“One Church at worship: three buildings for worship”
The 'Valley Parish' of East Dean, Singleton, & West Dean is in the upper Lavant valley, 6 miles north of Chichester. The parish was created on 1st December 2005, by the merger of the three ancient parishes, which had shared incumbents for 40 years. Rev Kev Robinson is the Priest in Charge.
The 3 ancient parish churches work closely together to promote the gospel, and encourage today's church at worship, while being the village church for their different communities.
Worship styles vary from contemporary to traditional; Common Worship for the Parish Eucharist.
The Parish Eucharist is celebrated at 10am in each church in turn (at West Dean on the third & fourth Sundays each month), together with Sunday School on the 3rd Sunday during school terms. The 4th Sunday Service is All-Age Worship, with young people helping to lead music, prayers, and worship.
St Andrew West Dean was a Saxon foundation, and Saxon door arches may be seen in its flint, stone and brick-built walls. Despite this the interior of St. Andrew’s seems modern and light, which is not what you would expect from the outside. A memorial stone set into the wall not far from the door explains why:
On the 26th November 1934 the church was almost completely destroyed by fire. According to a report in The Times newspaper the following day the Fire Brigade “were practically helpless owing to lack of water, West Dean being in an area which has suffered severely from a deficiency of water owing to the droughts of the last two summers.”
The same report records that a “very fine Elizabethan full-sized recumbent figure is badly damaged, and a life-size recumbent figure of the late Mr. Willie James [a former owner of West Dean Park] by Sir Goscombe John has been destroyed”; his monument was later restored by his son, Edward James; the recumbent figure of Richard Lewknor was never replaced, although the remainder of the monument including kneeling figures of his son and grandson, also both Richard, remains.
In the article the Vicar (Rev. H.E. Lyne) described how the fire was first spotted, “Miss V. Smith, of West Drayton, saw smoke and flames when she was practising at the organ in the church. She immediately dashed for help, but the roof and everything was ablaze in about 20 minutes. I was out at the time, and did not get back till the roof had fallen in.”
As should be obvious from the memorial stone the church was restored, according to the Chichester Observer (Wednesday, 15th April 1936), “The restoration of St. Andrew’s Parish Church, West Dean, which was destroyed by fire in November, 1934, was completed last week and the dedication of the new building took place on Saturday morning in time for the Easter services.”
The Bishop appears to have used the dedication to encourage the continued attendance of the parishioners every week:
It was a house of God worthy of the God they came to worship, and he urged them to come there Sunday by Sunday to worship Him. There was no reason why the Church should not be as full every Sunday as it was on this occasion. “If it is not to be a witness of our work,” he said, “it might almost as well never have been rebuilt”. [With acknowledgements to John Gasson - wanderinggenealogist.wordpress.com]
The church contains the parish War Memorials for the 1st and 2nd World Wars, and memorials to members of the James and Alers-Hankey families, and others.