Henfield: Church

A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 6 Part 3, Bramber Rape (North-Eastern Part) Including Crawley New Town. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1987.

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'Henfield: Church', in A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 6 Part 3, Bramber Rape (North-Eastern Part) Including Crawley New Town, (London, 1987) pp. 155-156. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/sussex/vol6/pt3/pp155-156 [accessed 25 April 2024]


A church was founded in or before 770 by the thegn Warbald and his wife Titburh; the theory that it was a minster seems doubtful. (fn. 1) In or before 1219 the rectory was converted to a prebend in Chichester cathedral, (fn. 2) which c. 1520 was appropriated to the bishopric. (fn. 3) A vicarage was ordained in 1219. (fn. 4) In 1978 it was united with the benefices of Shermanbury and Woodmancote, the parishes remaining distinct. (fn. 5)

The advowson of the vicarage was exercised by the prebendary until c. 1520. (fn. 6) Thereafter the bishop collated, except in 1657 and 1658 when Col. John Downes presented. (fn. 7) In 1978 the bishop was made patron of the new united benefice. (fn. 8)

The 15 hides with which the church was endowed in 770 were later divided to form the manor and rectory estates. (fn. 9) At or after the conversion of the rectory to a prebend, the vicarage was endowed in 1219 with small tithes, offerings, legacies, the tithe of assarts, and, unusually, corn tithes. (fn. 10) The corn tithes, however, seem later to have belonged to the rectory, except those arising on the part of Eatons farm which lay in Henfield. (fn. 11) In addition, a portion of tithes in Lancing was attached to Henfield church by 1219, passing afterwards to the vicarage. In 1607 the portion included wool and a lamb. Before 1830 it was sold to the owner of the lands to redeem land tax, the residue of the purchase money being invested. (fn. 12) The vicarial tithes from Henfield park were commuted before 1678; the vicar at first received instead a quarter of wheat and a load of hay a year, and had the right to keep a horse on Parsonage farm, but by 1830 a modus of £6 was being received. (fn. 13) A modus of 10s. was received from Oreham manor farm in 1844. (fn. 14) The vicarage was valued at £5 in 1291, (fn. 15) and at £16 9s. 9½d. net in 1535. (fn. 16) An extra £50 a year was settled on it from the rectory estate in 1646; in the following year that sum was not being fully paid, (fn. 17) and no more is heard of it. The living was said to be worth over £50 in 1724 (fn. 18) and c. £200 by 1803. (fn. 19) About 1830 average net income was £280. (fn. 20) An augmentation of the interest on £2,000 was settled in 1837, by Mrs. Wood of Chestham Park and William Borrer of Barrow Hill, on the resident officiating minister, whether vicar or curate. (fn. 21) At the commutation of tithes in 1844-5 the vicar received a rent charge of £412. (fn. 22)

A vicarage house was mentioned in 1481 (fn. 23) and 1529; (fn. 24) in 1636 it apparently occupied the site of the modern vicarage south-west of the church. (fn. 25) In 1724 it was said to be large but in good order. There was no other glebe either then or later. (fn. 26) A new vicarage house was built c. 1806 and altered or enlarged c. 1850; (fn. 27) it is of two storeys and three bays, faced with stucco in classical style. After the union of benefices in 1978 a house for an assistant priest was bought in Furners Lane. (fn. 28)

Hugh Rolf, vicar in 1529, was the last warden of Wyndham hospital and treasurer of Chichester cathedral. (fn. 29) A later 16th-century vicar, Thomas Day, brother of Bishop George Day, was precentor of the cathedral. (fn. 30) Both Day and his successor were apparently non-resident, (fn. 31) but William Belcher, vicar 1590-1621, was resident at least until 1605. (fn. 32) Other vicars in the later 17th, later 18th, and earlier 19th centuries were also absentees, living on their other benefices and serving through curates, who were often the incumbents of neighbouring parishes; Richard Tireman, vicar 1779-84, was another treasurer of Chichester cathedral. (fn. 33) Thomas Milles, however, vicar 1705-62, did reside, and his regular performance of duty was remembered in the parish in 1818; (fn. 34) in 1724 he held two services every Sunday, one with a sermon and the other followed by catechism, and celebrated communion monthly and at the greater festivals for c. 30 communicants. (fn. 35)

