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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William de Braose (d. 1093 x 1096) gave Shipley church c. 1080 to the abbey of St. Florent, Saumur (Maine et Loire), which granted it back to his son Philip c. 1096 in exchange for Washington church. (fn. 1) Philip then gave it to his relative Richard de Harcourt, who gave it to his brother Philip, dean of Lincoln. About 1139 Philip granted it to the Knights Templar, as one of their earliest endowments in England. (fn. 2) Shipley was a parish by 1227, (fn. 3) but it is not clear whether the Templars ever appointed incumbents. Under their successors the Knights Hospitaller no incumbents were appointed, the cure being served by chaplains, (fn. 4) and in 1438 the church was called a chapel. (fn. 5) After the Dissolution the benefice came to be regarded as a curacy; (fn. 6) after the stipend was augmented from Queen Anne's Bounty in 1728 (fn. 7) it was a perpetual curacy. (fn. 8) In the later 17th century clergy were sometimes loosely described as vicars. (fn. 9) By 1874 the living was called a vicarage, as it remained thereafter. (fn. 10)
The advowson of the church, like the rectory, was claimed in 1315, after the suppression of the Templars, by both William de Braose and Andrew Peverel. (fn. 11) Like the rectory, however, it passed to the Hospitallers, one of whose farmers appointed a priest to serve the parish in the early 16th century. (fn. 12) After the Dissolution the impropriator usually appointed a curate, (fn. 13) but on two occasions in the 1570s the bishop apparently appointed. (fn. 14) In the later 19th century the advowson passed, with the rectory, to the Burrell family, to which it still belonged in 1983. (fn. 15)
Either the impropriator or his lessee paid £20 a year to the curate as stipend in 1635, (fn. 16) and the curate was said in 1640 to have a sufficient income. (fn. 17) In 1646, nevertheless, Richard Molyneux, Viscount Molyneux, as impropriator was ordered to settle £100 a year on the curate, and the sum was being paid in 1656-7. (fn. 18) The arrangement lapsed soon afterwards, for the purchasers of the rectory estate in 1664 were merely enjoined to pay a suitable stipend to the curate from the income of the estate. (fn. 19) It is not clear where successive curates lived; there was no glebe house in 1724 (fn. 20) or in 1830, (fn. 21) and no earlier reference to one has been found, though surviving probate inventories describe the houses of two curates in the early 17th century. (fn. 22)
In 1728 Queen Anne's Bounty settled £200 on the living to meet an equal benefaction from the lay rector, Bulstrode Peachey-Knight. (fn. 23) In 1809 the income, including stipend, augmentation, and surplice fees, was said to total £83. (fn. 24) There were further augmentations, totalling £800, from Queen Anne's Bounty in 1813, 1820, and 1848, of which the latest was again to meet a benefaction. (fn. 25) The average net income was said to be £98 c. 1830; (fn. 26) in 1852 it was being augmented informally by another £100 a year from the impropriator. (fn. 27) The additional sum of £66 13s. 4d. a year was settled on the living in 1864 by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to meet a benefaction, presumably from the impropriator, of £1,000. (fn. 28) Meanwhile a glebe house had been built c. 1848 north-west of Shipley village; of red brick in Tudor style, it was enlarged c. 1895. (fn. 29) Land south of it was described as glebe in the 1870s. (fn. 30) The living was valued in 1873 at £174. (fn. 31) A new vicarage, nearer the church, was built in 1965, (fn. 32) but the previous building survived in 1983.
No incumbents are known to have been appointed by the Knights Templar, (fn. 33) and none of the chaplains appointed by the Hospitallers is known by name before the 16th century. (fn. 34) In 1338 there were both a chaplain and a 'clerk of the church'. (fn. 35)
Richard Cary or Kyrry, curate 1573-9, was a former religious. (fn. 36) His successor was described in 1579 as very diligent, reading homilies every Sunday and holy day, (fn. 37) but a later curate in 1604 was neither a graduate nor a preacher. (fn. 38) At least three curates resided in the earlier 17th century. (fn. 39) After Robert Swanwick was ejected in 1646 for drunkenness, (fn. 40) a puritan minister, John Buckley, was appointed. He in turn was ejected at the Restoration; (fn. 41) his successor was intermittently resident in 1662. (fn. 42) William Turner, curate by 1682, (fn. 43) held other benefices apparently at the same time as Shipley. (fn. 44) John Lee, who seems to have been an assistant curate, claimed in 1713 to have lived in the parish for over 50 years. (fn. 45) At least two 18th-century curates were graduates of Scottish universities. (fn. 46) In 1724 there was divine service with a sermon twice on Sundays, and communion was celebrated four times a year for 100 communicants. (fn. 47) Two mid 18th-century curates seem not to have resided, since an assistant curate usually officiated, but William Jameson, curate from 1775, often served, with the assistance after 1779 of George Marshall, later curate of Horsham. (fn. 48) There were frequent changes of curate or vicar during the 19th century, when assistant curates often served instead. (fn. 49) No clergyman was resident in 1832 for lack of a glebe house. (fn. 50)
In 1838 morning and afternoon services were held on alternate Sundays and communion four times a year. (fn. 51) Average congregations in 1851 were said to be 150 in the morning and 200 in the afternoon. (fn. 52) By 1868 communion was held monthly and there were two services every Sunday. (fn. 53) The northern part of the parish became part of the new parish of Southwater in 1853. (fn. 54) In 1884 the incumbent pointed out that because of the scattered nature of settlement proposed mission chapels would be of less value than an assistant curate. (fn. 55) His successor in 1903 was still serving the cure single-handed, (fn. 56) but in 1898 a mission room capable of holding 160 persons had been opened at Coolham. (fn. 57) Communion and evening prayer were held there fortnightly in 1917. (fn. 58) The mission room was last used in 1974 and in 1977 was converted into a house. (fn. 59) As a result of building in Shipley village after 1945 the parish church was more conveniently placed for parishioners than before.
