About Us


The church of St Mary’s lies in the small habitation of Chidham.  Chidham is situated on a small peninsula in Chichester Harbour.  It is situated about 5 miles SW of the City of Chichester and close to the border of Hampshire.  It is at the western end of the Diocese of Chichester and has a rich history.  The peninsula is not mentioned in the Domesday Book because it was part of the Manor or Chapelry of Bosham, rich in farming land and then belonging to the Bishop of Exeter.


There is a suggestion that the Saxon Saint Cuthman may have been born here, c.681. In the biography of the saint in the Acta Sanctorum which was preserved at the Abbey of Fécamp in Normandy[1] it is said that he was born about 681, either in Devon or Cornwall, or more probably at Chidham, near Bosham, about 25 miles from Steyning. A birth in Chidham at that date would place him in the right time and area to be preached to by Saint Wilfrid, the Apostle of Sussex (680–685), and would probably make Wilfrid the man who converted and baptised Cuthman. The village's name is derived from the Old English words ceod (meaning bag or pouch) and ham (meaning settlement), referring to the shape of the peninsula on which it is situated.


Chidham village lies on a loop-road, halfway down the peninsula. There is a road leading out to Cobnor Point but this is a private road, so access to and from the harbour is limited. The village sits in the local authority area called the 'Parish of Chidham and Hambrook' which itself is a small rural parish which comprises of three settlements – Chidham and Hambrook and Nutbourne East (The boundary changes and name took effect circa 2015)


There is a network of public footpaths for walkers, giving access to the shore and intertidal mudflats of Chichester harbour. The land is largely flat and agricultural, but with sufficient variety and cover for a diversity of wildlife.  One of the walkways is ‘The Old Way’, The British Pilgrimage Trust describes ‘The Old Way’ as its flagship project which winds for 250 miles from Southampton to Canterbury. The trust website says: “We intend the Old Way to become a pilgrimage route that highlights new solutions and models for best practices, which will help take British pilgrimage forward”.


The route was discovered by BPT co-founder William Parsons while researching Britain’s oldest road map, the Gough Map (c.1360). It has been developed with the intention of retaining the integrity of this ancient route, while adapting to the ways the landscape has evolved since the 14th century: to walk the exact Gough Map route now would take pilgrims onto motorways and main roads. The Old Way launched in August 2020.[2]




The present flint and rubble church only dates from the 13th century.  The church celebrated its 800yr history with a celebration in 2010 and commissioned a new stain glass window recognising the importance of St Cuthman.  It is currently a Grade II* listed building.


The church belonged to the College of Bosham (VCH 4 p188).  There is nothing to suggest that a church stood here any earlier that the 13th century, although it is possible as there are reports and records to suggest that there was a settlement on the peninsula long before the church.  Recent reports indicate that an excavation has shown that man made use of Chidham more than 4,000 years ago. The flint scrapers discovered on the site on the western shore of the peninsula, seem to suggest that spear shafts were being made here and there was a saltern (salt production) and kiddles (for netting fish from the shore).


The Sussex Parish Churches website, helpfully provides us with historical information with regards to the fabric of the church, which is set out as follows:

The nave and chancel are C13 with a short early C14 north aisle.  The bellcote is C19, as are most lancets.


Chidham lies on a peninsula jutting into Chichester Harbour and the manor and the church belonged to the College of Bosham (VCH 4 p188).  Nothing of the church is older than the C13, when it consisted of nave and chancel only.  Not all the long lancets are original, as Adelaide Tracy (1850) (I, p9) and Quartermain ((W) p58) show, but the centre south one of the naves is certainly old.  On the north side is a further original one and the sides of the chancel have two each, their sills linked inside by a string-course.  Some stonework of the plain, pointed north doorway is old and the chancel arch is mostly of the period, though it was heightened by 3ft in the C19 (VCH ibid), as is apparent from the lowest parts of each respond.  The head has two chamfered orders, the inner of which rests on conical corbels, and the voussoirs are composed of irregularly variegated light and dark stones.


Two shallow buttresses supporting the stone bellcote at the west end are old; previously there was a boarded belfry on wooden struts with a cap, shown on the Sharpe Collection drawing (1805).  This also shows a small round-headed window between them, which was probably relatively recent, and did not indicate an early date for the fabric.  The pointed doorway beneath, of which an outline is visible, is likely to be C13.


