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St Michael, Amberley, Sussex

(50°54′32″N, 0°32′26″W)
TQ 027 132
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Sussex
now West Sussex
  • Kathryn Morrison

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Amberley church comprises a W tower, a nave with a 13thc. S aisle, and a square-ended chancel.


The Bishops of Chichester had a residence here, probably before the Conquest. In 1086 no church is mentioned at Amberley, but William the Cleric held 2 hides of the manor, and Alred the Priest 3 hides. See also entry for Amberley Castle.

According to a contemporary account the font was: 'removed in 1864 (and) found to be in more than a dozen pieces'. It was reported that 'stone slabs have been introduced under the bowl and at base, and four cylindrical shafts of Purbeck or Forest marble substituted for wooden pillars' (Clarkson, 231).


Exterior Features



Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches




The 12thc. work at Amberley is usually attributed to masons from Chichester Cathedral, but is stylistically closer to the work of the second campaign at Steyning (ie: the arch at the E end of the N aisle; the E responds of the N arcade; the chancel arch). A series of direct formal parallels can be cited. To begin with, the first order of the arch at the E end of the N aisle at Steyning and the first and third orders of the chancel arch at Amberley are carved with point-to-point chevron with nailhead on the arris. In both cases, the width of the voussoirs varies enormously. Although the rolls and hollows of the chevron are more rounded on the Steyning arch, there are reset voussoirs on the W wall of the W tower at Steyning which were carved with flattened rolls and angular hollows, technically very close to the voussoirs at Amberley. Parallels also exist between the capitals of Amberley and Steyning. Capitals carved with very thick, smooth leaves and pentagonal forms with grooves, capitals with smooth leaves issuing large volutes, and capitals with thick rounded, hollow leaves appear in both ensembles. The notion that masons from Chichester were involved at Amberley is based on some superficial resemblances, such as the narrow second or intermediary order of the SW doorway at Chichester, which is carved with directional chevron in a manner similar to the narrow second order of the Amberley chancel arch. Such similarities are design-based rather than being technical or stylistic, and admit the possibility that the same, or related designs (a common model) were consulted at Chichester and Amberley. But they were certainly executed by different workshops. George Zarnecki was sceptical about the 'relationship' with Chichester (GZ index cards) and dated Amberleyc.1140, while Nairn suggested that the style resembled Tortington and the latest Norman parts of Chichester, and dated it c.1150-60. Because of the parallels with Steyning, a date of c.1140 is more likely.

J. Morris and J. Mothersill (ed.), Domesday Book: Sussex. Chichester 1976, 3.5.
M. F. Drummond-Roberts, Some Sussex Fonts Photographed and Described. Brighton 1935, 3.
A. H. Peat and L. C. Halsted, Churches and Other Antiquities of West Sussex. Chichester 1912, 22-25.
K. Gravett, 'Church of St Michael, Amberley', Proceedings of the Summer Meeting of the Royal Archaeological Institute at Chichester in 1985. The Archaeological Journal, 1985, 61.
I. Nairn and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Sussex. Harmondsworth 1965, 79-80.
Rev. G. A. Clarkson, 'Notes on Amberley, its Castle, Church, etc', Sussex Archaeological Collections 17. 1865, 185-239.
W. H. Godfrey, 'St Michael, Amberley', Sussex Notes and Queries 8. 1940, 102.
A. K. Walker, An Introduction to the Study of English Fonts with Details of those in Sussex. London 1908, 102-103.
G. Zarnecki, unpublished index cards