The church of St. Mary (the dedication is recorded from 1456) (fn. 60) consists of chancel, axial tower, nave with north aisle and vestry, and south porch. It is chiefly of local sandstone externally, partly coursed and partly random, but what appears to be Caen stone is also used, mainly internally.
Nothing is known of the building which existed c. 1080. (fn. 61) The nave, tower, and chancel date from c. 1140 and represent one of the earliest Templar churches in England. The character of the masonry of the south wall externally may suggest that the nave originally extended to only half its present length, and that its western extension coincided with the building of the upper storey of the tower. (fn. 62) The scale of the building reflects the prestige of the Templars, and its plainness expresses their combination of military and ascetic qualities. The double-splayed windows of the nave and tower, though anachronistic in church architecture, have contemporary domestic parallels. The plain doorway which is unusual in piercing the south-west pier of the tower provided separate access to the eastern end of the church, presumably for the Templars, who may have used the tower space as their choir: the roll moulding on the eastern arch of the tower space stops c. 4 ft. (1.3 metres) short of the floor, as if to accommodate stalls. The huge tower arches are elaborately decorated. A low pyramidal shingled spire which was apparently original was removed in 1831. (fn. 63)
The west doorway is mid or late 12th-century in style, with flanking columns and a pointed arch with zigzag ornament. The two-light west window, with plate tracery, was put in c. 1300, and other windows in the north, south, and east walls were replaced in the 15th and 16th centuries, (fn. 64) A north porch of timber and stone was added in the 14th century, (fn. 65) but it was moved after 1830, (fn. 66) and in 1940 (fn. 67) and 1983 was used as a toolshed. The 16th-century oak south porch survived in 1983; at least between 1805 and 1850 it had an attached lean-to structure to the west. (fn. 68) By 1632 a west gallery five rows deep had been built in the nave, (fn. 69) and in 1640 there were two galleries. (fn. 70) Before 1830 the nave acquired a compartmented ceiling with painted coats of arms. (fn. 71) In 1831 a north aisle was built doubling the church's accommodation; the two galleries were taken down and re-erected as a single west gallery, which included a 'singing seat'; and the low spire, considered unsightly, was replaced by battlements. Plans for the work were provided by Sir Charles Burrell, who also loaned the money, which was repaid by subscriptions and a grant from the Church Building Society. (fn. 72) In 1884 the condition of the fabric was said to be poor, the churchwardens having 'very grossly' neglected it according to the vicar. (fn. 73) A major restoration was undertaken in 1892-3 to the designs of J. L. Pearson; it was financed by £3,000 left by the lay rector Sir Robert Loder, Bt. (d. 1888), and an equal sum supplied by his daughter Lady Burrell. The nave roof was renewed, the west gallery taken down, the north aisle replaced by a new one with an arcade of alternate round and octagonal piers, and a north vestry built. (fn. 74)
There are early medieval sedilia. A 12th- or 13thcentury reliquary 8 in. (20 cm.) long, of wood covered with copper and with enamelled and gilt figure compositions including a Crucifixion with saints, (fn. 75) was stolen in 1976. The oak priest's chair dated 1732 was stolen in 1980. (fn. 76) A new pulpit, lectern, and other fittings were added in 1892-3 or later. (fn. 77) The large alabaster monument with figures to Sir Thomas Caryll (d. 1617) and family was restored c. 1831 by the sculptor J. E. Carew at the expense of Lord Selsey. (fn. 78) There are various memorials to members of the Burrell family, notably the east window by C. E. Kempe.