Holy Trinity, Bosham, Sussex

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Feature Sets (4)


Bosham church is largely Anglo-Saxon, but the upper storey of the W tower and the first chancel extension were erected after the Conquest. The second chancel extension and the aisles are 13thc. The only Romanesque architectural sculpture in situ belongs to the upper storey of the tower, but the interior houses a font, a pillar piscina and loose architectural fragments of 12thc. date.


According to Bede, a small monastery with five to six monks led by Dicul existed at Bosham when Bishop Wilfrid visited Sussex in 681. Bosham church is famously depicted on the Bayeux Tapestry, in the scene showing Harold's embarkation for Normandy. By 1086 it had received considerable endowments, namely 65 hides at Bosham and 82 hides in other estates in Sussex and Hampshire, totalling 147 hides. Before 1066 the church and much of its lands were held by Edward the Confessor's clerk Osbern who, as a Norman, managed to retain them under King William. After becoming Bishop of Exeter (1072-1107), he attached his holdings at Bosham to the bishopric. In 1086 five clerks and a priest are mentioned, andc.1121 a college of six prebends was established by Bishop William Warlewast of Exeter (1107-37), who himself retained the position of Dean. It is possible that the college already existed in 1086, and was merely re-established or reformedc.1121. From the 12th century the parochial nave was served by a perpetual vicar. Succeeding Bishops of Exeter continued to hold Bosham until the Dissolution.


Exterior Features


W tower, upper storey, W face

A twin bell-opening with central shaft carrying a block capital with necking and chamfered angles, and an impost block in the form of a throughstone slab.

Exterior Decoration

Corbel tables, corbels

W tower, E face.

E1: frontal animal head (Quarr), worn.

E2: possibly a single roll (Fine Quarr), damaged.

E3: ? (Quarr), damaged.

E4: hollow (Fine Quarr), good.

E5: hollow (Fine Quarr or Bembridge Limestone), damaged.

E6: quadrant (Fine Quarr or Bembridge Limestone), good.

E7: frontal animal head (Fine Quarr), worn.

E8: frontal animal head (Fine Quarr), worn.

E9: frontal animal head (Quarr), worn.

E10: two human heads, one on each angle (Fine Quarr), good.

W tower, N face.

NE corner: three heads, one on each angle of the block (Fine Quarr), worn.

N1: frontal head (Fine Quarr), damaged.

N2: frontal animal head with open mouth (Fine Quarr), good.

N3: frontal head (Quarr), worn.

N4: quadrant? (Quarr), good.

N5: frontal head (Quarr), good.

N6: frontal animal head (with bridle?) (Quarr), worn.

N7: quadrant divided by central, vertical channel (Quarr), good.

N8: frontal head (Quarr), good.

N9: roll with band around centre (Quarr), good.

N10: two heads facing angles (Quarr), worn.

N11: triple roll (Quarr), good.

N12: two heads facing angles (Quarr), worn.

N11: roll in hollow (Quarr), good.

W tower, W face.

NW corner: three heads, one on each angle of the block (Quarr), good.

W1: quadrant (Quarr), good.

W2: quadrant? (Quarr).

W3: roll in hollow (Quarr), good.

W4: quadrant? (Quarr).

W5: frontal animal head? (Quarr), worn.

W6: roll in hollow (Quarr), worn.

W7: hollow in hollow? (Fine Quarr), good.

W8: frontal animal head? (Quarr), worn.

W9: frontal animal head (with bridle?) (Quarr), worn.

W10: sphere (?) in hollow (Quarr), worn.




This is an octagonal, Sussex marble font. The sides, each carved with two shallow, irregularly formed arches, taper towards the base of the bowl which is chamfered. The interior of the basin is circular. The font stands on a thick central shaft (for the drain) and four slender angle shafts. The latter slope inwards to fit water-holding bases. There are numerous repairs and infills on the bowl and angle shafts, but not on the bases, which may be replaced, or simply heavily recut.

h. of bowl 0.275 m
int. diam. of basin (EW axis) 0.635 m
int. diam. of basin (NS axis) 0.655 m
w. of each face at top (clockwise from E face)
0.36 m
0.335 m
0.34 m
0.34 m
0.34 m
0.36 m
0.325 m
0.34 m

Piscinae/Pillar Piscinae

Pillar Piscina

Located at the E end of the N aisle and carved from a monolithic limestone block, this comprises a cushion capital with necking, shaft, attic base and plinth. It is topped by an impost block with a chamfer and upright, hollowed out to contain water.

circ. of shaft 0.485 m
h. of capital 0.09 m
total h. of block 0.435 m
w. of capital 0.17 m

Loose Sculpture

Fluted capital

Fluted capital, carved on three sides, with impost and necking carved from the same block. The impost consists of an upright face, a groove and a fat roll.


h. of block 0.18 m
h. of capital 0.095 m
max. w. of block 0.22 m x 0.245 m
shaft diam. 0.095 m

Voussoir 1

Carved with chevron lateral to the face comprising three fat rolls separated by two thinner rolls. The underside of the innermost roll is undercut with a triangular hollow. This is the best preserved voussoir in the series.


