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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There was a church at Thakeham in 1086, (fn. 1) and rectors were mentioned from 1208. The vicar also mentioned in 1220 (fn. 2) may in fact have been the rector's receiver of revenues. (fn. 3) The rectory was united with the living of Warminghurst in 1940 (fn. 4) and the united benefice with that of Sullington in 1977. (fn. 5)
The advowson descended with Thakeham manor in the Power family. David Power held it before 1208, the king presenting that year during Stephen Power's minority. (fn. 6) The advowson was settled on Stephen Power in 1350 or 1351. (fn. 7) After the partition of his estates between coheirs before 1377 (fn. 8) the advowson seems to have been exercised alternately by the lords of each moiety. The Apsley family themselves presented for their turn. (fn. 9) The lords of the other moiety seem usually to have granted their turns to others, although Isabel Clothall presented in 1415 (fn. 10) and Thomas Bellingham in 1557. (fn. 11) In 1407 William Apsley and John Hemery presented at a Clothall turn. (fn. 12) The patrons were in 1548 Edward Michell and John Hussey by grant of Thomas Gravesend, himself Ralph Bellingham's assignee, and in 1567 John Gascoyne, servant of Richard Elrington of Wiston, who had been granted a turn by Richard and Margaret Boys. (fn. 13) In 1595 Samuel Boys apparently conveyed his share of the advowson to Edward Apsley, (fn. 14) although he may have reserved one more turn: in 1605 Apsley presented, but the patron in 1607 was Robert Tichborne, a London skinner. In 1619 the Crown presented during the minority of Apsley's son Edward. (fn. 15) The Apsley coheirs in 1678 settled the advowson on Sir Thomas Hesilrige the younger, who presented in 1680 and 1683, (fn. 16) but sold the advowson to William Deane of Leicester in 1688. (fn. 17) Deane then presented a relative and namesake, but in 1697, 1706, and 1707 the patrons were respectively Maria Mill, William Naylor, and Francis Page, (fn. 18) all perhaps Deane's grantees. Deane or his namesake sold the advowson in 1714 to James Butler of Warminghurst. (fn. 19) It then descended with Warminghurst manor until the duke of Norfolk sold it to John Hurst in 1860, (fn. 20) although Patty Clough presented in 1792 and Robert Hurst presented his son John in 1834, having bought the turn. (fn. 21)
John Hurst in 1876 settled the advowson in trust for the presentation of his son John Palmer Hurst. (fn. 22) The trustee sold it in 1901 to S. T. Briscoe, (fn. 23) who presented himself in 1906 and was still patron in 1920. (fn. 24) By 1928 the patron was W. S. Eastwood, (fn. 25) but between 1930 and 1938 the advowson passed to the bishop. (fn. 26) In 1977 the patronage of the united benefice was to be exercised alternately by the bishop and the Chichester Diocesan Board of Patronage. (fn. 27)
William de Braose in 1073 gave the tithes of his demesne at Apsley and Thakeham to St. Nicholas's college, Bramber, (fn. 28) but there is no evidence that the college received them in full; possibly only tithes from assarts were intended. A dispute over the tithes of assarts in Thakeham in 1220 between Sele priory, successor of the college, and the rector of Thakeham was resolved by the award of those tithes to the rector subject to a pension of 2s. to the priory. (fn. 29) Although tithes in Thakeham were confirmed to Sele in 1235 (fn. 30) and 1245, (fn. 31) in 1255 it seems to have received the pension only. (fn. 32) The pension was still received in 1412 (fn. 33) but had lapsed by 1535. (fn. 34) A second dispute with the rector about small tithes from the lord of Thakeham's garden and farmyard was resolved in favour of Sele in 1274. (fn. 35) A further tithe dispute in 1279 between the rectors of Thakeham and West Chiltington led to violence in which the rector of Thakeham was wounded. (fn. 36)
The rectory was valued in 1291 at 20 marks. (fn. 37) Of that, 3 marks came from tithes of Muntham, a dependency of Thakeham manor in Findon, the rector of which was taking those tithes by 1341. The income remaining to Thakeham rectory in 1340 apparently included 9 marks from tithes of corn, fleeces, and lambs, 48s. 6d. from other tithes, 2 marks from 20 a. of glebe, 4s. from pasture, and unspecified oblations. (fn. 38) In 1535 the net income was £14 9s. 7½d. (fn. 39) In 1603, when the method of tithing corn was disputed, and in 1635 the rector received all the tithes from Thakeham parish in kind. (fn. 40) He was also said in 1635 to receive the math of a dole of 1/10 a. in Warminghurst mead and of a 3-a. dole in Broadmead in Sullington, the tithe of fleeces from certain farms in Sullington, and fees of 6d. from each woman churched, 1s. 6d. from each marriage, and 2d. from each Easter communicant, but he was not entitled to mortuaries. (fn. 41) The glebe estimated at 30 a. in 1616 and 28½ a. in 1635 was probably the 27 a. recorded in 1843. (fn. 42) The tithes and glebe were assessed for poor rate at £76 in 1753; from 1767 the tithes seem to have been farmed to the occupiers of the larger farms. (fn. 43) By 1831 the income was £585 net. (fn. 44) The tithes were commuted for £710 in 1843, (fn. 45) but the glebe remained entire in 1887. (fn. 46)
