Vol. 98: Church Surveys of Chichester Archdeaconry 1602, 1610 & 1636

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Authors: Joan Barham, Andrew Foster
Volume: Volume 98
ISBN: 978 0 85445 080 0

CHURCH SURVEYS OF CHICHESTER ARCHDEACONRY 1602, 1610 & 1636

This volume provides transcriptions of church surveys conducted within the Archdeaconry of Chichester in the early seventeenth century, covering most of what is now deemed to be West Sussex. The first survey was commissioned by Archbishop John Whitgift in 1602 and was part of a national campaign. The survey of 1610 was a result of the primary visitation of Bishop Samuel Harsnett, while that of 1636 was under the auspices of Bishop Richard Montagu, but almost certainly connected with the Metropolitical Visitation of Archbishop William Laud of 1635.

These surveys provide valuable evidence of the struggle by clergy, churchwardens and lay patrons to maintain the basic fabric of their churches and chapels, while also ensuring that the buildings were fit places for worship according to the standards being set for the times. The material may be usefully compared with the results of similar surveys conducted in 1686 and 1724, also published by the Sussex Record Society (Volume 78).

The surveys are significant because few dioceses hold such comprehensive accounts for these three dates, and indeed the survival for 1602 is very rare. Through close analysis of the surveys, we gain an insight into the problems faced by local congregations – just as today – and those in authority who sought to raise standards in the region. We also see the development of ecclesiastical policy as it affected this diocese, and can gauge the success of Jacobean and Caroline endeavours to ensure the maintenance and improvement of parish churches, the physical results of which have largely, but not wholly, been lost as a result of later more famous and comprehensive campaigns by the Victorians.

The surveys reveal the continuing struggle to identify and establish what a Protestant church should look like in post-Reformation England and Wales. They highlight the significance of the Canons of 1604 in raising and clarifying the benchmark for all concerned. Moreover, the surveys shed light on the struggles in practice of those in authority – bishops and archdeacons responsible for raising standards – their parochial clergy, hard-pressed churchwardens, taxed congregations, and non clerical impropriators who were accountable for the state of so many chancels.

Finally, what is revealed in 1636 is the extent to which there was an ideological struggle going on with one wing of the church urging concern for sacramental worship over preaching, and doing so in a fairly heavy handed fashion, something which gave offence to many and was a factor in the origins of the British Civil Wars.

About the illustrations

The volume is richly illustrated throughout with images of watercolours painted at the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, photographs produced for Archdeacon Walker in 1879, and photographs created by Joan Barham in the early twenty-first century. These images not only provide welcome illustrations, but serve as evidence in their own right of the comparative state of these churches in these later periods.*

*Most of the work on photographs from the Sharpe collection was completed when it was held at Michelham Priory. This collection is now held by the Sussex Archaeological Society at its headquarters at Barbican House, Lewes. Thanks largely to the work of Dr Sue Berry, these images can now be seen on the internet here.

About the editors

 Joan Barham studied History as a mature student at the University of Chichester and went on to complete an MPhil in 2010 on the impact of the Reformation on the churches of the diocese of Chichester. A keen photographer, she has amassed an excellent collection of photographs of interiors and exteriors of churches, some of which have been exhibited around the county and for conferences, such as one mounted by the Ecclesiological Society.

Andrew Foster
is an Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the University of Kent, having previously spent 30 years at the University of Chichester. He has published widely on aspects of the Church of England in the early modern period, including bishops, clergy, cathedrals, churchwardens and parishes. He is one of the Literary Directors of the Sussex Record Society, a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and also of the Society of Antiquaries.

Further information

Photos from the formal launch of the volume are here.