Vol. 101: Sir Stephen Glynne’s Sussex Church Notes


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Editor: David Parsons
Volume: Volume 101
Published 2021
ISBN: 978 0 85445 083 1


Volume description

Sir Stephen Glynne, ninth and last baronet of that name, was born in 1807 and died in 1874. He spent much of his late adolescence and adult life visiting churches and writing notes on them, leaving behind him over 100 notebooks covering some 5,500 places of worship, mainly in England and Wales. His visits to Sussex churches began in late 1825 and continued sporadically until the year before his death; he inspected 235 churches in the county, including Chichester Cathedral, in some cases paying more than one visit in the course of almost fifty years.

His notes are contained in five notebooks, with a short entry in another devoted entirely to cathedrals. This volume consists of transcripts of Glynne’s Sussex notes, together with church-by-church commentaries and a general introduction.

The value of Glynne’s observations can be appreciated on several levels. First and most obviously, his descriptions of churches later demolished or totally rebuilt are an invaluable record of information that would otherwise have been lost. Examples in Sussex include Fairlight and Hurstpierpoint. Many other churches survived, however, but not unscathed by Victorian restorations, in several cases on more than one occasion, and Glynne’s record of windows, doors, furnishings and so on tells us what these were like before the near-universal application of neo-Gothic detailing.

Often the features replaced were post-Reformation interventions in the medieval fabric, of which we might otherwise know nothing, and this despite Glynne’s disapproval of the style and workmanship of many of the features removed by the restorers. High on his blacklist were galleries, which had been introduced to increase seating capacity in response to population increase and the popularity of sermons, often delivered by ‘celebrity’ preachers.

Some churches, particularly those without clerestories, low aisle walls and ‘catslide’ roofs (all common Sussex features), did not easily lend themselves to the introduction of galleries, and Glynne documents several examples of serious damage to medieval fabrics in the course of doing so.

This was not confined to adding external staircases and cutting doorways to provide access at first-floor level (in most cases later removed, but documented in the topographical drawings of Henry Petrie, the James Lamberts and others), but went so far as to remove arches or even whole arcades to provide the necessary headroom and the all-important sightlines to the pulpit. Most often vandalised in this way were nave arcades, for example at Beckley and the old church at Hurstpierpoint, but occasionally arcades in chancels suffered the same fate, as at Brighton St Nicholas.

Thus Glynne’s Sussex church notes, as well as documenting the state of church fabrics and their development during the central 50 years of the 19th century, also provide a commentary on liturgical practice before and after the reintroduction of ritualism as encouraged by the Oxford Movement and championed by the Cambridge Camden Society, later known as the Ecclesiological Society, of which Glynne himself was a prominent member.

About the Editor

David Parsons grew up in Brighton and went to school in Hove. He completed a PhD on the influence of German-speaking and related areas on the architecture of early medieval places of worship in the UK, and he has published extensively on this topic in learned journals. He is Emeritus Reader in Church Archaeology at the University of Leicester.

On retirement he moved back to Sussex and began to look closely at local places of worship. With Robin Milner-Gulland he wrote Churches and Chapels of the South Downs National Park, published by the Sussex Archaeological Society in 2016; his most recent publication is a study of Petworth church in the 2018 volume of Sussex Archaeological Collections. From 2011 until 2019 he was Chairman of the Friends of the Sussex Historic Churches Trust, and he is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.