Tuesday, 23 December 2014

St Andrew, Ferring

Stuck in the middle of the depressing wastes of bungalowland on the coast is the remnant of the old village of Ferring, a few thatched cottages huddling round St Andrew's church.
From Saxon times it was a place of some consequence, an episcopal manor with a residence for the Bishop next to a minster church with resident clergy who lived communally and had an obligation to maintain the daily office of prayer. The priests also served parish churches in the area, which were mere chapelries of Ferring.
Today, St Andrew appears mostly as it would have in the mid 13th century, when it was rebuilt within the Norman walls. The chapel was rebuilt first, and one can still see the remains of the original trio of lancet east windows on either side of the later Perpendicular style east window. The slim marble columns of the original lancets hint that the masons may have come from Chichester, sent by the Bishop as it was his church.
The rebuilding continued with the addition of a line of columns and an aisle to the north. The masons started from the east and worked their way westward, as the style of the easternmost corbel is earlier than the corresponding one in the west.
The new structure clearly suffered from structural problems, shown by the addition of several sturdy buttresses at the west end and a cross-wall in the north aisle that was clearly installed to prop up the new arcade.
On this wall is one of those rustic monuments that add so much charm. Commissioned by a prominent local family, the Ollivers, the mason pulled out all the stops. Many of the classical frills are copied from pattern books of the latest Adam style, and he has added two 'mementi mori' reminding us that death takes all, a skeleton with an arrow and an angel with an hour glass standing.
The inscription is to "Tho.s, Son of Geo.e & Fran.s Olliver (of Kingftone Farm)" who died in 1782 age 30, "lamented by all his friends."
Below, an unsophisticated but heartfelt verse:

Young Men of ftrength behold and fee,
Juft in my prime Death conquer'd me;
Weep not my Friends for grieving is but vain:
I die with hopes to rife and live again.
With patience to the laft he did submit,
And murmured not at what ye Lord thought fit;
After a lingering illnefs grief and pain:
When Doctors fkill and Phyficians prov'd in vain.
He with a Chriftian courage did refign,
His Soul to God at his appointed time.

The monument is contemporary with the famous tomb of John Olliver, an eccentric miller who decided he wanted to be buried not in the churchyard but up on Highdown Hill close to his windmill. He had a big stone chest tomb built and a coffin made, which he kept under his bed. It was some 30 years before he died in 1793. It was, of course, rumoured that he was head of a local gang of smugglers and he hid the brandy in the tomb.
The windmill is long gone but the tomb remains to this day.