Special Events / News

Victorian Visionaries Modernise St Mary’s

History Afternoon in the Church - Sat 24th March at 2.00 pm

A Passion for Modernity: The Victorian Restoration of St Mary’s.

An article by Martin Jones, key speaker at our forthcoming History Afternoon in the Church

Architectural Development of St Mary’s

New DVD - Wed 21st Feb 7.30pm

Victorian Visionaries Modernise St Mary’s

History afternoon led by Dr Andrew Foster with Martin Jones, specialist in Victorian church architecture and Thomas Jackson, and local historian Phil Berry.

Andrew Foster and Martin Jones take us on an investigative tour to reveal how an up-and-coming architect, Thomas Jackson, and the Rector William Izard, restored and modernised St Mary’s Slindon in the 1860s. Phil Berry illuminates the impact on village life of their work.

The Victorians changed the look of the English church, and not just because of the many new ones they built. There were very few ancient churches they did not ‘restore’.

In 1865/66 Jackson was commissioned to restore and modernise a neglected medieval parish church in Slindon, West Sussex. That work transformed the church and its outcomes are still important today. Jackson went on to become a lauded Victorian architect (Bridge of Sighs, Oxford, etc) and polymath.

Come and enjoy an afternoon of exploration and discussion that brings to life a significant era in the life of an ancient parish church and the early work of an eminent Victorian. Price £3, including refreshments, payable on the day. To reserve a place contact Nancy Brinton, nlbvinecottage@gmail.com or 01243 814693.

BIOGRAPHIES of our Speakers

Dr Andrew Foster, FRHistS, is an ecclesiastical historian who has written extensively about bishops, dioceses, clergy, parishes and cathedrals of the early modern period and, most recently, about the parish of Slindon. He is currently President of the Chichester Branch of the Historical Association and Literary Director of the Sussex Record Society. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and also of the Society of Antiquaries. He is an Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the University of Kent.

Martin Jones is a church historian by training and an architectural historian by enthusiasm. After a career as a school teacher and an exam board officer, he now combines both passions in a very active retirement. As well as textbooks on the Reformation and the Counter Reformation, he has published (so far) one architecture article about Sir Thomas Graham Jackson RA and has two more in preparation. His article on Maurice Smelt, Rector of Binsted and Slindon 1815 – 1865 was published in the Sussex Archaeological Society’s 2017 volume.

Phil Berry is founder of the Slindon History Society.

A Passion for Modernity: The Victorian Restoration of St Mary’s.

The coming History Afternoon includes a tour of the church investigating the 1866-67 restoration by the young architect Thomas Graham Jackson. Here, one of our speakers, Martin Jones, specialist in Victorian church architecture and the work of Jackson, offers a preview. The Victorians changed the look of the English church, and not just because of the many new ones they built. Few were the ancient churches they did not ‘restore’. The scale of what they did is easy to miss and misunderstand. Repairs were just the start. Restoration meant modernisation. Modernisation followed fashion.The right ‘look’ was essential.

Overhauling St Mary’s: a passion for modernity
Buildings need maintenance. St Mary’s was known to need repairs and further problems were uncovered once work began. Restoration became rescue. Concrete underpinning stabilised pillars and walls. Buttresses held the chancel. Damp and cold were also targeted. Drains and heating were installed. Draughts were cut, ventilation controlled. Hygiene and comfort dovetailed conveniently in Victorian drives to improve public health.

Keeping up with neighbours and competitors
The church was the most important public building in a village. As restoration became more common, parishes did not want to be left behind. Four neighbouring churches, including Binsted and Madehurst, had just been restored or currently had the builders in when Rev. William Chandler Izard was instituted. He got things moving quickly and appointed Thomas Graham Jackson. His upgrade also made the church rather grander. This was not parochial vanity. Round the corner was brand new St Richard’s, contesting Slindon’s religious identity in a way not seen since the Reformation. Izard would meet the rising Catholic presence head-on.

Preserving old St Mary’s?
Jackson tried to preserve ancient work, but not everything ‘old’ was valued equally. Post-medieval work was usually ripped out. That was the fate of St Mary’s Jacobethan East window. Similarly, painted Biblical texts ‘only’ 200-300 years old were destroyed to reveal 12th Century wall decoration underneath. Restorers also put back medieval features that were missing. St Mary’s had lost its chancel arch so Jackson put one in. Today, we notice its carving and miss the significance of its width. St Mary’s was an Evangelical parish. Nothing must interrupt the congregation’s ability to see and hear Common Prayer.

The seating revolution at St. Mary’s
Ejecting box pews and a gallery made a massive visual impact. The real transformation came, however, when Izard simultaneously abolished ancient seating arrangements. No longer would the parish sit each in their proper place. Henceforth, anyone could sit anywhere. In an age obsessed with hierarchy, the Victorian clergy used restorations to execute a profound social revolution.

Redefining gothic in the high days of the Gothic Revival
Young Jackson was exploring what “gothic” meant. Pushing the boundaries, he adopted a free interpretation for fixtures and fittings. In his ideas for the reredos, he brought 13th Century Italy to Slindon. With his pulpit, he took Sussex parishioners to 6th Century Byzantium. Rather than calling the Middle Ages back, the Victorians revealed themselves in their version of gothic.

Come and find out more at the History Afternoon. There is lots we still don’t know, especially about how the village reacted to these massive changes. Can you help?

Martin Jones

Architectural Development of St Mary’s

Peter Cornick, whose family live in Slindon, has researched and designed a DVD about the development of the church building since 12th Century. The result is a fascinating account of the church’s evolution over 900 years plus.

Please join us in the CORONATION HALL, SLINDON to see and celebrate Peter’s work. No booking required and no fee.