Churches in Sussex

Hardham Priory

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In vol. XI. of the " Sussex Archaeological Collections " (pages 111 to 115), the Rev. Edward Turner has given all the historical particulars which have been gathered concerning this Monastery, and has stated them with care and accuracy, So that no repetition of them is needed. This account is accompanied by an exterior view and two interior views of one of the buildings, so well and characteristically drawn by a lady, as to leave nothing to be desired in point of accuracy. The title given to the building is, however, erroneous, and a mistake as to the points of the compass has crept into the description. It is called the Chapel, - it should be the CHAPTER HOUSE. The exterior view, p. 111, is called the east end, it Should be the west ; and so with the two interior views at p. 115, the word east should be exchanged for west in one instance, and west for east in the other; and they represent the interior, not of the Chapel, but of the CHAPTER HOUSE. The description, on page 115, so far as the use of the word chapel is concerned, is of course also in error, the author having followed the popular description given on the Spot, without the correction which an acquaintance with monastic buildings affords. In further illustration of this little monastery, a plan of the remains is here given, with a restoration of the buildings which have disappeared. In this plan the existing walls are drawn black, whilst those which are wanting are shaded with lines. The rule of the construction of a monastery was to place its principal buildings upon the Sides of a quadrangle. The quadrangle had a covered passage all round it, which was the cloister, and was the means of communication between the various buildings. Upon one side of the quadrangle, either the north or the south, was the Church; opposite the church was the refectory, or dining-hall; upon the east side of the quadrangle was one arm of the transept of the church, when, as usually, it was a cross church; next to it a sacristy; then the chapter-house, and lastly the common room of the monks, whilst an upper story contained their dormitory. Upon the west side of the cloister was the cellary, where the stores for daily use were in reserve, and over it was the dormitory for the servants of the monks. Why the church should be sometimes to the north and sometimes to the south of the other buildings was a question which long puzzled me, as it has done many others; but the examination of a great number of monasteries at length led me to a satisfactory solution. It is a question of drainage and water supply. If the site selected for the buildings required the drainage and water supply to flow to the south, then the church was placed to the north, and vice versa. There is no rule without an exception, and so a few exceptions to this may be produced; and the effect of them is generally to show how inconvenient it was to place the church on the lower ground, and how much trouble the departure from the rule occasioned in the elaborate system of drainage and water supply with which a monastery was provided. At Hardham Priory, we see at a glance that the best position was selected; for here we have the REFECTORY Standing on the brink of the lofty bank which rises from the water meadow alongside of the river Arun. It is to the south, and has at its east end fragments of the common room and of the necessaria always found adjoining that room. Then in its proper position, we come to the beautiful CHAPTER HOUSE. Not a trace remains above ground of the Church, and until some one shall take the trouble to digs for its foundations, its exact form and dimensions must be conjectural, which will therefore be understood to be the case with reference to what is shown respecting those particulars on the plan. The position of the church as shown is certain, and for want of further information I have drawn its plan to correspond with that of the neighbouring Priory of Tortington, near the. Ford Railway Station. Of Tortington Priory, the only fragment remaining is a part of the north transept of the church, and the north wall of the nave, sufficient to show it to have been a cross church without aisles, such as I have drawn. Tortington was an Augustinian Priory, and so also was that of Pynham, or Calceto, a fragment of which is still standing within a very short distance of the Arundel Railway Station. This fragment of Calceto is the extreme south end of the common room.

Returning to Hardham, let me add a few words concerning the existing buildings. The Chapter-House is a work of about the year 1250. The west end of a chapter-house was usually a screen of open work, facing the cloister; and such it was here. But the open work is now blocked up with rude walling. The nature of the screen is, however, still very discernible, and its remains are well shown in the external and internal views of the west (recto) wall. It consisted of three arches, divided from each other by clustered marble shafts, with carved capitals. The central arch formed the entrance from the cloister; the side arches were subdivided, as is clearly seen in the interior, by a marble shaft or cluster in the middle of each, upon which rested the subordinate arches and tracery which filled the head. On the exterior, a carved label moulding frames each of the arches, and delicate bits of carved work are introduced at the springing of the arches. Passing through the screen we find that we are not yet strictly within the chapter house. Upon each of the side walls, 5ft. 6in. from the west end, are the remains of another screen, which crossed the building parallel to the first. The remains of it are very slight, but the purpose obvious. It shut off, as a sort of porch or entrance lobby, this width of 5ft. 6in., and over the porch it provided a passage from the Dormitory above the common room to the Transept of the church - a communication used by the canons to attend the night services in the church. The doorway from the dormitory into this upper passage, and that going out from it over the sacristy towards the church, may be seen over the crosses X X marked on the plan. The doorways have been walled up and disfigured, but the one from the dormitory is shown in the west (recto) interior view; the other is less distinct, and so does not appear there. Moreover, the slight marks of the inner screen are not given, except that the vaulting ribs of the Chapter-House are shown correctly, some distance in from the outer screen, by which the space given up to the porch and passage over is distinctly marked. The Chapter-House has three lancet windows in the east end and one in each side, the latter kept near the east end to be clear of the buildings which abutted on both sides of the Chapter-House. The windows are well moulded, and ornamented with shafts and carved capitals; but their present condition is one of sad mutilation. The Chapter-House was covered with a stone groined vault, in two bays. When complete it was a beautiful specimen of architecture. In it the Canons assembled daily to receive the Prior's orders and admonitions. Of the canons' common room (now converted, so far as it remains, to a dairy) we learn, from what exists, that it was covered with a groined vault, of which very slight traces remain at the south end.