By 1808 only one Sunday service was being held, alternately in morning and evening, and communion was celebrated only eight times a year. (fn. 36) Ten years later the inhabitants petitioned the bishop for two regular services on Sundays, appealing to ancient custom and stressing the growth of nonconformity in the parish; some parishioners, moreover, were attending afternoon service at neighbouring churches. Four parishioners consequently agreed to subscribe between them £16 a year to the curate to pay for a second Sunday sermon, in addition to the stipend of c. £75 he already received. (fn. 37) The proviso of the augmentation of the living made in 1837 was that two full services with sermon should be held each Sunday, and communion at least monthly. The augmentation coincided with the appointment as curate of Charles Dunlop, a zealous Evangelical, who revived church life in the parish; from 1849 until his death in 1851 he served as vicar. (fn. 38) On Census Sunday in 1851 congregations totalled 350 in the morning, 339 in the afternoon, and 117 in the evening; (fn. 39) in 1856 c. 38 were said to receive monthly communion. (fn. 40) Assistant curates continued to serve in the 1870s; (fn. 41) in 1875 communion was celebrated on alternate Sundays, and by 1898 weekly. (fn. 42) An iron mission room accommodating 60 was erected by subscription on Oreham common in 1891; in 1898 Sunday afternoon services were held there, but very badly attended. The building was demolished before 1909. (fn. 43) After 1913 the Evangelicalism of the 19th century was succeeded at Henfield by High Church practices: the use of linen vestments and, from c. 1940, continuous reservation. (fn. 44) In 1980, when both the vicar and the assistant priest of the united benefice of Henfield with Shermanbury and Woodmancote lived in Henfield, there were confessions and two weekday communions. (fn. 45)

The church of ST. PETER (the dedication is recorded from 770) (fn. 46) consists of chancel with north chapel and south vestry, aisled and clerestoried nave and transepts, south porch, and battlemented west tower with pyramidal cap. It is partly of local sandstone and partly of flint with Caen stone dressings. (fn. 47) The present appearance of the building owes much to a restoration of 1870-1.

The nave and chancel are early 13th-century; much of the contemporary chancel arch remains, and lancet windows survived in the south chancel wall before 1870. North and south aisles, of which the four-bayed arcades survive, were added later in the 13th century. The south porch is apparently 14thcentury, though resited. In the 15th century the nave was extended westwards, and the west tower built. At the same period a chapel was added on the north side of the chancel, which may be the Lady chapel mentioned in 1546; (fn. 48) it belonged later to the Bishops, lessees of the rectory, and was known from the name of their chief seat as the Parham chapel or chantry. (fn. 49)

Two dormer windows were inserted in the north aisle in 1626, and those inserted in the south aisle may have been of the same period. By 1718 there was a gallery five rows deep on the south side of the church, and apparently one or more galleries besides. (fn. 50) In 1637 the south aisle was badly out of repair. (fn. 51) Responsibility for repairing the chancel was said to rest on the bishop in 1687, (fn. 52) but more likely belonged to the lessee of the rectory. (fn. 53) The south aisle was replaced shortly before 1833, at the expense of William Borrer of Barrow Hill, (fn. 54) by a wider, twostoreyed structure with oblong windows in 16thcentury style. (fn. 55) A ceiling was inserted in the nave, apparently in 1855. (fn. 56) By 1862 the interior of the church was said to be 'sadly encumbered' with pews and galleries; by then, too, the original arch or arches between the chancel and the Parham chapel had been replaced by two wooden posts.

The church was restored and largely rebuilt in 1870-1 to the designs of Slater and Carpenter. The 15th-century nave roof was opened up, and the clerestory lancet windows renewed. The chancel was lengthened eastwards by 10 ft., and a south chancel chapel added to match the Parham chapel. New north and south aisles were built, the north aisle being paid for by the Borrer family, and north and south transepts were added. (fn. 57) The Parham chapel was thereafter used as an organ chamber until 1922 when it was restored for worship. (fn. 58)

A piscina and the octagonal font which rests on five shafts are 13th-century, and the much restored chapel screen incorporates 15th-century material, perhaps from the rood screen. Most fittings, however, are of 1870-1 or later. There are monuments to members of the Bishop family, including a brass of Thomas Bishop (d. 1560), and to members of the Cheale and Hoffman families of Shiprods.

The eight bells and the plate are all 18th-century or later. (fn. 59) The registers begin in 1595 (fn. 60) and include records of civil registration in the 1650s. (fn. 61)


