St. Giles’, Shermanbury
About the church
St Giles’, Shermanbury is tucked away in a park half a mile from the nearest public road on the bank of the River Adur about 2 miles North of Henfield and is one of the oldest and most interesting churches in West Sussex. It is described in the Domesday Book as a ‘ecclesiola at Salmonsberie’; the Anglo-Saxon name then prevailing. Strong evidence of its Norman heritage was discovered when carvings were found in 1901, which were investigated by a known archeologist who dated them to 1135. The list of Rectors goes back without a break to 1288 and the church is famous for its box pews inscribed with the names of surrounding houses.
Inevitably with a church so old its history is linked to the owners and occupants of two distinctive and ancient properties, both within three hundred yards of each other. They are Shermanbury Place and Ewhurst Manor. The church stands in what was once part of the grounds of the former and there is little doubt that the predecessor property was part of a promontory fort, which can be delineated by the earthwork and abrupt slopes of a hillock about 300 yards by 150 – 200 yards wide. This can still be seen and stands about 20ft – 25ft above the flood-plain of the river Adur. All dates back to Saxon times.
Features within St Giles’ include:
- The font which dates to the time of Henry lll (1216-1272)
- A stained glass window of the seal of Henry Vll
- A piscina (a stone basin used for washing Communion vessels)
- Stone carved cats-head mask, male and female heads dating to Norman times.
(The cats head mask is of the kind met with in Norman corbel-tables under the eaves of churches and can be seen at Chichester and Winchester cathedrals)
- Royal Arms of Queen Anne painted on wood dating to 1710 and more.
A ‘Friends of St Giles’, Shermanbury’ was launched in December 2007 and to mark the occasion an illustrated History and Guide was published documenting over 1,000 years of a fascinating story. The history takes the reader from Saxon times, through the Norman Conquest and the Black Death with its impact on the population to modern times. Price: £3.00.
If you would like a copy of the history and guide or for more details about joining the ‘Friends of St Giles’ Shermanbury,” please contact the Chairman of Friends, Richard Putnam