The parish church of St Peter’s, stands alone beside the A281 road. Originally thirteenth century the church was largely rebuilt in 1869.
Two former parishioners John Oswald, and Thomas Harland, were martyrs of the reformation period, both being burned at the stake as heretics on 6th June 1556 at Lewes during the Marian Persecution. For more information on the martyrs, please follow this link to the Woodmancote Martyrs page.
In 2014 Roger Moulton, a member of the congregation, wrote the following short history of St Peter’s which also contains photographs taken by Barry and Pamela Chaston. Printed copies of the history, which contains more wonderful photos of St Peter’s, can be found in the church on a Sunday morning , or do contact the parish office.
History of St Peter’s Church, Woodmancote.
It is very likely that a church stood here in Saxon times although no trace of such a building remains unless under the foundations of the present church. Woodmancote was formerly known Odemancote, so named after William Odemancote who was the landowner at the time of the Norman Conquest. The Domesday Survey of 1086/87 recorded that the parish was assessed for, ‘3½ hides now 2 hides. There is land for 9 ploughs. On the demesne is 1 plough and there are 16 villeins and 4 bordars with 8 ploughs. There is a Church with 5 acres of medow wood and land yielding 13 swine’. In about 1228 Simon Le Courte gave the church to the Knights Templar. When that order was suppressed in 1312 it passed to the Knights of St John. From 1547 the patronage was held by the Crown. In 1978 the parish became part of the Henfield benefice and is now under the patronage of the Bishop of Chichester. In common with many churches there was a full-scale restoration of St Peter’s in 1869. This involved a new roof, extension of the nave, rebuilding of the dwarf tower and spire, extension of the Chancel eastwards, construction of an organ chamber and vestry, a new chancel arch, new windows, complete reseating, new pulpit, reading table and communion table, new floor with hot pipes underneath and the removal of the gallery at the west end.
Two pews in the north-east corner were reserved for the Manor House of Woodmancote. The cost was estimated at £700. £305 was available and the Rector, Rev R.C.Hales, made up the balance. As a result of this restoration very little remains from the earlier periods of the church’s history. The piscina, (a shallow basin used for washing the communion vessels) however, is clearly part of the older church.
Likewise the bowl, drum and pillars of the font which are Norman while the remainder dates back to the 14th century. The church chest appears to be of 14th century origin. The oak pulpit is Victorian. The organ was built around 1870 by the London firm of Henry Bevington & Sons who made a large number of smaller organs for country churches. About two dozen were built for churches in Sussex. The organ was refurbished by Morgan & Smith in 1964 with an electric action.
There are three stained glass windows, all of which were placed in memory of former parishioners. The east window shows the Virgin Mary, the crucifixion and St John. Moving westwards along the south chancel windows depict firstly St Peter and Mary Magdalene and, secondly, Isaiah and King David.
The church possesses a ring of three bells in the very approximate key of D Old Concert Pitch. The tenor and 2nd bells date back to around 1450 and the treble bell was cast in 1656. In 2012 the bells were restored and are now rung electrically. The northern part of the churchyard contains a long line of 18th and 19th century table tombs commemorating the Dennett family who worshipped at St Peter’s for very many years. In the churchyard in front of the church stands the Martyrs Memorial which commemorates the martyrdom of John Oswald and Thomas Harland. Details of the dedication of the memorial are found on the Woodmancote Martyrs page.