  • 1. S.A.C. lxxxvi. 78, 83-5.
  • 2. S.N.Q. ix. 38; cf. below.
  • 3. Above, manors.
  • 4. Below.
  • 5. Inf. from Chich. Dioc. Regy.
  • 6. Dallaway & Cartwright, Hist. W. Suss. ii (2), 270; B.L. Add. MS. 39336, ff. 60-1.
  • 7. B.L. Add. MS. 39336, ff. 62-6.
  • 8. Inf. from Chich. Dioc. Regy.
  • 9. S.A.C. lxxxvi. 84; above, manors.
  • 10. W.S.R.O., Ep. I/1/6, f. 115, transl. at Dallaway & Cartwright, Hist. W. Suss. ii (2), 269-70; for the date, S.N.Q. ix. 37-40.
  • 11. W.S.R.O., Ep. II/17/91; ibid. TD/W 157; P.R.O., E 126/16, ff. 233, 248; B.L. Add. MS. 5698, f. 205; Dallaway & Cartwright, Hist. W. Suss. ii (2), 269.
  • 12. Dallaway & Cartwright, op. cit. 45, 269-70; V.C.H. Suss. vi (1), 50; W.S.R.O., Ep. II/17/91; ibid. Par. 100/1/ 1/1, f. 6; B.L. Add. MS. 5698, f. 205.
  • 13. W.S.R.O., Ep. II/17/93; ibid. TD/W 157; P.R.O., E 126/16, f. 233; E 134/6 Wm. & Mary Mich. 15, m. [3]; Dallaway & Cartwright, Hist. W. Suss. ii (2), 269.
  • 14. W.S.R.O., TD/W 157.
  • 15. Tax. Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 136.
  • 16. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), i. 333.
  • 17. S.A.C. xxxvi. 153.
  • 18. W.S.R.O., Ep. I/26/3, p. 43.
  • 19. B.L. Add. MS. 39460, f. 60.
  • 20. Rep. Com. Eccl. Revenues, 277.
  • 21. De Candole, Henfield, 152; Lewis, Topog. Dict. Eng. (1849); TS. copy of deed at ch.
  • 22. W.S.R.O., TD/W 157.
  • 23. S.R.S. xlvi, p. 252.
  • 24. Ibid. lii, p. 28.
  • 25. W.S.R.O., Ep. II/17/91.
  • 26. Ibid. Ep. I/26/3, pp. 42-3; Dallaway & Cartwright, Hist. W. Suss. ii (2), 269.
  • 27. De Candole, Henfield, 151; W.S.R.O., Ep. II/14A (1808); Ep. II/14A/1 (1856); Ep. II/41/65; ibid. Par. 100/6/1.
  • 28. Inf. from the vicar, Mr. T. Tyler.
  • 29. S.N.Q. xvii. 101; S.R.S. lii, pp. 27-8.
  • 30. De Candole, Henfield, 72, 92.
  • 31. S.R.S. xxxvi. 142; xlii. 311; S.A.C. lxi. 115.
  • 32. B.L. Add. MS. 39336, f. 62.
  • 33. De Candole, Henfield, 150-1; W.S.R.O., Ep. II/14A (1808); Ep. II/15/7, f. 43; Ep. II/15/8, f. 5v.; Rep. Com. Eccl. Revenues, 277.
  • 34. B.L. Add. MS. 39336, f. 64; W.S.R.O., Par. 100/11/2; de Candole, Henfield, 146.
  • 35. W.S.R.O., Ep. I/26/3, p. 43.
  • 36. Ibid. Ep. II/14A (1808).
  • 37. W.S.R.O., Par. 100/11/2.
  • 38. De Candole, Henfield, 152-3.
  • 39. P.R.O., HO 129/86/2/8.
  • 40. W.S.R.O., Ep. II/14A/1 (1856).
  • 41. Chich. Dioc. Kal. (1873), 102-3; (1878), 40.
  • 42. W.S.R.O., Ep. II/14A/1 (1875, 1898).
  • 43. Ibid. (1898); Chich. Dioc. Kal. (1892), 136; O.S. Map 6", Suss. LII. NW. (1899, 1912 edns.).
  • 44. P. Jagger, Bp. Hen. de Candole (Leighton Buzzard, 1975), 124, 127, 130.
  • 45. Local inf.
  • 46. S.A.C. lxxxvi. 83. In 1530 the dedic. was given as St. Peter and St. Paul: S.R.S. xlii. 308. Following descrip. based mainly on S.N.Q. vii. 86-7; de Candole, Henfield, facing p. 144; S.A.S. libr., de Candole papers, TS. copy of Sir Stephen Glynne's ch. notes, 1862; B.L., King's Maps XLII. 46, of 1801.
  • 47. B.L. Add. MS. 39364, f. 151.
  • 48. S.R.S. xlii. 308.
  • 49. De Candole, Henfield, 77; W.S.R.O., Ep. I/26/3, p. 42.
  • 50. W.S.R.O., Par. 100/1/1/1, f. 2.
  • 51. Ibid. Ep. II/15/1, p. 14.
  • 52. Ibid. Ep. II/15/7, f. 5v.
  • 53. e.g. ibid. Ep. I/26/3, p. 42.
  • 54. Ibid. Ep. II/26/2, pp. 205-6.
  • 55. Illus. at L. Bishop, Henfield Remembered, pl. 35.
  • 56. Kelly's Dir. Suss. (1862).
  • 57. W. Suss. Gaz. 1 Apr. 1971; B.L. Add. MS. 39364, ff. 150-2.
  • 58. Henfield in the News, comp. L. Bishop, 58.
  • 59. Elphick, Bells, 322-3; S.A.C. liv. 256.
  • 60. W.S.R.O., Par. 100/1.
  • 61. Ibid. Par. 100/1/1/1, ff. 7-15.