Story behind the Lords who built many Adur churches

The tower arches at St Nicolas' Church, Shoreham
The tower arches at St Nicolas' Church, Shoreham

A fascinating insight into the history of the Adur Valley was provided by John and Jeannette Simpson in a talk at St Nicolas’ Church, Shoreham, last month.

It was the perfect setting, being a beautiful Norman church, for an episode in the story of the de Braose dynasty, the Lords of Bramber who ruled the area in the centuries following the Norman Conquest.

They created many of the buildings in the Adur Valley, including St Nicolas’ and St Mary’s churches in Shoreham, Knepp Castle and St Mary’s Church in Horsham.

From their seat in Bramber Castle, their power extended over vast tracts of the Welsh Marches and even to Ireland.

After the death of King Henry I, rival claims for the throne by his daughter Matilda and his nephew Stephen brought about the terrible civil war known as The Anarchy, “When Christ and His Saints Slept”. Those times, which will be familiar to fans of the books and TV series Cadfael, were vividly recreated in the Simpsons’ all-new audio-visual presentation.

The tower arches at St Nicolas’ Church, pictured above, with their famous carvings, include a bearded head thought to represent King Henry I, or King Stephen.

The Barons de Braose played major roles in the warfare and politics of their day and members of the family were bishops and sheriffs, friends of kings and wives of earls. They built churches and a cathedral, but were also involved in some very dark deeds. They reached the height of their power under King John but almost immediately suffered a disastrous fall, when the paranoid King took a brutal revenge on the family.

John and Jeannette Simpson have been giving talks to various societies for a number of years. Visit or telephone 01273 454006 for more information.