Vol. 78: Chichester Diocesan Surveys, 1686 and 1724


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Editor: Wyn K. Ford
Volume: Volume 78
Published 1994
ISBN: 978 085445 039 8

Churches were not always regarded with the respect that we usually give them today, and from bishops’ surveys of their dioceses we can learn a great deal about the treatment of parish churches in the past, and the attitudes that prevailed to their furniture and fittings.

Thomas Bowers’s survey of the Chichester diocese has been cited and studied on a number of occasions in the past, but this is the first time that an edition of the entire record has been published. The work was out carried parish by parish in the summer of 1724, shortly before the bishop’s death. The enquiries were unusually wideranging. Not only do they provide a detailed picture of each building and its fittings; but they also cover such topics as the population of the parish, the strength of Nonconformity and Roman Catholicism, and provide details of patronage and parochial charities. In this edition this information has been amplified in the notes and in a substantial critical introduction; and missing information has been gathered from other sources, such as Archbishop Wake’s 1717 visitation of Sussex parishes outside the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Chichester, and from the recently discovered diocesan valuation carried out in 1725 at the instigation of Bishop Waddington, Bowers’s successor. Further information on Nonconformity is provided by the inclusion of the important Evans List of 1717.

To extend the picture into the previous century, the volume also includes a survey from 1686 and 1687, which gives extensive information on the fabric and fittings of the parish churches throughout the diocese.

Overall, the volume describes the state of an eighteenth century diocese in a depth and comprehensiveness that will be hard to match elsewhere-and which helps us to understand the widespread rebuilding of churches a century later. It will be an indispensable source for anyone studying the history of a Sussex parish, and equally essential for students of the architectural, religious, demographic and social history of the county.

Wyn Ford has been both an archivist and a librarian, and a house editor for religious books at Thomas Nelson & Sons. His books and articles on local history and music include The metropolis of mid-Sussex: a history of Haywards Heath (1981) (joint author), and Music in England before 1800: a select bibliography (1967).

Cloth Binding: laminated colour dustjacket; x + 299 pages; index , 4 illustrations and 8 maps

Cover picture: Westdean church near Seaford (Photograph by W.K. Ford)