Ferring church marks 1,250th anniversary

The Rev Gary Ingram, left, with the Bishop of Chichesterand cross bearer Christopher Hansen
The Rev Gary Ingram, left, with the Bishop of Chichesterand cross bearer Christopher Hansen
  • St Andrew’s, Ferring, is one of oldest in churches in country
  • Christian community first established in 765
  • Bishop of Chichester presides over celebration service

A WEEKEND of celebrations marked the 1,250th anniversary of the Christian community being established in Ferring.

The Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, attended a special service at St Andrew’s Church, in Church Lane, on Sunday to mark the occasion.

The Rev Gary Ingram, rector of Ferring, said: “At a time when many churches face an uncertain future, St Andrew’s, parish church of Ferring, can look forward to the coming centuries with confidence.”

He said the village’s Christian community began in 765, when Osmund, King of the South Saxons, granted land ‘for the building of a monastery’.

August 3 marked the 1,250th anniversary and to mark the occasion, 130 parishioners were served cream tea on the Vicarage Lawn.

Mr Ingram added: “On Sunday, there was a great celebration Eucharist at St Andrew’s Church, at which the Bishop of Chichester presided and preached.

The Bishop of Chichester presided over the celebration Eucharist

The Bishop of Chichester presided over the celebration Eucharist

“A full church welcomed him, and the service was followed by the cutting and sharing of a very special cake at a reception in the Church Centre.”

The bishop also blessed the church’s stunning new oak processional cross, made by local craftsman Christopher Ball and designed to a saxon theme.

In the history of the church, precise dating comes from the grant of land by Osmund. Translated from the original Latin, it concludes: “This charter was written on the third day of the month of August 765 years from the incarnation of our Lord. I, Osmund, have signed the grant with my own hand. I, Osa, Bishop, have agreed and signed.”

A second charter followed in AD 791, a grant of woodland to ‘the church of Saint Andrew, which is situated in the land which is called Ferring’ – proof that the church had already been built by this time.

At a time when many churches face an uncertain future, St Andrew’s, parish church of Ferring, can look forward to the coming centuries with confidence.

The Rev Gary Ingram, rector of Ferring

St Andrew’s Church is one of the oldest churches in Sussex and, indeed, the country. It was built a century before the peace which followed Alfred the Great’s defeat of the Vikings, which encouraged the building of many churches in England.

Early Saxon churches were thatched, timber buildings, consisting of a rectangular nave with a narrow arch leading to a much smaller chancel. When the church floor was re-laid in 1968-69, three small holes were revealed in the earth on the north side of the nave, possible the post-holes of an early timber wall.

By the early 12th century, however, St Andrew’s had been entirely rebuilt in stone. The chancel, southern aisle and porch were added later, so that by the mid-13th century the church became the size it is today.

An article published in The Topographer magazine in 1790 has a different opinion: “The place appears to have been once considerably larger than at present from the foundations, and old walls that are often dug up, and still visible.”

The Bishop of Chichester presided over the celebration Eucharist

The Bishop of Chichester presided over the celebration Eucharist

There is a theory that a bell tower once stood above the porch, and this could explain the thickness of the porch walls (which are wider than the early English north aisle wall supporting the roof). The doorway which can be seen inside the east wall of the porch may once have led up to a belfry and so The Topographer writer could be referring to masonry that had fallen from an old bell tower.

At this time, St Andrew’s had three bells which were mounted in a wooden frame on the ground outside the church. In 1792, permission was given by the Bishop of Chichester to sell the two smaller ones to fund the building of a bell tower. The largest bell, cast in 1651 by Bryan Eldridge of Chertsey, was raised into the new tower and is still in use today.

A report on St Andrew’s published in The Topographer magazine of 1811 said: “Ferring Church is a low building, consisting of a nave, North aile (sic), and chancel; it is built of flint. At the west end is a small wooden turret.”

This ‘wooden turret’ was the new bell tower.

St Andrew’s is a Grade I listed building, parts of which are almost 1,000 years old, and throughout the centuries there have been countless repairs and restorations, improvements and alterations.

By the late 19th century, the new ‘wooden turret’ had been replaced by the tile-hung bellcote that can be seen today. This was a time of many changes to St Andrew’s, both interior and exterior, most of these funded by the village squire, Edwin Henty of Ferring Grange.

The special cake, made for the reception in the Church Centre

The special cake, made for the reception in the Church Centre

The Henty family had their own private entrance to St Andrew’s, through a doorway which now leads to the vestry. Three Henty footmen operated the barrel organ which provided the church with music until a pipe organ was installed in 1871.

Originally located in the south-west corner, the organ was moved several times over the years until, in 1964, it returned to the south-west, where it still stands. At the same time the rod and lever tracker action was replaced by an electric one and a new console with a double manual was installed.

Throughout its history, St Andrew’s has changed and adapted to meet the demands and needs of the era. The same is true today.

In 2013, for example, a Quiet Corner was established in the north-west of the church, a place for private prayer and contemplation.

Earlier this year, a new row of 73 pipes was added to give the organ a flute tone and make it more versatile. All the other pipes from the original 1871 organ are still in use.

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The Bishop of Chichester cuts the cake

The Bishop of Chichester cuts the cake