Heritage open days come to Steyning

The sunny weekend of 17th and 18th of September saw the town of Steyning take part for the first time in the national Heritage Open Days scheme. As part of this, The Friends organised several events including talks and concerts, with homemade afternoon teas in Penfold Hall. Additionally, the audio tour of the interior of the church was officially launched.

There was an enthusiastic reception by the local community, with some people travelling from other parts of the county. A few further visitors came from outside Sussex to visit our magnificent church and enjoy the events. There was warm praise and great appreciation to everyone involved. Sarah Leigh gave two talks explaining the history of how the church was built. Entitled ‘How French abbots created Steyning Parish Church and made their peace with the Kings of England”, she highlighted how and why the French came to Steyning, the importance of the site and how they navigated the many tortuous issues with English royalty. 

Brian Sawyer devised and played two rousing concerts with a great reception on both Saturday and Sunday. Opening with Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in G ‘The Great’, and continuing with Sursum Corda by John Ireland, and then the first movement of Mendelssohn’s Organ Sonata No 3, followed by Rhosymedre by RV Williams, and finishing with ‘Nimrod’ from Enigma Variations by Elgar.

Although the events took place just before the Queen’s funeral, there was a combined audience of over 120 for the talks on the church history and concerts. Additionally, there were almost 20 visitors to the church at other times over the weekend, many of whom took the audio tour to learn about the history and architecture of the church.

Penfold Hall was resplendent in bunting and pretty tablecloths and opened its doors to welcome
dozens of people for afternoon tea. A sumptuous array of homemade cakes had been created, mostly by members of The Friends.

The various events raised over £530 including the teas and donations; which will go towards improving facilities in the church to facilitate its use by the community.

Also featuring as part of the Heritage Open Days were guided tours of the Rifle Range which were managed and organised by the Steyning Downland Scheme. Over 80 people took part, hearing about the history and vital role played by the Range since the 1860s. Visitors learned how the Range was used, initially by the Volunteers and later by the Territorials, Home Guard, British Army, Cadets and local shooting clubs. It finally closed in 1989. There was also vintage equipment and deactivated rifles on display. The WWII style refreshments were also enjoyed by many.