‘Movingly eloquent of centuries of remote Sussex agricultural life’
20 Sussex Churches, Simon Watney
A Place of Pilgrimage
St Mary the Virgin has long been a place of pilgrimage and is a member of the
Small Pilgrim Places Network
In 2020, the British Pilgrimage Trust re-established the Old Way,
a 250 mile pilgrimage route from Southampton to Canterbury
This beautiful pilgrim route, which passes by North Stoke, linked European and British
pilgrims alike who sought Thomas Becket’s shrine in Canterbury.
A church at North Stoke was mentioned at the time of the Domesday Book of 1086. The present church was built around 1180. Initially a simple single cell, the chancel was added in the 13th century and the transepts in the 14th century.
Historic England lists the church as Grade 1 for its architectural and historical importance. Unlike many churches in Sussex, the church escaped restoration during the 19th century and the timber roof design has lasted more than 700 years without the need for alteration.
For many years, the name of the church was lost, but, in 2007, the church’s lost dedication to St Mary the Virgin was rediscovered in a letter from a bishop to King Edward I, dated 1275, in the National Archive at Kew and the church was rededicated.
The church forms part of the parish of Amberley-with-North Stoke. It was declared redundant in the 1980s and in 1992 it was entrusted to the care of the Churches Conservation Trust (CCT) www.visitchurches.org.uk . The Churches Conservation Trust is the national charity protecting historic churches at risk and cares for over 350 redundant architecturally important historic churches in England vested in the CCT by the Church Commissioners of the Church of England.
The United Benefice of Amberley-with-North Stoke, Parham, Wiggonholt and Greatham (popularly known as the Wildbrooks churches www.achurchnearyou.com/church/4758) was created in the mid-1980s and St Mary's has found its own role within the Benefice as a valued and consecrated building still used for local weddings, baptisms and funerals as well as other Services and events.
The Friends of St Marys continue to help care for the building and to ensure that it remains part of the community.