By Wendy Hughes

Village of Slindon

Last week I promised to return to the village of Slindon to explore it a little closer, and I certainly was not disappointed. As one of the most prolific writers of the 20th century Hilaire Belloc (1870 –1953) declared it was his favourite place on earth.  Belloc lived at both Bleak House and Gumber Farm which bears a blue plaque.

Blue plaque – Hilaire Belloc at Gumber Farm

It is a small village, about six miles east of Chichester and two miles to the west of Arundel, accessible from the A27.  We began our walk close to the A27 starting off from the Forge café/shop on Reynolds Lane where there is parking alongside the small orchard just beyond the Forge, which is also a good place to stop for refreshments after your tour of the village.  It is thought that the Forge began life as a wheelwright’s in around 1860 and was extended to become a Forge twenty years later.  It it’s time it would have formed an important part of village life repairing the many agricultural and domestic ironwork implements, as well as shoeing the horses and it remained in use by a farrier until 2000 when a project converted in a community run café and shop, which most of what is on sale is homemade and sourced by local suppliers.

As you stand in the lane facing the Forge turn right and follow the pavement up the hill passing the community orchard, which is on your left.  Here there is a range of fruit trees including damsons, pears, eating and cooking apples and at Christmas time the branches are decked with ribbons and a Wassailing ceremony takes place to ensure a good harvest for the coming year.

After passing the orchard at a junction of roads look out for the Millennium village sign, depicting an old cricket bat, ball and wicket, as these items were first used un Slindon in 1731, the place where cricket originated.

The old lock up

Around the village you will find a number of quirky structures. For example, on Dyers Lane look out for the elaborate flint shed with an ‘ox blood’ red door.  This was built in 1805, before a full-time Constabulary was formed in 1857 and used by the Parish Constable to imprison local troublemakers until they could be marched off to the courts at Arundel or Chichester.  Also look for the square walled flint enclosure at the top of Mill Lane, once a livestock pound and used to hold cattle and sheep separated from the rest of their herd whilst being walked to market. The unlucky herdsman would have been annoyed because he would have to pay a fee to have them released.

The old railway carriage at Slindon

On the corner of School Hill and Top Road is the old school, once a Church of England school, built in 1871 using flints gathered from the local fields.  Look at the top of the building to find the ale mug imbedded in the flint work, put there by the local builders who enjoyed a lot of beer over the hot summer months of construction.  Don’t miss the former 1905 railway carriage converted into a summerhouse in the grounds of Church House with its thatched roof.

stained glass window in the church

An important part of the history of Slindon is the parish Church of St Mary’s, which is well worth a visit, situated in the heart of the village, and is now a listed building.  It includes architectural features from the 12th, as well as the 13th, 15th and 19th centuries, and was originally a small building with a chancel and nave and built in 1106, on a site possibly mentioned in the Domesday book in 1087.  There may have been an even earlier building attached to Slindon manor, although there is no evidence to prove this. The manor and its lands were a gift to St Wilfrid by Caedwalla, King of Wessex in 685 who in turn donated the gift to the See of Canterbury to Archbishop Theodore, and the estate was in the hands of the See until Archbishop Cramer exchanged it with Henry VIII for other lands.

Tablet to Stephan Langton Archbishop of Canterbury 1206-1228

The Font is 11th century and probably Norman or late Saxon, whilst the church is of flint rubble with ashlar dressing, and the interior materials used in the transition period was Caen and chalk.  The later 13th century work is of Pulborough stone and is also used in the Norman window, the only remining feature of the original nave.

The only wooden effigy in a Sussex church

Restoration work carried out in the 19th century included the rebuilding of the aisle walls and a new chancel.  The east window of five lancets was also installed with ta centre panel depicting the four saints, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  However, St Mary’s most important possession is the carved oak effigy of Anthony St Leger of Binsted who died in 1539 and requested to be interned at Slindon Parish Church.  This is the only existing wooden effigy in Sussex and represents a man in plate armour of the Wars of the Roses.  Interestingly the effigy is only 5ft tall.

David Beaty commemoration window

In the window facing south and just above the effigy of the knight is the etched window in memory of David Beaty who worshipped at the church and lived in Manchester House in Church Hill.  He was the author of several books and the window was presented to the church by his widow and family.  During the war David Beaty flew from various airfields in Sussex after volunteering as a pilot whist at Oxford.   He completed his tours of operations in some of the famous battles including the Siege of Malta, the Battle of the Atlantic, and the D-Day lands.  He was awarded the DFC and Bar, and after the war became a senior captain with BOA (now British Airways). But he always wanted to write and his novel became international bestsellers as well as his books and articles on air safety that were used by airlines and universities.

After sitting on a seat in the churchyard, make your way back to the Forge and enjoy some refreshments as you think of the people who have left their mark of this pretty little village.