St Nicolas, Old Shoreham, Sussex
- Site Location
- Old Shoreham
- National Grid Reference
- TQ 208 060
now: West Sussex
St Nicholas 1080
now (or name of monument): St Nicolas
- Type of building/monument
- Parish church
II General Description
The aisleless nave of Old Shoreham is Anglo-Saxon. The tower which once stood at its W end was probably adapted as a nave extension in the mid-12thc., when the central tower and transepts were erected. The large chancel dates from the 14thc., and includes a tie beam carved with dogtooth. In 1840-43 two vestries were built in the angle of the N transept and chancel, and the church was restored.
III Exterior Features
(i) S transept, W doorway
Today this is the main entrance of the church, but in the 12thc. there were at least three additional doorways, all of which are now blocked. One of these opened into the N side of the W tower, and the other two stood opposite one another in the nave. The plain tympanum of the S doorway survives, and the inner arch of the N doorway is described below.
The S transept doorway is round headed and of two orders with an outer arch (cf: the tower arches) and label. The inner order is plain and continuous. The face of the archivolt of the second order is carved with a motif resembling sunken panelling or coffering, with slightly tapering, or fan-shaped, fluted bars between the units. Below this arch - but not corresponding with it exactly - are en delit nook shafts with upright attic bases and carved capitals. The S capital is carved with a T-shaped stem, sprouting fanning pointed leaves, and has angle volutes. The N capital also has a T-shaped stem sprouting fanning pointed leaves, but no volutes. The imposts have a groove on the face and a slightly hollow chamfer. The outer arch is carved with frontal face chevron on the face and pellet on the very thin soffit. The chevron comprises three rolls and two quirks (rather than hollows). The label is carved with quartered roundels, with a pellet or bead in each quarter. The label stops were carved with heads, both now very worn.
This doorway is carved from an extremely shelly limestone, which is rather dark in colour and resembles Sussex marble. One or two of the voussoirs of the inner order are pale, but appear to have been painted. On the other hand, one or two voussoirs on the outer arch, and one or two blocks of the jambs, actually do appear to have been carved from pale, fine-grained limestone. These may be replacements.
(ii) Nave, N doorway
This doorway is blocked and has no external features. On the inside the arch is carved with lateral face chevron, comprising two rolls and two quirks. There is no label, and no impost blocks or capitals. The jambs appear to be modern.
The windows in the pilaster buttresses in the gable walls of the N and S transepts are carved with chevron, but are Victorian (c. 1840) copies of windows at Clymping. The lancets were originally plain.
(i) Central tower, bell stage, E side
A double bell-opening (now glazed) is flanked by slightly smaller blind arches. Each of the three arches is round headed and has a plain roll archivolt. Above this, two oculi, or sound holes, correspond to the present bell chamber.
S blind arch
S capital: elaborate cushion capital
N capital: damaged (cushion?)
S capital: scallop or cushion?
Central capital: cushion?
N capital: cushion?
N blind arch
S capital: double scallop
N capital: trefoil
(ii) Central tower, bell stage, S side
A double bell-opening (now glazed) is flanked by slightly smaller blind arches. Each of the three arches is round headed and has a plain roll archivolt. The capitals on this side of the tower appear to have been replaced and may be Victorian. Above these arches, two oculi, or sound holes, correspond to the present bell chamber.
W blind arch
W capital: cushion with ornamented shields
E capital:double scallop
W capital:double scallop
Central capital: multi-scallop
E capital: double scallop
E blind arch
W capital: double scallop
E capital: cushion
(iii) Central tower, bell stage, W side
A double bell-opening (now glazed) is flanked by slightly smaller blind arches. Each of the three arches is round headed and has a plain roll archivolt. The capitals on this side are very worn. Above the arches, two oculi, or sound holes, correspond to the present bell chamber.
N blind arch
S capital: scallop?
S capital: worn
S blind arch
S capital: volute capital?
(iv) Central tower, bell stage, N side
As the stair turret occupies the NW angle of the tower, there is a blind arch to the E of the double bell-opening (now glazed) on this side, but not on the W. The arches are round headed and each has a plain roll archivolt. Above them, two oculi, or sound holes, correspond to the present bell chamber.
E blind arch
W capital:double scallop
E capital:double scallop
Central capital: damaged
W capital: double scallop
IV Interior Features
b. Tower/Transept arches
(i) Tower arches
The crossing tower is supported by four round-headed arches. Each side of each arch comprises two orders, plus an outer archivolt and label, but in each case one side is elaborately carved while the other is plain. In the case of the W arch, it is the side facing the nave that is elaborate; in all other cases it is the side facing into the crossing. All of the impost blocks are plain. The capitals are carried by engaged columns with attic bases, comprising a high scotia above a shallow lower roll.
E tower arch
E arch E face
E arch W face
Inner order: a single order of chevron, or, more properly triangles, with the tip of each motif touching a plain roll moulding on the angle of the arch. The N capital is a triple scallop, with three cones and shields on the face, and one on each side. The shields have beaded or sawtooth borders and are carved with radial, or fanning, geometric motifs. The triangular areas between the cones have sawtooth borders, and motifs resembling ears of wheat occupy the angles of the capital. The S capital is similar but simpler. The shields and the triangular compartments between the cones have no decorated borders, and the angles are carved with sawtooth. Second order: the arch comprises a plain roll moulding. The capitals are simple scallops with plain shields and cones. The outer archivolt is carved with frontal face chevron (two rolls, one hollow, with pellets on soffit). The label is carved with roundels containing floral motifs connected by a raised strip carved with sawtooth, forming a chain. The N label stop is carved with a bald, beardless human head with a scowl and bared teeth, which does not look Romanesque. The label stop on the S is very damaged.
