41. Priors Dean
This little church of Saxon origins lies in the back of beyond a few miles from Hawkley and close to a large and impressive Manor House. It has no dedication and has had a chequered history being attached to Southwick Priory in medieval times. By the mid nineteenth century it was in a deplorable state with rotting 9 inch pews and toads living in the chancel. But it was restored in 1857 at a cost of £194 and today is well cared for despite the lack of parishioners.
The attractive wood shingled three sectioned belfry tower peeps out behind an enormous yew tree which looms over the entrance gate and church path. Some 24 feet in circumference and gnarled with age it is estimated to be at least 1300 years old, possibly dating from the time the first Saxon church was built.
The interior has white washed walls throughout, plain glass windows and a bare stone floor with red and black tiles in the chancel. Unusually there is no pulpit. The chancel arch with its Norman capitals of Caen stone dates from the 1857 restoration as does the font. In the chancel is a fine carved bishop's chair dated 1657.
As you enter the church you step over a floor tablet commemorating John Newlin (died 1646) and his wife Margery (died 1628) and it is indeed the numerous monuments and memorials which make this church of particular interest. Nearly all date from the 17th century perhaps the era when the church was most flourishing.
On the north wall of the sanctuary is a fine memorial to Bridget Compton who died in 1631. Behind her are shown two kneeling children, Rose and Compton, as well as two infants in swaddling clothes (John and Bridget), who died as babies. Alongside is another Compton memorial to Elizabeth the wife of Benjamin Tichborne. She is shown kneeling at a prayer desk which is covered in a green cloth. Beside the altar is a brass commemorating John Compton d. 1605 and Jane Michelborne d. 1586.
On the South wall of the chancel are two more Compton memorials. First a large mural to Sir John Compton who died in 1653 aged 79 and alongside his stern looking wife Dame Bridget who died in 1634 aged 56. Secondly a white marble bust of Mary Compton Tichborne with long hair hanging over her collar and with a florid inscription on a black marble slab beneath.
Coats of arms are to be found on the south wall of the nave and below the West window, the latter (possibly Compton) bears the motto 'Pugna pro Patria'. Above are the massive medieval timbers of the belfry. Outside in the peaceful churchyard the large vaulted tomb of William Edmund Jaffray, 4th Baronet, who died in 1953, can be seen behind the West window.
The church is usually kept locked but the key can be obtained from the vicar of Hawkley about two miles away.
page last updated 27 AUGUST 2000