A Roman official points to cattle and wheat wanted for the Roman Army. His clothes – unbleached wool toga with purple border. ‘He holds a scroll to show that Roman rule brings written language, brutal laws and relentless tax demands. A Roman soldier guards the official. ‘ ‘A native Briton reaps a primitive form of wheat. ‘Black cattle and the round huts of his settlement are behind him with tumuli (burial mounds) from 1000 years before on the skyline. He speaks an unwritten Celtic language akin to Welsh and probably understands some Latin after many years of crosschannel trading.
Local rulers were clients of Rome at the time of the invasion of 43CE and did not oppose it. Roman styles of building and living spread from the city of Noviomagus (Chichester) and the sumptuous palace at Fishbourne, which was possibly a reward to the local ruler Cogidubnus. Britain was rich in metals, minerals, grain and wool. South of Hadrian’s Wall, Britain prospered as a relatively stable frontier province of the Roman Empire for nearly 400 years. Native free-born Britons became full Roman citizens, Christianity spread and the young (almost Christian) Constantine l was proclaimed Emperor by the army at York in 306CE.
2. About 300 – 500CE: Decline of Roman rule and first Saxon invasion
An imaginary re-construction in the Roman style (a ‘villa’) that is known to lie nearby under Pitlands Farmhouse. It was possibly built in the 2nd century and in decline by the end of the 4th. A patch of overgrown mosaic symbolizes the apparent abandonment of our area by its more wealthy owners. An invading party of Saxons charges up from the sea. Fox, deer and hare run across untilled ground. A Saxon settler starts to sow his new plough-land.’
The Roman Empire declined under the invasion of barbarians from across the Rhine and Danube frontiers, under weak Emperors and corrupt administration. By 400CE the Romano-British ruling class saw that they must provide their own defence; much of the Roman army was gone and they were no longer under the direct rule from Rome. They hired Saxon mercenaries and so started the beginning of the end of their world. The first pagan Saxon invasion of our area was (traditionally) 477CE. Saxon or Jutish grave goods in burials on Apple Down appear to date from the late 5 thcentury. All our village names are Saxon and suggest early and complete settlement. Elsewhere, Britons fought on but the old order died. British Christianity survived in Wales, the west country and the north. Christianity also developed in Ireland. St Patrick, who worked in Ireland before 450CE, came of a Romano British Christian family. His father was a deacon in Bannavem Taburniae (a town thought to be near Carlisle) and had a small estate from which Patrick was captured by Irish raiders.
3. About 500-700CE: South Saxon settlement and late conversion to Christianity. St Wilfrid and the Irish monks
Imagined to be about 680CE, some 200 years after the first Saxon invasion. It shows a well-established Saxon settlement with rectangular huts and regular strips of arable in open fields. It could be Waldhaere’s settlement (Walderton). A richly dressed St Wilfrid is preaching in the open before a cross, as was the practice before a church was built. St Wilfrid is a Northumbrian monk and bishop. His wealth, power and princely entourage have brought him into conflict with the King and his Archbishop and he is in temporary exile. He is possibly speaking in the Northumbrian dialect of Old English (adapted to be understandable locally presumably). Behind him is the grey figure of an Irish monk giving away a fish. His native language is a celtic one – gaelic. Perhaps he has found someone to interpret via Latin. He is living the poor and simple wandering life of Irish monks and bishops far from home, in accordance with their beliefs. The 2 figures represent different missionary styles, Roman Catholic and Celtic, effective in different eras and among different peoples.
Between 680-686CE, St Wilfrid established a monastic community at Selsey on land given him by King Aethelwalh of the South Saxons, whose wife was Christian. The community retained its position after Aethelwalh was murdered by the pagan King Caedwalla of Wessex. In 705CE an Abbot of Selsey became bishop of the newly created See of Selsey covering all Sussex. The Irish monks were recorded to be in Bosham before Wilfrid’s arrival, perhaps invited by Aethelwalh.
4. About 700-980CE: First wave of Danish invasions and later peace.
Imagined in the early 9th century. Pagan Danish raiders are being driven back to their ships by the South Saxons. Such raids are new but will be increasingly violent until King Alfred of Wessex defeats the Danish army (878CE) and limits Danish settlements to the area of the Danelaw so that our area retains its Saxon roots and place names. Local life is illustrated in what could be the Outlying Settlement (Stochton – Stoughton). A swineherd sits in a woodland pig pasture. There is probably “woodland for 100 pigs” locally and a right to “woodland for 100 pigs” in the Weald (probably in St Leonard’s Forest near Horsham). A housewife tends chickens outside her timber framed cottage. She holds a distaff under her arm because she uses her spare time spinning wool from her family’s downland sheep. In the background is an imagined early church, built in masonry, perhaps on the land in Marden bought by the Bishop of Selsey in 930CE.’
