The Church Building & Fixtures

It has a Nave, Chancel, south-west porch, and the south tower, this last a Sussex habit (e.g. Tillington, Petworth, Midhurst & Lurgashall). In the porch is an iron grating over a hollow a yard deep; over its south door into the church is the parish bier, used for Duncton funerals in the pre-car age. The porch’s outer door is iron-netted to prevent birds getting trapped inside the church.

The South Door has large iron hinges in the mediaeval plant-shapes fashion. Through it you enter the Nave, where the congregation sits – Nave is from “Navis,” the Latin for a ship, the parish as its crew. One step up from the Nave is the Chancel, with a further step up to the Altar, the Holy Table with the Cross on it to remind us of Christ our Lord and Saviour. In a Church of England and Roman Catholic Church, north is on your left, south on your right as you face the Altar.

In the centre of the Nave’s west wall is the Font (Latin for “fountain,” i.e. of Christ’s living water), in which most of Duncton’s Christians have been baptised since 1866. It has eight sides; on that facing east is the “HIS” monogram, the first three letters of “Jesus” in Greek, the common language of the Roman Empire by Jesus’ time. On the north of the Font is the Parish Chest, a stout black iron safe for the Parish Records (these are now in the West Sussex Records Office in Chichester). They begin in 1548.

The Nave’s north and south walls’ windows have opaque glass diamond panes, partly to prevent sight of the world outside when the sermon was dull! The Floor’s diamond tiles were like those in the old church at Upper Duncton. Tiling, a mediaeval feature, was copied and “improved” by the Victorians. Another “improvement” is the small round gable-windows in the west and east walls.

The pews are stained deal, their shapes typically Victorian. The old hassocks with big red-cloth tops and matted sides were superceded by the colourful new kneelers worked locally in the 1990s.

The Lectern, from which the Bible is read aloud during the service, is on the right of the Chancel arch; south of the Lectern is another Altar for occasional use.

The Pulpit (from the Latin for “platform”), from which the sermon is preached, expounding the Word of God, and how it ties in with Duncton life, is in the Nave’s north-east corner, as it was at the old church. It is of oak, in fifteenth-century style, with oak-foliage panel tops, aptly for a village in the ancient Forest of the Weald. The Weald’s oaks were famous. The stonework of the arches is local.

Halfway down the Nave, on each side of the aisle, are the Churchwardens’ staves of office, one per side. The Churchwardens are chosen from the regulars, and see to the fabric, provision of bread and wine for communion services and discipline (e.g. noisy persons) during services. In the old days, they awoke snorers and ejected fighting dogs. The staves are used when the wardens walk before the Bishops when he visits: each warden carries one.

The Chancel arch focuses your gaze on the Altar and the East Window behind it. The altar rails, in fifteenth-century style (Victorian), were originally to keep dogs away from the altar.

Farmers often brought their dogs to church with them in earlier centuries.

Lord Leconfield gave more elaborate tiling for the Chancel, and yet more so for the Sanctuary (beyond the altar-rails), the Holy Place of the Altar. The Altar is in pine wood, in Gothic style, the “correct” 1860s one.

In the Chancel are two stalls, the Rector’s on the south, and the Curate’s on the north side. In the 1860s almost all country parishes had a curate: not now! Even the Rector is usual shared – Duncton’s Rector lives at Tillington, serving Duncton, Tillington and Upwaltham. Each of these churches runs its own affairs but goes to the other two’s special events, as part of the same Christian family.

Duncton’s Communion Plate includes a cup, dated 1568, brought from the old church.

The Tower’s north arch opens into the Chancel and is filled mostly by the organ, which has one manual with eight stops: originally blown by hand, it now has an electric motor. A fine instrument, it is in need of repairs. Eighteen inches width was left at its east side for clergy etc. going through to the Vestry behind it under the Tower. The Vestry’s external door is usually kept locked.

The Clock is a two train Turret Clock from the firm of J W Benson Ltd of Ludgate Hill in London. Founded in 1749, Benson was one of the leading makers of turret clocks at the time the church was built.

Duncton’s 1914-1919 War Memorial, a brass plaque on the Nave’s north wall, also covers Upwaltham, Burton and Barlavington, who between them lost seven men. For solemnity “U” appears as “V” in Roman manner. Facing it, on the south wall is the 1939-1945 War Memorial, a stone plaque. Part of this memorial was electric light and heating. The lighting is now along the wall-tops, very effective and unobtrusive.

By the porch door, on the left, is a collection-box shaped like the Star of David, to stress the Church’s Old Testament roots. Outside the porch, on the east, is an iron scraper for removal of mud from boots. Tarred roads only came to Duncton in the early 20th century.

Outside now, to see the big vertical crack’s “ghost” in the west wall, the result of 1989’s long hot summer that dried the clay underneath. At once Duncton and its friends elsewhere raised £70,000 to save the building, and it re-opened on 20th October 1991. The oldest burials in the churchyard are on this west side. Others include the de Fonblanque, under a grey granite column just west of the Tower. He died in 1932. His wife was a leading supporter of “Votes for Women” and led their 1912 march from Edinburgh to London. Near the flagpole lies a centenarian, Jane Rapson, who died aged 100 in 1978.