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St Peter, Selsey, Sussex

(50°44′8″N, 0°47′23″W)
SZ 855 936
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Sussex
now West Sussex
  • Kathryn Morrison

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A new parish church was erected on a new site in 1864-66, incorporating the nave arcades of the old church. The 13thc. chancel of the old church ('St Wilfrid's Chapel'), located at Church Norton, was left standing.


According to Bede, organised Christianity was established in the kingdom of the South Saxons by St Wilfrid, the exiled Bishop of York, c.680-81. During his stay (c.680-86) Wilfrid founded a monastery at Selsey, a former royal estate given to him by King Aethelwealh, probably at Church Norton, by the entrance to Pagham Harbour. After Caedwalla conquered the South Saxons c.685, the area became part of the diocese of West Sussex, with its seat in Winchester, but a bishopric of Sussex was established c.705, and Wilfrid's monastery was taken over as the episcopal seat. The bishopric does not seem to have been particularly strong, and by 1066 the Archbishops of Canterbury owned slightly more land in Sussex than did the Bishop of Selsey, which was one of the poorest bishoprics in England. In 1075, the see was transferred to Chichester. Selsey cathedral, probably on the site of Wilfrid's monastic church, was retained as the parish church until 1864-66, when all but the chancel was removed to a new site in the town, where it was orientated N rather than E (it is described as if traditionally orientated in the above text). What remains at Church Norton was dedicated to St Wilfrid in 1917 and is known as St Wilfrid's Chapel. The new parish church, complete with a new chancel, was consecrated on 12 April 1866.


Interior Features






Nairn dated the fontc.1100. This is probably rather early, although it belongs to a type which seems to have been produced in large numbers throughout the 12thc. and early 13thc. and which is difficult to date.

The W bay of each nave arcade dates from the 13thc. The three E bays are late-12thc.

It has been suggested that the Anglo-Saxon cathedral was demolished soon after the transfer of the see, and replaced by a new aisleless church. A new font would have been provided at the same time. Aisles would have been added in the late 12thc., and the chancel rebuilt in the 13thc.

Victoria County History: Sussex. IV (Chichester Rape) 1953, 208-10.
Kitch (ed), Studies in Sussex Church History, 1981.
J. Morris and J. Mothersill (ed.), Domesday Book: Sussex. Chichester 1976, 3.7.
A. H. Peat and L. C. Halsted, Churches and Other Antiquities of West Sussex. Chichester 1912, 131-35.
F. Mee, A History of Selsey, 1988.
I. Nairn and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Sussex. Harmondsworth 1965, 319-20.
A. K. Walker, An Introduction to the Study of English fonts with details of those in Sussex. London 1908, 68-69.