1. In the nave opposite the Cuthman window.
The first church on this site was founded in around 700 A.D. by St Cuthman – the first window you see to the left of the entrance shows him building his wooden church.
This window was made by a famous maker, Christopher Whall, around 1921; he made windows for many cathedrals. There’s even one of his in Canterbury Cathedral. The legend is that Cuthman was a shepherd boy who pushed his disabled mother here in a cart with a rope round his neck, having taken a vow to build a church wherever the rope broke.
It’s a delightful story, very beloved of local residents, but sadly it’s more likely that Cuthman was quite an important person, sent here in the course of the conversion of Sussex to Christianity. Around the probable time of his life, in the late 7th century, Wilfrid, Bishop of York was in Sussex organising the foundation of the first churches, which were normally founded on land granted by the King of Wessex. Many of the churches St Wilfrid was involved in founding were dedicated to St Andrew, like this one. The legend of the poor shepherd boy probably wasn’t written down for about 400 years after Cuthman’s death.
If you’d like to hear more about Cuthman and the window play the following audio file.
The surviving Church was built by the Abbey of Fécamp, one of the French monasteries in Normandy who supported William the Conqueror in 1066. Fécamp is on the north coast of Normandy, just opposite here and the river Adur was navigable right up to Steyning. The monks were given the church and manor by William the Conqueror as a reward for helping him conquer England.
The Abbey started building in around 1090, bringing the stone from the nearby quarries around Caen across the Channel in flat bottomed boats, all the way up the river to Steyning. When it was finished in about 1175 it probably looked like the drawing below, with a central tower and transepts (wings) all of which disappeared in time of Queen Elizabeth I – only part of the nave and the arches at the end of the aisles survive today. The doorway you see is still the entrance to the church, although now it has a porch built round it in the fifteenth century.
If you’d like to hear more about the Abbey and its connection with the Dukes of Normandy play the following audio file.
Please proceed to the top of the south side aisle on your right, to the south side arch (see 2 on plan) and then press Next.