Friday, 29 July 2016

St Mary, Funtington

 Funtington's church has two unusual medieval survivals, chapels on either side of the chancel originally built in about 1300 to provide areas dedicated to particular saints or for prayers for the rich donors who paid for them.
The church was quite grand, with a long nave with four arches, and big overarching roof that covered both nave and aisles, sweeping down almost to the ground in the way still visible in churches such as Yapton. At the west end the composition was completed in the 15th century by a simple battlemented tower.
Unfortunately, it is difficult to tell exactly what the medieval church looked like because almost all the old work with the exception of the chancel chapels was swept away in a particularly comprehensive Victorian restoration of 1859.
The north and south aisles were complete rebuilt, being made considerably wider and having their own roofs so they were much taller. Big arches were punched through the walls of the chancel into the chapels.
The whole church was covered in lavish, indeed overpowering carved ornament. Outside, the new aisle windows have extraordinary recessed columns between the lancets, something never seen in medieval churches. The capitals on the columns have 'stiff leaf' ornament but about three times as large as any medieval original. The polished hardwood roof sits on corbels carved with flowers, religious beasts and a couple of heads one of which sports a stylish moustache.
What makes this outbreak of Victorian exuberance so strange is the architect was Benjamin Ferrey, a pupil of Pugin's who is known for solidly constructed but generally uninteresting designs. He was not known for this sort of thing at all.
Funtington church is noteworthy for the number of memorials to naval commanders, including Admiral of the Fleet Sir Provo Wallis, born in 1791. Wallis was enrolled in the navy at the age of four by his father, so when he actually boarded a ship for the first time in 1804 he had already built up nearly 10 years of seniority. He was promoted captain at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, which entitled him to remain on the active list, and therefore on full pay, for the rest of his life. In his late 90s the Admiralty tried to persuade him to retire, pointing out that he was liable to be sent to sea if he remained on the active list. He responded that as the most senior officer in the Navy he would have to be in command of any fleet he was in, and his last seagoing command was in the days of sail... The suggestion was quietly dropped and he was still on full pay when he died aged 100.