In the early C14 a short, narrow north aisle was built against the eastern part of the nave.  Its north wall is blank and though the west and east windows have been renewed, Adelaide Tracy shows them as today.  The arcade has two bays with octagonal responds and pier.  In the east respond on the aisle side is the upper entrance to the rood-stair, with a wooden frame, which probably dates from the same time.  The presence of such a small aisle suggests it was intended for a chantry.  Probably C15 were two square-headed south nave windows shown by Quartermain.  A jamb by one of the C19 south east lancets probably belonged to one of these.  An east window, possibly of four lights, recorded in 1795 (VCH 4 p189), could also have dated from then.


Of post-Reformation alterations, nothing remains.  Displayed in the church are several mainly mid-C19 pictures that show it before and during restoration.  They provide valuable information about what was done to the church then, since C19 restorations are poorly documented.  The chancel appears to have been restored first, for Adelaide Tracy shows the present three stepped east lancets in 1850 and one of the pictures, likely to predate the only known restoration in 1864 (Harrison p90), shows the chancel arch had already been heightened.  Work in 1864 concentrated on the nave and included a new south doorway and the stone bellcote, which retains the west buttresses but draws them together to a point above a lancet.  Another picture, actually dated 1864, shows the nave without its roof, confirming that it dates from then.  The C15 south windows shown by Quartermain were probably replaced by the present lancets at this time and a brick porch seen on one of the drawings in the church was replaced by a timber one. The chancel roof is shown intact, but it has crownposts and is quite different from the present one.  Either it is inaccurate or the presumed earlier restoration was incomplete and there was a further, unrecorded one at a later date.


In the C20, a mission room, later the church of St Wilfrid, was built at Hambrook, in the inland part of the parish near the railway.[3]


Fittings and monuments

Aumbry: (Chancel) This is placed on the south side, though the north is more usual. A small segment-headed recess, probably C13, close to ground level.
Font: Roughly round bowl, on a square base, with the corners removed.  Found under the floor in the C19 and variously ascribed to the Saxon period (Drummond-Roberts p22), late C12 or early C13 (
www.crsbi.ac.uk retrieved on 1/4/2013) and ‘perhaps 1660’ (VCH ibid); in the absence of distinctive features its date must remain uncertain.  A K Walker suggests it has been cut down from a tub (p106).
Glass: (East window of north aisle) 
M Howse, 2010.  Chiefly blues and greens, containing figures and emblems connected with the parish.

1.  (Chancel) Wall monuments to Henry Bickley (d1707) and George Meggott (d1708).  Both cartouches are by the same unknown hand and the quality of carving of the skulls, drapery and cherubs is above average.
2.  (Chancel floor by piscina and now concealed) Worn C13 tombstone of Purbeck marble.
3.  (Inside, in blocking of west doorway) Fragments of C15 stone panelling, possibly from a tomb-chest.

1.  (East respond of the north aisle) small and pointed, and renewed, though from its position it was probably C14.
2.  (Chancel) C13 shoulder-headed of unusual pattern.


In 1998 when the Bickley Memorial was removed for restoration, a Gothicised Text, circa 1640, was revealed.  The text was conserved, and the Bickley Memorial was replaced over it, proud of the wall.

The windows in the chancel of coloured stained glass and are beautiful but create a dark chancel even with the lighting.  The chancel windows are attributed to Clayton & Bell (R. Eberhard).  The north aisle window was designed by Mel House in pleasant blues and greens and was designed to coincide with the 800th anniversary of the church in 2010.


The parish is cut by two east-west routes: the A259 and the Portsmouth to Brighton railway line. The Chidham peninsula extends southwards into Chichester Harbour and lies within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).


The parish serves approx. 2600 people, with two parish churches (St Mary’s, Chidham & St Wilfrid’s, Nutbourne [built in 20th Century]). The parish is large and diverse: the area is mainly agricultural, and the majority is arable with truly little livestock.  The area is part of Chichester Harbour and part of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  It has one primary (C of E) School; a number of nursing homes; small post office/shop; three pubs; light industry; parks; a cemetery (which is an extension of the original graveyard to the church).


[1] Acta Sanctorum February volume II, Feb. 8th, p.197-199: https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k60287/f235.pagination?lang=EN

[2] https://britishpilgrimage.org/the-bpt/

[3] St. Wilfrid’s Church, Scant Road, Hambrook was demolished in the 1960s.  A timber framed building, subsequently named St. Wilfrid’s Church & Hall, was constructed just north of the A259 in Broad Road, Nutbourne in the 1960s

[4] https://sussexparishchurches.org/church/chidham-st-mary/

Powered by Church Edit