Church History

The little church of St Mary’s has nestled beneath the beauty of the Downs for almost a thousand years. A Grade1 listed building, the church is set within the bounds of a yew grove that is even older than the church. It offers peace, tranquillity, and a welcome for all those who enter to give thanks and praise to the Lord for all His many blessings, and a haven of comfort for those seeking solace.

“The benefice of “Sullington and Thakeham with Warminghurst” includes the churches of St. Mary’s Sullington and St. Mary’s Thakeham, who together serve a population of about 4000 people. The two churches work closely together sharing common expenses and we are delighted that together we continue to pay 100% of our parish quota and have been doing so now for a number of years. Also in the benefice is the ‘Church of The Holy Sepulchre’ in Warminghurst, West Sussex, now closed and managed by the Church Conservation Trust.”

The benefice is in the Diocese of Chichester under the care of Bishop Martin. We are within the Archdeaconry of Horsham and part of the Deanery of Storrington. Members of each PCC attend Deanery Synod, reporting back after the meetings.

Sullington is a village and former civil parish, now in the parish of Storrington and Sullington, in the Horsham district of West Sussex, England. The village lies on the A283 road west of the A24 road, 20 miles (32 km) south of Horsham. In 1961 the parish had a population of 1354. On1 April 2003 the parish was abolished and merged with Storrington to form “Storrington & Sullington”.

St Mary’s Sullington Parish Church nave dates back to Saxon times: the chancel and tower are from the 13th century and the church was restored in 1873. The patronage of the parish rested with the lord of the manor of Sullington until 1938, when Evelyn Palmer (Lady Caldecott) passed it to the Diocese of Chichester. The Victorian rectory (built c1845) was sold off as a private residence and later occupied by the writer A J Cronin and the politician Lady Cynthia Asquith. The modern rectory at the time was on Washington Road.

Sullington Manor, on Sullington Lane and adjacent to the church, is a Grade II listed former farmhouse. The manor was held by the Shelley family from the dissolution of the monasteries (1546) until 1789, when it was sold to George Wyndham, 3rd Earl of Egremont. The Tower and the Nave of the church are basically Saxon, about 1050, but altered in Norman times and the 12th and 13th centuries.

As you enter the church you will see a mutilated marble effigy of a 13th century Knight in chain mail, believed to be a de Couvert, Lord of the Manor and a Crusader.

In 1978 the exterior stonework of the 13th century reticulated east window was restored, costing £4.000. Half of this was met by donations from a trust formed by the late Sir Gordon Munro and Lillian, Lady Munro, who lived for years in the Old Rectory. The remainder was raised locally from many friends.

In 1987 insurance companies paid £4,800 needed for repairs after the October storm, which blew down two of the old yew trees, damaging parts of the chancel roof and the north and east windows. Many tiles were also blown from the roof.

In 1995 an extension was added to the vestry (normally closed) to provide kitchen and toilet facilities, funded by the Munro Sullington Trust. The inner glass porch was erected in replacement of the Victorian box porch to mark the Millennium. It was funded by the parishioners and with proceeds from the biennial flower festival. The ancient priests’ door and sedilia were restored in 2005 and an Aumbry safe installed, supported by Munro family trusts.

Within the old churchyard, the single remaining ancient yew tree dates from the Ninth Century. A short distance to the East is a small sapling taken as a cutting from a two thousand year old yew tree, planted to mark the start of the third millennium.

In the old Churchyard stands a memorial to four submariners who perished when their submarine sank during the second world war and, in the new churchyard – reached through the Lychgate – lies another military grave.

When approaching Sullington church along Sullington Lane observe the massive, weather-boarded and tiled barn with a fine tie-beam roof, dated 1685, said to be the finest example of a Tithe barn to be found in West Sussex and a popular venue for wedding functions. The church is adjacent to an ancient farm and farm buildings, and the fine old Manor house can be seen to the North of the church entrance. The beautiful outlook and the establishment of a Café in one of the old barns has proved very popular with many – cyclists, hikers, dog-walkers and visitors to the church and, as the seasons change, there is the varying beauty of the South Downs rising to 675 feet.

For a more detailed history of St. Mary’s Church, Sullington, please visit the following links: