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Description: Church of St Mary Magdalene
Date Listed: 22 July 1949
English Heritage Building ID: 297555
OS Grid Reference: SU9347200224
OS Grid Coordinates: 493472, 100224
Latitude/Longitude: 50.7941, -0.6751
Explore more of the area around Bognor Regis, West Sussex at Explore Britain.
745/9/22 BERSTED STREET
22-JUL-49 SOUTH BERSTED
CHURCH OF ST MARY MAGDALENE
DATES OF MAIN PHASES, NAME OF ARCHITECT: 13th century. Major restoration 1879-81 by Ewan Christian.
MATERIALS: Rubble, much of it cobble stones, with ashlar dressings. Red clay tile roofs. Shingled spire.
PLAN: Nave, chancel, N and S aisles, W tower, N organ chamber/chapel with small vestry to N, N porch.
EXTERIOR: The most striking feature is the 13th-century W tower and its massive buttresses to the N, W and S faces. Seen from the W they make the tower look much wider than it actually is. They terminate in large offsets about the levels of the bases of the miniscule, single-light lancet openings of the bell-stage. A W doorway (now blocked) is sandwiched tightly between the two W buttresses. The tower is crowned by a shingled, splay-foot spire which has small openings in the cardinal directions and in line with the tops of the corner chamfers. The nave and aisles are under continuous roofs but with those over the aisles having a shallower pitch than that on the nave. The chancel, although as wide as the nave, has a lower roof ridge. The N organ chamber/chapel has its own gabled roof. The fenestration of the church is varied and is very largely new or renewed work from the late 19th-century restoration. The graded triple lancets of the E window are a new design of c1880. The date of 1880 (1881 on the S aisle) is recorded on a number of cast-iron hopper heads along with the initials SMM (the architect for the restoration, Ewan Christian, often used such dated rainwater goods). The N porch, with a timber superstructure, on low stone walls dates from the 19th century.
INTERIOR: The walls are all plastered and whitened. On each side of the nave is a 13th-century arcade of five bays, with double-chamfered arches and with the piers being alternately round and octagonal with moulded capitals (unusually, circular even over the octagonal piers) and bases with angle spurs. The responds are square with corbels to carry the inner order. On the S side of the nave the arcade leans out markedly to the S. The W wall has a pointed arch formerly opening into the tower, into which is inserted (perhaps as a crutch at a time when the state of the tower gave cause for concern) a smaller pointed arch of one order with chamfered imposts. There is no arch between the nave and chancel, the division being marked by a tympanic filling above the level of the wall-plate in the nave: upright timbers are exposed between which are plastered infillings. The two-bay arcade to the N chapel has a circular piers with a moulded capital and base. The roofs are probably entirely of the 1879-81 restoration: they are seven-sided in the nave and chancel, and lean-tos in the aisles.
PRINCIPAL FIXTURES: Most of the fixtures date from the late 19th-century restoration but on the W wall of the nave is a wall monument to Sir Richard Hotham (d 1799), a wealthy hatter from Southwark, who was responsible for starting the development of Bognor Regis as a resort in the 1780s: the St Mary Magdalene's register has an entry for 17 January 1787 noting the laying of: `The first foundation stone at Bognor in the Parish of Berstead'. The church also has a medieval chest witn a three-plank front bearing roundels of chip-carving (a modern oak lining has been added).
The 19th-century seating scheme is substantially intact and has pews with shaped ends. The font of 1898 is a replacement of a 12th-century one and has a round bowl with rich carving in a free Decorated style. The pulpit is wooden, has pierced sides and stands on a tapering stone base. Above the N doorway is a bust of Archbishop Tait of Canterbury (d 1882). The E lancets are filled with good glass in vibrant colours by Powell's and date from 1880. Other stained glass windows date from the late 19th and early 20th centuries: that at the E end of the S aisle is also by Powell's, 1905.
SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: The church has a most attractive, well-treed setting in its churchyard which retains a very intact collection of its tombstones dating back to the 18th century. Next to the N porch is a massive stone slab, probably from a medieval altar, and a taper-sided tombstone of the 13th century. In the angle of the tower and S aisle is a 19th-century obelisk to the Fitzpatrick family. To the SE of the church is a hall dating from 1969. E of the church are the former schools (now a nursery), perhaps dating from c1880.
HISTORY: The village of Bersted is now part of the built-up area of Bognor Regis. It was originally a chapel of Pagham. A vicarage had been ordained before 1291 when it was valued at £6 13s 4d. The right of presentation was with the rector of Pagham until about 1360 but from 1382 the archbishop of Canterbury was patron. The right of burial seems to have been acquired in 1405 when the bishop of Chichester consecrated the church and churchyard. It was styled a parish church in 1465 but this status was definitely denied it in about 1535.
The fabric of the church dates mainly from the 13th century. The appearance of the tower was radically altered by the addition of the large buttresses, built no doubt at a time when the condition of the tower gave cause for concern and the work may have been the `reparations of the steeple' recorded in 1541 (VCH). Prior to the Victorian restoration in 1879-81 the side walls of the aisles appear to have been higher with two tiers of windows on either side, no doubt to illuminate the gallery erected in 1764. The 1879-81 restorer was Ewan Christian who carried out much refenestration, added the organ/chamber and N porch, and extensively furnished the church and provided new roofs. Christian (1814-95) was a prolific architect whose speciality was church work. He was schooled at Christ¿s Hospital until 1829 when he was articled to Matthew Habershon. He broadened his education with travel on the continent in 1834 and the following year assisted one of the entrants in the New Palace of Westminster competition with the drawings. He worked in the offices of William Railton in London and then John Brown in Norwich. He commenced practice in 1842 and was appointed architect to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in 1851, a post which brought many commissions, especially in the chancels for which the Commissioners were responsible. He gained a reputation for efficiency and bringing jobs in on time and on budget.
There were alterations in 2002 when a number of pews were removed to create a facility for tea, coffee etc.
L F Salzmann (ed), Victoria County History of Sussex, vol 4, 1953, pp 223-5.
Ian Nairn and Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Sussex, 1965, pp 101-2.
Anon, St Mary Magdalene, South Bersted (church guide leaflet; nd).
REASONS FOR DESIGNATION:
The church of St Mary Magdalene, Bersted, Bognor Regis, is designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* It is a building of special interest in having extensive fabric dating back to the 13th century. Its tower is of remarkable and distinctive appearance thanks to the addition of massive buttresses, possibly in the mid-16th century.
* It was extensively restored in 1879-81 by the well-known architect Ewan Christian when it assumed an appearance which has changed little since.
* It is of interest as the burial place of Sir Richard Hotham, the founder of modern Bognor, to whom there is a monument in the church.
This text is a legacy record and has not been updated since the building was originally listed. Details of the building may have changed in the intervening time. You should not rely on this listing as an accurate description of the building.
Source: English Heritage
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.