The Parish Church of St George the Martyr, Waterlooville


123. St Andrew, West Tarring

This lovely church with its fine 16th century spire, mostly dates from the 13th century Early English period and is constructed in flint and stone. Situated in the northern outskirts of Worthing it is surrounded by a very large churchyard where it is claimed Thomas Becket planted fig trees.

Entrance is via the Victorian north porch which contains boards listing the last testament of John Seldon a local Tudor benefactor. Inside, the chancel is separated from the nave by a 15th century screen surmounted by a row of large spikes. The east window commemorates J T Longman, a Victorian benefactor whilst the north east window is a memorial to James Henty a local farmer who emigrated to Australia in 1829 and founded the Merino sheep farming industry.

On the north wall is a 16th century brass commemorating a lawyer John Seldon whilst four modern banners depict the Evangelists. Other chancel glass show various saints such as Augustine, Ethelbert, Wilfred, Paul, Peter, Sergius Paullus and Cornelius. In the choir area note the six misere seats with fine carvings on the underside. The High Altar and altar rails are Jacobean but the remaining church furnishing such as the pulpit, pews, font and lectern are Victorian.

On the south wall of the aisle is a Royal Coat of Arms commemorating the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. A window at the west end of the south aisle depicts St Richard, Bishop of Chichester, who when denied his see between 1245-7, was sheltered in Tarring by his friend friar Simon. The west window is in memory of the Poet Laureate Robert Southey (1813) whose daughter married the Rev John Wood Warter. Another window at the end of the north aisle shows St Thomas Becket who was patron of the parish.

But the most outstanding feature of the church dates from the restoration project of the rector, Dr Henry Bailey, in 1884-5. He commissioned a series of large mosaics of the 12 apostles. Underneath are medallions portraying the Patriarchs of Israel such as David, Moses and Aaron. A band dividing them contains the words of the Apostles Creed. The figures are six feet high standing within panels measuring 11 feet by 9 feet, decorated by palm trees and stars. They are most impressive extending all down the nave above the arches. They were designed by William Butterfield who had been inspired by similar mosaics he had seen in Ravenna. All the work was carried out by a team of Italian mosaicists. A final mosaic intended for the wall over the chancel arch was never completed due to lack of funding. It was to have shown Christ in Glory flanked by St Andrew and St Peter.

The tower houses a peal of six bells and in the belfry area a collection of old musical instruments are on display. The beautifully maintained churchyard contains many old tombs and gravestones, the earliest being that of John Parson dated 1633. The lychgate was built as a memorial to the men who fell in the First World War.

John Symonds

Country Churches


Festival Edition 2010