l. of voussoir 0.295 m
max. (outer) w. 0.135 m
max. thickness 0.27 m
min. (inner) w. 0.115 m

Voussoir 2

Carved as (i), but the face is damaged.


l. of voussoir 0.30 m
max. (outer) w. 0.13 m
max. thickness 0.233 m
min. (inner) w. 0.115 m

Voussoir 3

Carved as (i), but the face is damaged.


l. of voussoir 0.305 m
max. (outer) w. 0.14 m
max. thickness 0.26 m
min. (inner) w. 0.115 m

Voussoir 4

Carved as (i). The face is badly worn, and the narrow end damaged.


l. of voussoir 0.28 m
max. (outer) w. 0.15 m
max. thickness 0.22 m
min. (inner) w. 0.13 m

Voussoir 5

Carved as (i). The face and one bearing surface are badly damaged.


l. of voussoir 0.315 m
max. (outer) w. 0.12 m
max. thickness 0.215 m
min. (inner) w. 0.095 m


Bosham is essentially an Anglo-Saxon church with later medieval additions and modifications. The inserted chancel arch, which used to be assigned a pre-Conquest date, is now dated afterc.1070 (Gem 1895, 35). The chancel was twice extended, the first extension being characterised by herringbone masonry typical of late 11thc. or early 12thc. work. The second extension, including the present E wall, belongs to the 13thc.

The corbel table of the W tower bears remarkable similarities to those of Chichester Cathedral, which can be dated c.1070-1125. At Bosham, the three-storeyed Anglo-Saxon tower survives to the level of its corbelled eaves. A new belfry stage was added to that after the Conquest, either c.1080-1100 orc.1125. The timbers of the spire were felled in the winter of 1405-06.

The pillar piscina cannot be in its original position as the aisles were not added until the 13th century. Presumably it was moved when a new piscina was introduced as part of the second chancel extension. Its simplicity could have been created at any time in the first third of the 12th century, but it was probably carvedc.1100 for the newly extended chancel.

It is difficult to relate the five chevron voussoirs to the fabric of the church and they may have been brought to Bosham from elsewhere as there is no evidence that they were kept in the church before the 1960s. They appear to be among the earliest examples of chevron in the county and are technically related to the voussoirs of the S doorway of the SW tower, Chichester Cathedral,c.1125-1150.

Capitals on the scale of the fluted capital, carved on three faces, appear in a limited number of architectural contexts (eg: blind arcading), none of which occur in the 12thc. work at Bosham (chancel and tower, upper storey). The capital may have belonged to a piece of church furnishing or may have been brought to Bosham from elsewhere.

The font is typologically related to the group of square Sussex marble fonts, carved with shallow arcading and carried by columns, which are common in this region. The octagonal shape, however, is unique in Sussex.


  • Victoria County History: Sussex. (Vol 2), 109-11; (Vol. 4), 185-7.

  • M. F. Drummond-Roberts, Some Sussex Fonts Photographed and Described. Brighton 1935, 15.

  • J. Morris and J. Mothersill (ed.), Domesday Book: Sussex. Chichester 1976, 1.1; 6.1.

  • F.G. Aldsworth, K. Morrison, D.H. Miles and M.J. Worthington, 'The spire of Holy Trinity Church, Bosham, West Sussex', Sussex Archaeological Collections 138, 2000, 115-34.

  • F.G. Aldsworth, `Recent Observations on the Tower of Holy Trinity Church, Bosham', Sussex Archaeological Collections, 128, 1990, 55-72.

  • A. H. Peat and L. C. Halsted, Churches and Other Antiquities of West Sussex. Chichester 1912, 37-43

  • K. Morrison, and R. Baxter, 'Fragments of 12th-century sculpture in Bosham Church', Sussex Archaeological Collections, 129 (1991), pp.33-38.

  • Rev. K. H. Macdermott, The Story of Bosham Church in Sussex, 2nd edn. 1912

  • Rev. E. Turner, 'On the Saxon College of Bosham', Sussex Archaeological Collections 8 1856, 189-200.

  • Rev. H. Mitchell, 'On the early traditions of Bosham and the discovery of the stone coffin of a daughter of Canute', Sussex Archaeological Collections, 18, 1866, 1-9.

  • R. Gem, `Holy Trinity Church, Bosham', Proceedings of the Summer Meeting of the Royal Archaeological Institute at Chichester in 1985, Archaeological Journal, 1985, pp.32-36

  • A. K. Walker, An Introduction to the Study of English Fonts with Details of those in Sussex. London 1908., 89-90.

Exterior from SE (portrait)
Exterior from SE (landscape)
Distant exterior from W
W tower, view from N.
Interior to E
Church Plan


Site Location
National Grid Reference
SU 803 039 
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Sussex
now: West Sussex
medieval: Exeter
now: Chichester
medieval: not confirmed
now: Holy Trinity
Type of building/monument
Parish church, formerly collegiate church  
Report authors
Kathryn Morrison 
Visit Date
20 April 1990, 18 September 2014