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Church of the week

St Mary & St Blaise, Boxgrove

Featured on 8th January 2021

BOXGROVE, St Mary & St Blaise church

St Mary & St Blaise Church, Boxgrove

Within the sweeping landscape of the South Downs, the village of Boxgrove was once home to a 12th century Benedictine Priory. Nestled in a wooden copse, besides the fragmented remains of the Priory guesthouse, the parish church is all that remains of the priory itself.

There has been a church here since the time of the Domesday Book, but this was destroyed when the monks from the Abbey of Lessay in Normandy, built their priory.  

Sadly that too was destoyed during the Disollution of the Monasteries in 1536. As a result, the medieval parish church bears many scars - its external walls show where the priory buildings were pulled away, leaving behind columns, stray arches and buttresses which once supported the much larger building. 

Inside is a mix of Norman, medieval, late Tudor, and Victorian restoration. At the west end of the nave is a labyrinth picked out in coloured stone on the floor, a spiritual tool for worshippers.

But perhaps the most noticeable feature is the spectacular Tudor painted roof above the nave. This was installed just before the Reformation at the behest of Thomas West, 9th Lord De La Warr. He commissioned a local artist, Lambert Barnard, to paint the ceiling of the nave with heraldry of his own and his wife's families, entwined with judicious Tudor roses as well as other flowers and foliage

The fabulous self-contained chantry on the south side of the chancel, also built by Lord de la Warr, is an extraordinary piece of Tudor architecture. It features beautiful early French motifs from a Book of Hours. These are deemd to be some of the finest renaissance carvings anywhere in Britain. The ceiling of the chantry is a quite stunning Tudor symphony of decorative vaulting and pendant bosses, embellished with Tudor symbols and the De La Warr arms.

Lord de la Warr was forced by the Crown to exchange Boxgrove Priory for an estate in Hampshire in 1538.

Learn more about St Mary & St Blaise Church