St Mary the Virgin, Salehurst, Sussex

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Feature Sets (2)


This church does not incorporate any obvious 12thc. fabric. It has a W tower, a long nave with a 13thc. (Early English) clerestorey, later aisles with 6-bay arcades, and a square chancel with a N chapel.


A church at Salehurst is mentioned in the Domesday Book. Walker repeats a local tradition that 'this font was given to Salehurst by Richard Coeur de Lion as a thanks offering'. Among Richard Hussey's drawings in the Bodleian is one of the font, in 1830, with the note: 'bowl re-worked and top moulding quite altered, 1865' (Zarnecki).





(Location: under W tower.) This sandstone cup font comprises a bowl supported by a short cylindrical shaft on a circular plinth. The interior is circular and lead lined, and (post-medieval) staples for a lock are attached to the rim. The bowl is unadorned, save for a single shallow moulding. A cyma marks the transition to the cylindrical shaft, which has no capital. The circular base of the shaft is carved with four salamanders: two lie head-to-head, while the other pair bite their tails. The upper part of the circular plinth is chamfered. The font is elevated on a square, modern plinth.

diam. exterior 0.82 m
diam. interior 0.59 m
h. of ensemble 1.00 m
h. of original font (without modern plinth) 0.84 m


The font has been variously dated to the 12thc. or 13thc. (Zarnecki and Pevsner respectively).

There are grounds for considering the font to be inspired by one that originally stood in Battle Abbey, which is nearby. In April 1999 a small Purbeck marble carving of a salamander was excavated from the Abbey by English Heritage (see entry under Fort Cumberland, Hants). Similarities between its form and that of the Salehurst salamanders suggests that it also adorned a font base. It is thus possible to suggest that the Salehurst font is a local copy of the higher quality font which stood in Battle Abbey. It probably dates from the 12thc.


  • J. Morris and J. Mothersill (ed.), Domesday Book: Sussex. Chichester 1976, 9.82.

  • G. Zarnecki unpublished card index, 1950s.

  • J. L. AndrĂ©, 'Fonts in Sussex Churches', Sussex Archaeological Collections 44 (1901), 33 (drawing of font).

  • I Nairn and N Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Sussex, 1965, 601.

  • A. K. Walker, An Introduction to the Study of English fonts with details of those in Sussex. London 1908, 114-16.

Church Plan


Site Location
National Grid Reference
TQ 749 242 
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Sussex
now: East Sussex
medieval: Chichester
now: Chichester
medieval: not confirmed
now: St Mary the Virgin
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Kathryn Morrison 
Visit Date
01 June 1997