S tower arch
S arch, S side
Two voussoirs on the plain inner order are carved with sawtooth. The roll moulding of the second order descends onto two scallop capitals. While that on the W is plain, that on the E is carved with two cusps in each shield. The label is carved with double billet.
S arch, N side
Inner order: a plain arch on carved capitals. The E capital is a double scallop with two cusps and a pelta motif in each of the shields on the main face, and a head with bulging eyes and moustache between the cones. The W capital is a double scallop with three cusps, each filled with blobs, in the shields of the main face. Nested triangles occupy the space between the cones. To N and S, the shields are plain.
Second order: a plain roll moulding on carved capitals. The E capital is carved with a human head with a short, tight-fitting haircut, on the angle, a foliage motif and a serpent with a coiled tail on the W face, and a quartered roundel on the N face. The W capital is a plain scallop. Outer archivolt. This is carved with lateral face chevron comprising two rolls, two quirks, with pellets on the soffit. The label is carved with triple billet. There are no label stops.
W tower arch
W arch, W side
Inner order: a plain archivolt is carried by two elaborately carved capitals. The N capital is a double scallop. On the main face, the shields have beaded borders and contain foliage scrolls, while a triangular motif comprising layers of upright, wavy foliage rises between the cones. On the sides, the shields contain symmetrical, curled foliage motifs. The S capital is a double scallop with three cusps in each shield on the main face, and plain shields on the sides. In the centre of the main face a compartmentalised triangular design rises between the cones.
Second order: the arch comprises a roll moulding carved with a spiral beaded band. The N capital is a plain scallop with sheaths on the cones. The S capital is a plain scallop. The outer archivolt is carved with frontal face chevron (two rolls; one hollow; pellets or leaf motif on soffit). The label is carved with bosses, alternately plain and ribbed. There is no label stop on the N side. The S label stop is carved with a damaged seated figure, apparently bearded, who rests his left hand on an orb-like object on his lap, and raises his right hand to his chin. The keystone is carved with a cat-like animal head with pointed ears and open jaws.
W arch, E side
The inner order is plain. The roll moulding of the second order descends onto scallop capitals. That on the S has a fillet on the angle. That on the N has hollow shields with beaded borders. The outer archivolt is plain. The label is carved with bosses. The label stops are in the form of human heads; that on the S has bulging eyes and a moustache. Both are very worn.
N tower arch
N arch, S side
Inner order: the plain arch is carried on carved capitals. The E capital is in the form of a triple scallop with plain shields and rounded foliage forms which rise between the cones. The W capital is a double scallop with a four petal flower motif between the cones on the main face. The main shields are carved with three cusps and a band of beading. The N shield contains two quartered roundels.
Second order: a plain roll on carved capitals. The E capital is a plain scallop with sheaths on the cones. The West capital is a plain scallop. Outer archivolt: the arch is carved with frontal face chevron (two rolls; one hollow; pellets, rosettes or leaf motifs on soffit). The label is carved with rosettes on the chamfer and a chain of lozenges on the flat surface. The third voussoir on the E is carved with rinceaux, or foliage scrolls. The E label stop is carved with a female head, which has drilled pupils and wears a drapery headdress. The W label stop is a bearded male head with drilled pupils.
N arch, N side
The inner arch is plain. The second order comprises a plain roll on carved capitals. The E capital is a plain scallop with a keeled edge and sheaths. The W capital is a scallop, with nested cusping in the shields. The outer arch and label are plain.
(ii) Transept arches
N transept, arch into E chapel (now replaced by Victorian vestry)
On the inner order, the S capital is a double scallop with two cusps and a central droplet motif in the shields, and a triangular motif between the cones. The N capital is a double scallop, but is Victorian.
The second order is in the form of a label rather than a roll, with a chamfer. The N and S capitals, both of which have been renewed, are scallops with sheaths on the cones. The outer archivolt is carved with lateral chevron (two rolls; two quirks and triangles on soffit). The label is carved with single billet to either side of a central band carved with oblique sawtooth. The east side of the arch is plain. The scallop capitals of the second order are partially obscured by a wooden screen.
5. Interior Decoration
c . Miscellaneous
(i) Timber tie-beam
The church of Old Shoreham is recorded in Domesday Book. In 1073 William de Braose granted the tithes to St Nicholas, Bramber, butc.1080 he granted Shoreham church to St Florent, Saumur, its dependency Sele Priory now holding the advowson. The church was restored 1840-44 by J.M. Neale and J.C. Buckler (Cambridge Camden Society), who built two N vestries (a choir vestry and a vicars vestry) on the site of the 14thc. N chapel. The chapel arch was restored after long exposure to weather. The N transept, and most of the church windows, were restored at the same time.
the dedication to St Nicholas is recorder in the Sele Chartulary, 47,c.1080.
The tie-beam (IV.5.i) appears to be of 12thc. date, in which case it would represent the sole piece of surviving 12thc. wood-carving in Sussex. However, the VCH expresses the opinion that it is of the 16thc. or early 17thc. (VCH, vi, p.170).
- R. Gem, Richard, 'The church of St Nicholas, Old Shoreham; the church of St Mary de Haura, New Shoreham', Proceedings of the Summer Meeting of the Royal Archaeological Institute at Chichester in 1985, Archaeological Journal, 1985, 32-36.
- FSW Simpson, Churches of Shoreham, 1951 edn.
- Victoria County History: Sussex, 6, p.168; pp.170-71.