A rectory house was recorded in 1340. (fn. 47) It was presumably Martins north of Thakeham Street, which was certainly the rectory by 1616. (fn. 48) The 14thcentury house probably included a hall and east cross wing; in the 15th century the hall was rebuilt with at least two full bays and a two-storeyed passage bay next the wing. The roof retains crown-post trusses. The much altered east wing surviving in 1982 may have been the earlier one but was probably a 17thcentury replacement. In the 17th century the hall was ceiled and its west end replaced by a twostoreyed cross wing with a heated parlour. That may have been done by Henry Banks, rector 1640-80, (fn. 49) who in 1664 extended the hall range southwards to include a two-storeyed brick porch surmounted by a shaped gable. (fn. 50) Perhaps at the same time a short gabled projection was added west of the porch to complete the front. A scheme of 1789 to remodel the house (fn. 51) came to nothing, but soon afterwards part of the front was clad in mathematical tiles, and in the late 18th or earlier 19th century a long stone service wing was added in two stages at the west end. (fn. 52) The house was sold in 1923 to Sir Charles Little, who altered the house internally, extended the east wing, (fn. 53) and was perhaps responsible for altering the front to include a second shaped gable. A new rectory was built soon afterwards east of the old house.
Stephen Power was licensed in 1351 to found a chantry with one chaplain in St. Mary's chapel and to endow it with a house, 62 a. of land, 56s. rent, and pasture in Thakeham, and in 1362 to augment it with land and rent in Walberton, Warnham, and Horsham. (fn. 54) The patronage of the chantry remained with the lords of Thankeham manor as his heirs. (fn. 55) At its suppression in 1548 the endowments were worth £7 3s. 8d. a year, (fn. 56) and included land in Thakeham, Itchingfield, Warnham, and Yapton. (fn. 57) The Crown sold part of the endowments to Henry Polsted in that year and concealed lands of the chantry to speculators in 1575. (fn. 58) The fee-farm rents from the remaining property were sold to James Butler in 1652. (fn. 59)
Silvester, rector from 1208, was a king's chaplain. (fn. 60) Long incumbencies in the Middle Ages were enjoyed by Martin (from 1257 or earlier (fn. 61) to 1289 or later) (fn. 62) and by William Power (from 1304 (fn. 63) to 1348 or later), (fn. 64) but from 1406 to 1408 there were three incumbents, (fn. 65) and from the later 15th to the mid 16th century most recorded incumbents were chopchurches or pluralists, although one at least was resident and rebuilt the rectory house. Thomas Pyry, rector from 1530 or earlier to 1537, though also vicar of South Bersted, lived at Thakeham. (fn. 66) Resident curates were recorded from 1520. (fn. 67) Robert Eden, rector from 1548, was deprived in 1554 in favour of William Chedsey, the Catholic controversialist and persecutor of Cranmer; Chedsey resigned in 1557. (fn. 68) He was a noted pluralist (fn. 69) and in 1556 was employing a stipendiary curate. (fn. 70) The rector in 1563 was resident; (fn. 71) his successor, William Elrington, aged 20 when instituted in 1567 and deprived in 1572, (fn. 72) employed curates, as did the non-resident Michael Ward, rector 1572-87. Ward nevertheless preached monthly, and in 1584 there was a choir. (fn. 73)
From 1607 to 1900 or later every rector but one was a graduate. (fn. 74) In 1669 the rector was dispensed to hold another benefice, (fn. 75) and from 1706 to 1804 rectors also held the living of Warminghurst. (fn. 76) Nevertheless there is little evidence of non-residence in the 17th century and for most of the 18th; curates were recorded in 1613, 1684, and between 1688 and 1698. (fn. 77) From 1701 to 1706 the living was sequestrated. (fn. 78)
In 1640 the rector preached regularly; communion was celebrated four times a year. (fn. 79) There were regular Sunday sermons in 1662, (fn. 80) and weekly services in 1724 (fn. 81) and 1762; communion in 1762 was at least thrice yearly. (fn. 82) Roger Clough, a non-graduate, squire of Warminghurst, (fn. 83) rector of Thakeham 1792-1805, and patron, ceded three times and was presented again twice, finally presenting Joseph Williamson, (fn. 84) rector 1805-7, 'a good scholar, a bon vivant and a member of the Beef Steak Club'. (fn. 85) Both were probably absentees and employed curates; (fn. 86) the curate in 1799 was required to provide a service and sermon on Sundays and communion four times yearly. (fn. 87)
