Wendy’s Week; Bosham- one of the Hidden Secrets of Sussex
Wendy spends a day in Bosham, one of Sussex’s prettiest villages.
During yet another week of continual hospital visits for tests and my usual routine trip to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, we were determined to snatch a day of relaxation for ourselves. So…on a bright sunny day we decided to enjoy a day exploring one of the Sussex prettiest villages, Bosham. We were soon to discover a typical English setting, next to Bosham Quay with a relaxed atmosphere, and although Bosham can get quite busy in summer the day we chose was not too crowded and I was able to walk around with ease.
We parked the car not far from Bosham Walk with its old oak-beamed building which houses plenty of unusual craft shops and a coffee shop. Not far from Bosham Walk, on the same side of the road you will find a lane that leads to Holy Trinity Church, depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry featuring a series of events leading up to the Conquest of England by Duke William of Normandy and shows the Earl of Wessex, later King Harold, entering the church with a companion prior to his sailing to Normandy in 1064.
It was during the first part of the 11th century that Godwin, father of the future King Harold acquired his enormous assets in land and property, particularly in Sussex, which included the valuable secular Manor of Bosham, it could well be that the Saxon fabric of the church which has survived to this day was built under the patronage of Godwin.
When Godwin died in 1053 he was one of the richest and most powerful men in the country and it was his son Harold Godwinson, the future King Harold. Who inherited. In the opening scene of the Bayeux Tapestry, Harold is shown with King Edward the Confessor who, it is thought, is instructing Harold to go to Normandy to tell William, Duke of Normandy that he, William is to be the next King of England, and in the next scene Harold and his retinue are shown riding to Bosham, as the Latin text in the tapestry states: ‘Ubi Harold dux Anglorum et sui milites equitant ad Bosham. Ecclesia.’ Which when translated, reads ‘Where Harold, Earl of the English, and his retinue ride to Bosham.
Bosham is also the oldest site of Christianity in Sussex and Christians have worshipped here for well over 1,000 years. Pre-Christian settlers also chose this site and there is also strong evidence of Roman occupation which came to an came to an end at the beginning of the 5th century. In his book ‘A History of the English Church and People’, the Venerable Bede recorded ‘an Irish monk named Dicul who had a very small monastery in the place which is called Bosanham, a spot surrounded by woods and sea, where five or six brethren served the Lord in a life of humility and poverty. However, none of the people of the country cared to imitate their life or listen to their preaching. ’From Bede’s records we can presume that there was some sort of timber building where Dicul and his brethren lived, situated perhaps on or near the site of the church and we can assume that Christianity was preached in Bosham at this time, but with not much success.
Bosham Church itself dates back to Saxon times and the lower stages of the tower and the first third of the chancel have survived from this period. The oldest part of the church is the tower and was built in four stages, the first three in Saxon times and the top stage during the Norman period, with the spire added in the 15th century. The chancel arch was built in the 11th century shortly after the Norman Conquest of 1066 and is constructed of Quarr stone from the Isle of Wight.
Other notable features in the church include the 14th century crypt (once a charnel house) with All Hallows Chapel above which is dedicated to the memory of the departed. There is also a late 12th century font and several and a particularly fine 12th century trefoil-headed piscina which has a hollow column forming the drain and to the right of the high altar there is an unusual double piscina. The chancel was constructed in three clearly defined stages, the first is Saxon, the second Norman and the third is 13th century Early and includes the beautiful five-light lancet window with detached slender Purbeck marble columns.
Although Bosham church is an impressive historic building, dating back to Saxon times, it remains above all a place of worship. It is a place of encounter where those of faith and those who have none have found peace and solace within its walls.
Tradition also informs us that King Cnut’s (Canute’s) young 8-year-old daughter, Gunhilda, was drowned in the watermill stream and was reputed to have been buried in The Church. This story repeated itself when, in 1865, a skeleton of a child was found in the church during renovation work. The small stone coffin was found just in front of the chancel arch and a memorial stone was placed in the church by the children of Bosham in August 1906.
After a rest on a seat with the churchyard I was ready to walk to the waterfront well known as a centre for yachtsmen and artists, alike and we soon came across Brook House on Quay Meadow which is a two-storey Grade II listed building dating back to 1743.
Interestingly Bosham takes its name from Bésa and hamm, which means the homestead or promontory of a man called Bésa’. This has very slightly softened through the centuries and was first recorded as Bosanham in Bede’s ‘Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum’. It has also been listed as one of the wealthiest manors in England. Today‘Bosham’ is locally pronounced “Bozzum“.
Bosham is a harbour that should not be missed, but perhaps avoided on weekends when the popular location can get over run with tourists and we were glad we had chosen a week day giving us plenty of time to explore at leisure. After a suitable rest we walked to the old watermill which is now the headquarters of the local sailing club before making out way to the old barn-like building known as the Raptackle, another Grade II listed building that once housed rope and gear for the busy shipping industry. Finally, we followed our tracks back and enjoyed a delicious ice-cream at the Bosham Walk before returning to our car. In all a most enjoyable day and one I hope to repeated in the not too distant future.