The REFECTORY is an important building, of the same date as the Chapter-House, but has been converted to a farm-house. The rooms, stairs, and modern fittings have concealed or obliterated every trace of its original purpose, and I did not succeed, under these difficulties, in discovering any mark of the pulpit, which must have been somewhere along the south side, whence a canon or a noviciate read to the brethren at their meals. The most interesting part of the refectory is now its substructure, which is shown on the plan. The sudden fall in the ground enabled the architect to provide cellarage under the Refectory. This remains in almost perfect condition. The floor of the Refectory was carried by a groined vault of six bays, in two avenues, supported by round columns down the centre. The cellarage was lighted by small lancet windows along the south side, all now blocked up. It was divided in ancient times by walls erected across, and more divisions have been added since it became a farm-house. I have not therefore thought it worth while to show the subdivisions, and I have also purposely omitted a large block of walling, about 24 feet long and 3 feet thick, erected against the south side, towards the west end, which has nothing to do with the monastery, but which contains fire-places of two stories, belonging to a wing of the farm-house, built, and except this piece, destroyed, since the destruction of the monastery. The fragment of a chimney piece referred to by Mr. Turner is still to be seen. It is quite as late as the date he assigns to it (beginning of the 16th century), but should not be described as bearing coats of arms. -- It has sculptured upon it a row of small shields, alternating with barrels, or tuns, and upon each shield the letters W P. The initials might possibly refer to the last prior William Pricklowe, but the presence of the tun or barrel seems to indicate, according to the rebus very common with mediaeval artists, a name not ending in lowe, but in ton, Such a name has not yet turned up in connection with this monastery.

A few words as to the occupants of the monastery, Augustine Canons, may be interesting to those to whom the subject is fresh. Down to the middle of the eighth century monks were laymen, and lived under such rules as the abbot of each monastery thought fit to appoint; but at this time the rule practised by St. Benedict began to obtain general favour, and those who adopted it were now first classed as the Benedictine Order of Monks. As the monks became more systematic, so the clergy, then called Canons, adopted a more systematic mode of living. Rules for them at a later time were drawn from the writings of St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, which when finally adopted in the eleventh century by ecclesiastical authority, made Augustinian Canons of the clergy who lived in convents, and left the rest of the clergy living independently, as our own do now, to be called secular clergy or canons. It having been found convenient to reduce all conventual canons to a monastic rule, it was also deemed necessary, in course of time, to ordain all monks, so that at last the distinction was that the monks were Benedictines the canons Augustinians. Afterwards the Benedictine Order was repeatedly reformed. The Monastery of Clugny in Burgundy, originated a reform which was embraced by great numbers, and hence a subdivision of the Benedictines arose, called Clugniacs, whose principal establishment in England was at Lewes. Later still, in the same way, came the Cistercians, and many others, who were, nevertheless, all Benedictines. Reforms of' the Augustinians arose in the same manner; and hence we hear of Arroasian Canons, Premonstratensian Canons, Canons of Sempringham, and many others, all Augustinians. A new description of monks originated at the beginning of the thirteenth century, called Friars, professing chiefly an adaptation of the Augustinian Rule, and soon branched out into Dominicans, Franciscans, Augustinians, Trinitarians, Carmelites, &c. In common parlance, the principal divisions of monks, canons, and friars were designated by the colour of their dress, or by some well-known distinguishing practice. Thus the Benedictines were Black monks, and their subdivisions Grey and White monks, &c. There were black and white canons, &c.; black or preaching friars were Dominicans, grey friars Franciscans, crutched friars or redemptorists were Trinitarians, designated from the cross or crutch upon the dress, and from their devotion to the redemption of Christian captives from the heathen. To enlarge further upon this would take us too far from our present subject -Hardham Priory- of which the canons followed the original Augustinian rule. In the buildings each Order adopted some variations suited to its own peculiarities.

From Sussex Archaeological Collections XVIII, M.DCCC.LXVI
Reproduced by courtesy of the Sussex Archaeological Society (SAS). 
SAS grants this licence for the stated purpose in respect of such rights as SAS may have over the articles, 
but those rights may not include the author's copyright in the words and/or images.

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Last modified: 20 February 2010