WELCOME to your tour of this unique and historic Parish and Priory Church of St Nicholas, Arundel in West Sussex - rebuilt in 1380.
As you enter St Nicholas, the Font is just in front of you. This octagonal Font, made of Sussex marble is probably the oldest relic in the church, being of late decorated style, and is commensurate with the building.
Walking down the central aisle, look at the ancient pulpit. This most unusual carved stone pulpit is 14th Century, and was almost certainly designed by Henry Yvele who was architect of the Nave of Canterbury Cathedral. It is one of only six pre-reformation stone pulpits in the country.
Restoration of the Sanctuary was completed in 2000 recapturing something of the design and style created by Sir George Gilbert Scott in the mid 19th Century.
The part in which you are now standing, was the Nave, with the Parish Altar set up in the South Transept. The walls were probably lime washed and decorated with murals. There were no pews or seat of any sort and the floor consisted of well-trodden earth covered with straw or rushes which were changed three times a year. Such luxury!
Unless the congregation brought some form of seating themselves, they were obliged to stand, although no doubt the old and infirm made use of the stone seat running round the walls; thus giving rise to the saying "the weakest go to the wall".
All was well until 1544, when King Henry VIII, as Supreme Head of the Church of England, decided to abolish all monastic establishments, and
he sold the College and all its possessions to Henry Fitzalan, the 12th Earl of Arundel. The key to the iron grill passed into his hands, and the two parts of the building began their separate existences.
The south transept chapel houses the image of Mary, the mother of the Lord.This area of the Church originally housed the Parish Altar before the restorations of 1874
This chapel, which is dedicated to Our Lady, is used for smaller mid-week services and is dominated by a copy of the ecumenical Taizé cross.
A new altar was consecrated by The Right Revd Lindsay Urwin OGS, Bishop of Horsham on December 7, 2002. The altar, lectern and two floor standing candle sticks made from English Oak were designed and made by Katie Walker of Cox
Farm Studios, Warnham, West Sussex. These furnishing along with 25 new chairs were a gift in memory of Rosalind Toole-Mackson.
As you walk from the Lady Chapel behind the High Altar and reredos, an iron grille can beseen. This is a unique feature of St Nicholas Church. In its early days, the part beyond the iron grille, now known as the Fitzalan Chapel, was the Church's Chancel and Collegiate Chapel of the College of priests.
The High Altar was situated at the far end together with choir stalls and all the accoutrements for celebrating High Mass.
Continuing around the Church we come to the organ. A fine instrument, first built in 1817 by two brothers at a cost of £650. In 1850 it was cleaned and enlarged and then in 1864 the pedal organ was added.
The present case was made in 1878 when the organ was moved to its present position. The instrument was completely re-built and cleaned in 1990. During this rebuilding, a Coat of Arms was found to hang on the wall behind the pipes! - more of this later.
This north transept originally housed a chapel dedicated to St Christopher. The altar was positioned on the east wall where the organ now stands. Interestingly, there is the original piscina in place behind the organ!
This area, designated as a chapel in honour of St Christopher will provide a space for quiet reflection.
A stone plaque on the north wall of the church list the Vicars of Arundel going back to 1324. However, it is almost certain that the Parish had vicars even further into antiquity.
As you continue down the north aisle you will notice two ancient wall paintings. It was common for churches to proclaim the faith through such paintings in days when people could neither read nor write. An early form of visual aid.
It is believed that these paintings date from the 14th and 15th centuries.
The detail on the left can just be made out at the top of the painting straight above the door arch.
As you prepare to leave the Church by the south door you will notice to your left, the Coat of Arms that was found behind the organ.
The frame is of particular interest and historians believe this to be Elizabethan. However, the Arms themselves are of poor quality and on cheap timber, and depicts George III.
As you leave the Church, turn left and to the right of the porch in the wall you will notice one of the original stones engraved with four crosses from the pre 1380 building.
Returning to the porch continue around the church to arrive at the West end of the Church.
There you will see a fine example of a perpendicular West Porch, presently this is not used but it is hoped to restore it as a principal
entrance to the Church and thus provide a magnificent entrance for wedding parties etc.
Above this porch there is a good example of a perpendicular West Sadly this is in poor condition and in dire need of restoration. (the estimate for this work is £100,000).
Following the path around the Church, you will eventually come to three statues known as a 'Calvary'. This was originally housed in the Church above the arch leading to the Fitzalan Chapel.
The churchyard contains many interesting stones. Please feel free to discover them.
The Eight Bells of St Nicholas.
In 1855 Duke Henry Charles and Duchess Charlotte, the 13th Duke and Duchess of Norfolk, undertook the entire cost to refurbish the original six bells, and at the same time added two new bells increasing the number to eight.
We know little of the ‘ringers’ prior to 1855. The increase to eight bells gave a tremendous boost to local ringing. In 1880 the St Nicholas Bell Ringing Society was formed and in 1885 the Sussex Ringers’ Association came into being. Visiting ringers regularly come to ring at St Nicholas. Our bells are rung for services, weddings and special occasions.
244 peals have been rung up to May 2009
We hope you have enjoyed your tour around St Nicholas' and we trust you will visit this site again. We would welcome your comments.