with short gaps in the 16th and 17th centuries. (fn. 90)