Tuesday, 16 April 2013

St Leonard, South Stoke

South Stoke feels incredibly remote, at the end of two-mile cul-de-sac to the north of Arundel. The huddle of houses on a hillock enclosed by a loop of the River Arun only qualifies as a village because of St Leonard's church.
The church is a simple Norman structure with nave and chancel, probably the church mentioned in the Domesday Book. The west end was altered in the 13th century by the addition of an unusually spindly tower, which is reflected inside by a rather dramatic composition consisting of a tall pointed tower arch flanked by a pair of lancet windows in deep splays.
Since then, little has changed. The queen post roof was renewed in the 15th century and the exterior was given a typically hard Victorian appearance in the 19th, with the addition of the quaint spirelet on oversized corbels on the tower.
The village, however, did not prosper over the centuries. Elizabeth I confiscated it as part of the estates of the recusant Catholic Earl of Arundel. In the Civil War villagers backed the losing side, making several inflammatory entries in the Parish Register such as "1650 - This is the 2nd yr of the Usurpation and Interregnum, and by right, the 2nd yr of the reign of Charles ye second."
In 1797 the Dukes of Norfolk recovered the estate, only to enclose most South Stoke's common pasture for their Park. The canalisation of the Arun isolated the farm houses from their fields still further, as well as increasing the frequency of flooding. The arrival of the railway made matters worse.
The result, however, is that the village is unspoiled and oozes charm.