John Hurst, rector 1834-81, (fn. 88) although a good preacher, (fn. 89) was an 'eccentric autocrat' who scandalized his parishioners. Congregations fell, and during and after proceedings under the Church Discipline Act the living was sequestrated from 1844 to 1848. (fn. 90) The cure was then served by a non-resident curate. Communion was still quarterly in 1847; 26 parishioners communicated, 'an increase of more than half', and congregations averaged 200. (fn. 91) On Census Sunday 1851 morning service was attended by 73, and 204 came in the afternoon. (fn. 92) The number of communicants had fallen to c. 15 by 1878, when Hurst reported that there were 'divers and all manner' of curates and that congregations varied from 2 to 500. He alleged that 'we drive out' dissenters. In 1884 communion was still restricted to the great festivals, but by 1903 it was held monthly, and an effort was being made to hold it weekly; the rector was resident and was assisted by a curate. (fn. 93)
Permission to appoint a chaplain to provide Friday services at the union workhouse was given in 1846. Ninety-one worshippers attended on Friday before Census Sunday 1851. (fn. 94) There was still a chaplain in 1930. (fn. 95)
The church of ST. MARY, so called since 1830 (fn. 96) but invoking St. Peter and St. Paul in the early 16th century, (fn. 97) is built of local stone including ironstone and consists of chancel, nave with north and south transeptal chapels, north vestry and south porch, and west tower. The nave dates from the early 12th century and retains a north window of that period. In the early 13th century the church was remodelled to a cruciform plan. The north transept had a north tower above it. The chancel was rebuilt and the south wall of the nave was refenestrated. Piscinae of the 13th century survive in the south walls of both south chapel and chancel. A chapel of St. Mary existed by 1351. (fn. 98) It was described in 1441 and 1512 as in the churchyard, (fn. 99) but it has been suggested that it may have been the south transeptal chapel, (fn. 100) under the north tower, or abutting the east side of that tower. (fn. 101) About 1400 the north tower was taken down, leaving its base as a transept, and the present west tower was built. (fn. 102) A timber south porch was added in the early 16th century.
In 1727 James Butler built across the north transept a gallery reached by stairs from the north doorway; to accommodate it, the transept arch was heightened. (fn. 103) A musicians' gallery at the west end of the nave may have been built about the same time, and to light it a large timber window was inserted in the south wall. (fn. 104) In 1826 the south porch was partly cased in brick. (fn. 105) A restoration of the chancel was completed in 1883; the windows and roof were renewed. (fn. 106) Restoration of the remainder (fn. 107) was completed in 1893; the galleries were removed, the north transept arch was restored, a vestry was built, the windows were altered, the porch was restored, and wall paintings were discovered but replastered. (fn. 108)
The octagonal panelled font dates from the later Middle Ages. In 1881 a late medieval rood screen and a parclose screen across the north transept survived. The rood screen seems to have been removed at the restoration of 1893, and to have been restored and re-assembled in 1924; it was moved to the west end in 1948. (fn. 109) Sixteenth-century benches survive in the nave; box pews on either side of the crossing were removed in 1893. (fn. 110) The pulpit is also 16thcentury; (fn. 111) in 1887 it stood on the south side of the chancel arch and was surmounted by a tester. (fn. 112) It was moved to the north side in 1893 when the tester was removed. (fn. 113)
Monuments in the church include brasses to Thomas (d. 1517) and Beatrix Apsley (d. 1515), monuments to John (d. 1507), William (d. 1527), William (d. 1582), John (d. 1587), and Edward Apsley (d. 1651), and mural tablets to members of the Butler, Mellersh, Shelley, Fuller, and Upperton families.
There were four bells in 1724. (fn. 114) Three were recast in 1748, the fourth in 1775, and a fifth was added in 1809. (fn. 115) All were recast in 1925 and a new treble was added. (fn. 116) The plate includes a communion cup, flagon, and two patens, made in 1761 and 1762 and given in 1763. (fn. 117) The registers cover marriages from 1558, burials from 1559, and baptisms from 1572, and appear complete. (fn. 118)