Wednesday, 27 January 2016

St Michael, Southwick

The majestic tower at Southwick looks like a textbook progression of styles over a hundred years.
The base with its moulded arch into the nave was built in the early 12th century. About 50 years later a second storey with blind arches was added. Finally, probably soon after 1225 when the Templars, those militant monks, were given the parish,  a top storey was added with tall lancet windows and little round bulls-eye openings to let the sound of the bells out. The tower was also topped with a broach spire,
The tower looks so good, indeed, it is almost impossible to believe that it was entirely taken down in 1941 after it was hit by a bomb. It mercifully failed to explode but the structural damage was severe. The tower was reconstructed in 1949 by architect John Denman, who was noted for his sensitive restoration of many Sussex churches including Bosham. Denman designed the new Norman-style west door in the base of the tower and the vestries on either side.
The chancel is also 12th century, but sadly the nave was completely rebuilt by the Victorians in 1835 possibly as the result of a fire. It is a cheap job, with thin columns holding up the arches and plain triple-lancet windows.