BOSHAM, WEST SUSSEX

THE SAXON CHURCH OF HOLY TRINITY

Grid Ref: SU 806 401
20 April 2003

Tower spacer Font
North face of the tower      The font with general view of the nave and north aisle
Chancel arch   Chancel
The Saxon chancel arch   The Chancel
Piscina   Bayeux Tapestry
Piscina in the Fishbourne Chantry   Section of the Bayeux Tapestry shown in the church.
"Harold an Earl of the English and his soldiers ride to Bosham Church."

 

At Bosham there is a church that lies at the very crux of English History. The original Saxon church is featured in the Bayeux Tapestry, produced by English needlewomen after the Norman Conquest. It was the port where Earl Harold Godwinson left on a visit to Normandy, where he was captured by Duke William and swore on holy relics that he would support William as the future King, after the death of Edward the Confessor. Before the Norman Conquest, the manor of Bosham was held by Earl Godwin.

The history of the site goes back to the Roman period when there was a basilica. Roman pottery and bricks have been found in the church. The bases of the chancel arch columns are believed to be Roman. It would appear that the site was subsequently adapted for worship by the Saxons.

The tower is Saxon and may have been built in the 9th century.   In the early 11th century a chancel was built and the arch between the nave and chancel created. The chancel was extended in the late 11th or early 12 century and again about 100 years later. The spire is of wooden shingle and has been replaced five times in the last 200 years, most recently in 1979. The font dates from the early 1200s; it is octagonal with a central pillar and four surrounding pillars made from marble. From the south aisle one can enter a crypt made about 1250. Above it is the Chapel of All Hallows. The nave dates from the Saxon period but the aisles are 12th century. In the nave near the chancel arch, two stone coffins have been found, one of a strongly built man and one of a child. The latter fits the tradition that an eight year old daughter of King Canute was buried here. Canute is thought to have had a house at Bosham.

The church is the first place mentioned in Sussex in the Domesday Book of 1086. In Edward the Confessor's reign (1041-1066) the church was granted to Osbern, later bishop of Exeter. Under William I, Osbern retained his place. The church had extensive lands, estimated at about 13,000 acres, spread around the country. When Osbern died in 1103 the patronage reverted to the crown but Henry I (1100-1135) granted the church to the See of Exeter although it lay within the See of Chichester. This subsequently led to friction between the two dioceses. The Bishop of Exeter created a college of with six secular canons at Bosham in 1121 and this continued until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1548. The college building eventually became the vicarage and was pulled down in 1840.

Sources:

A Walk Round a Saxon Church, a pamphlet available in the church.
Holy Trinity Church, Bosham, revised by G. W. Marwood in 1995 with photographs by Angela Bromley-Martin and Thomas Inman. This booklet, available in the church, is based on Bosham Church, its History and Antiquities by the Reverend K. H. MacDermot, published in 1912.

 

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