St_Mary The Blessed Virgin Church Sompting

St_Mary The Blessed Virgin Church Sompting

BY
Wendy Hughes
The village located between Lancing and Worthing at the foothills of the South Downs has the unusual name of Sompting. It is mentioned in the Domesday survey of 1086, as Sultinges and being in the Hundred of Brightford. The name is thought to derive from the Old English for dwellers by the marsh (Sompt+ingas). The south Saxons settled in this part of Sussex around 550AD, and most probably built a small timber framed church where the unusual tower stands today, occupying a rather isolated position, because since 1939, the church has been separated from the village by the busy A27. The tower standing eighty feet (25 metres) high is an earliest example of a ‘Rhenish Helm’ – a four sided gabled pyramidal cap which is unique England and is thought to have been built in stages, constructed from flint bonded with lime mortar to a thickness of 3 feet (92 centimetres).
KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAThe Anglo Saxon church of St Mary the Virgin is a Grade 1 listed building, built by the Saxons in around 960 A.D The church was adapted by the Normans in 1154 when William de Braose granted it to the Order of the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, a Crusading Order of fighting monks known as the Templars, and is the oldest and most extraordinary church associated with this ancient order. Then in 1324, under the International ruling of the Pope, all Templar properties were assigned to another Order of Crusaders, the order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem, known as the Knights of St John or the Hospitallers and Knight Templars graves have been found in the grounds of the church. The Hospitallers chapel attached to the north wing of the church continues today in its original role as a chapel for the St John’s Ambulance.

Sompting-Church-Hospitaliars-Chapel

Sompting-Church-Hospitaliars-Chapel

Whilst there are no official reports of ghosts in the vicinity people have reported seeing what they described as a dark shadow flitting from tree to tree which has followed them as they approach the church from the A27. As with many churches and grounds associated with the Knights Templar it is said that they guard their properties in death as they did in life. Some mediums have reported seeing shadowy figures standing at the four corners of the church watching that no trouble is caused to their departed comrades, and back in August 2004 a group from the then C O T C, Children of the City Paranormal Investigations and WSPI, West Sussex Paranormal Investigations, visited the church and churchyard.

SomptingChurchr from the west

SomptingChurchr from the west

One of the group reported what he could only describe as a dark figure standing next to a bush. Was this a trick of the light or did he really see a ghostly figure? As they headed towards the church via the graveyard another of the party saw lights on the ground. At first they thought it may be torch lights, but these lights were different, more like pin pricks of light than beams from a torch. As they approached a grave another in the group got a strange feeling as though the grave was giving off energy, and as he got closer the energy got much stronger. They read the gravestone and established that he had no links with the woman buried there, so why was he feeling this strange power? They then decided to move towards the church and as they did C saw a head bobbing along the other side of the stone wall. They checked where everyone was at the time and discovered that no one was near where C had seen the head. One of the women in the group walked to the trees near the car park
claiming it was a hanging tree. Whilst the group stood looking at it, C saw a figure and from the description it matched perfectly with the figure that another member of the group had seen standing next to a bush earlier in the night. The group found a suitable spot to hold a séance near the church, and linked hands. The name ‘Jack’ was mentioned and it was not until later that they discovered that C’s grandfather was known as ‘Jack’. One started to channel the spirit who sounded very scared, and they felt it was crying, and the words, ‘he’s coming’ and then the word ‘murder’ were uttered. As this was taking place C felt it was the spirit of a young girl and all agreed that it was definitely a female spirit. Could it have been someone who had been murdered and buried at St Mary’s still being haunted by her killer? C started to see the spirit lights again in the direction of the grave that had made him feel so strange earlier on, and a closer look at the grave revealed that it was the grave of a lady who had died in 2000 and fresh flowers had been placed on the grave. Could it have been the anniversary of her death that was causing all the energy? I will leave you to draw your own conclusions.

About Wendy Hughes

Wendy turned to writing, in 1989, when ill-health and poor vision forced her into early medical retirement. Since then she has published 26 nonfiction books, and over 2000 articles. Her work has appeared in magazines as diverse as The Lady, Funeral Service Journal, On the Road, 3rd Stone, Celtic Connections, Best of British, and Guiding magazine. She has a column in an America/Welsh newspaper for ex-pats on old traditions and customs in Wales. Her books include many on her native Wales, Anglesey Past and Present, The Story of Brecknock, Brecon, a pictorial History of the Town, Carmarthen, a History and Celebration and Tales of Old Glamorgan, and a book on Walton on Thames in the Images of England series, a company history and two books on the charity Hope Romania. She has also co-authored two story/activity books for children. Her latest books are: Haunted Worthing published in October 2010, a new colour edition of The Story of Pembrokeshire published in March 2011, and Shipwrecks of Sussex in June 2011 and Not a Guide to Worthing in 2014. She is working on a book entitled A-Z of Curious Sussex which will be published in 2016 Wendy also works with clients to bring their work up to publishable standard and is currently working on an autobiography with a lady that was married to a very famous 1940’s travel writer. Wendy has spent many years campaigning and writing on behalf of people affected by Stickler Syndrome, a progressive genetic connective tissue disorder from which she herself suffers. She founded the Stickler Syndrome Support Group and raises awareness of the condition amongst the medical profession, and produces the group’s literature, and has written the only book on the condition, Stickler The Elusive Syndrome, and has also contributed to a DVD on the condition, Stickler syndrome: Learning the Facts. She has also writing three novels, Sanctimonious Sin, a three generation saga set in Wales at the turn of the century, Power That Heal set in the Neolithic period entitled Powers that Heal, and a semi biographical book entitled New Beginnings which deals with two generations coping with blindness and a genetic condition. She has also had a handful of short stories published, and in her spare time is working on several at the moment. She also gives talks on a variety of subjects including Writing and Placing Articles, Writing Local History, Writing as Therapy, Writing your first novel, etc, and runs workshops on the craft of writing – both fiction and non-fiction. She is a member of the Society of Women Writers and Journalists, and a member of the Society of Authors.