During this era Sussex was alternately subject to the Kingdoms of Wessex and of Mercia. The Danish invasions wiped out the Kingdoms of Northumbria (and its Irish monasteries) and Mercia. King Alfred of Wessex and his 4 successors (871-975CE) provided 100 years of good government and achieved a just about united and Christian “Englaland” (England). It included the Danelaw, apparently rapidly converted, and was at peace with its neighbouring Celtic rulers. Literacy was revived in the monasteries. Monks started to keep a chronicle of events past and present, written in Old English (the Anglo Saxon Chronicle). Legal documents such as the Conveyance of Land to the Bishop, came in a less debased Latin and local boundary descriptions were added in Old English.
5. About 980-1040CE: Second Wave of Danish Invasions
The terrible condition around 1000. Pagan Danish raiders again terrorise, plunder and burn all along the coast and the Isle of Wight. A local man flees with his wealth. A cross lies smashed. The Danish King Cnut is shown symbolically bringing strong government and peace (1016). Under King Cnut, the Sussex family of Godwin (associated with Bosham) rise to power.
This era started with the murder of a king and the crowning of his successor Aethelred ‘the Unready’ meaning the ‘ill-advised’. He tried buying the Danes off and ordering the massacre of every Dane (including his subjects in the Danelaw). Taxation was heavy. Cnut was elected king by the Danish army and finally made himself King of England after Aethred died in 1016. Cnut was said to be a ‘wild man who became a most Christian king.’ He died in 1035 and his Scandinavian empire, which included England, disintegrated. The English chose Edward the Confessor, Aethelred’s son, as king in 1042.
6. About 1040-1066CE: The Godwin family and the consecration of Stoughton church.
An imagination of the consecration of the newly built church at Stoughton. It is usual at this time for a church to be built and endowed with the glebe land by the local lord, who is considered its owner. The Scandinavian Countess Gytha after death of her husband Earl Godwin (1053) invites Bishop Hecca of Selsey (1047-1057?) to consecrate the church. He has been a priest at the court of Edward the Confessor and is doubtless known to Gytha and her daughter, Edward’s queen. Perhaps this church is on the site of one sacked by Earl Godwin in his early days, for the Anglo Saxon Chronicle says ‘He made too few amends regarding the church property he had taken from many holy places’. Gytha is followed by a nun and Hecca by a monk who carries his copy of the gospels. Workers (whose figures are copied from a medieval source) scythe and rake the churchyard. Sheep everywhere. The church is shown in its earliest form with small high windows, no porch and no tower. The mass clock, a form of sundial usual in Saxon churches, should probably be shown alongside the window on the south wall of the south transept (where an 18c sundial was put). [Glebe = land used to support the priest and parish]
To rule England, Cnut divided it into 4 earldoms and Godwin was given Wessex. Under Edwin, Godwin rose to such eminence ‘as he ruled the King and all England.’ Locally Godwin held land corresponding to the parishes of Stoughton, Compton and Westbourne and Gytha held Marden, Bonderton, Harting and Trotton (along with the bordering parish of Idsworth in Hampshire, among others).
7. 1066-1200CE: Norman conquest and later. Stoughton Church owned by the Priory of St Pancras in Lewis.
The time just after the Norman Conquest. The church is unchanged but the wealthy Godwins have abruptly gone: son, Harold, killed at Hastings and Gytha in exile. Norman knights are in charge but Stoughton parish is a negligible part of the vast estates of its new owner Roger de Montgomery. The priest is taking a turn at ploughing part of his glebe land with a team of 2 oxen and the help of a boy with a long goad (copied from medieval sources). Possibly the priest is called Odingar or Adingar. Not long after this scene the King gives some local land to a lesser lord, one Savaric Fitz Caine. Sometime before 1120, Savaric gives the churches of Stoughton, Up Marden, Racton and Lavant to the Priory of St Pancras in Lewes.
To give the Priory a parish church means that its tithes and glebeland were now owned by the Priory, which might fail to care adequately for the care of the parish. This practice led to the Papacy (for we were all Roman Catholics then) to require the institution of the vicars. A Vicar had the absolute right to the church buildings, a portion of the tithe and a portion of the glebeland in return for which he had to reside in the parish.
8. 1200-1350: St Richard, Bishop of Chichester, gives Stoughton Church to Chichester Cathedral. The Black Death.
9. 1350-1500: Building the Bell Tower of Stoughton Church
10. 1500-1700: The Reformation; the Vicar teaching; the Civil War
11. 1700-1800: Farming in the 18th century. Church Farm Stoughton.
12. 1800-1900: Trades and life in Walderton
Shows a shepherd in his black smock and high crowned hat (copied from an early photograph at Findon Great Fair), his dog and hut. It shows the wheelwright (also from a photograph) and in the background is the village school and Methodist Chapel (both now closed and converted). A school girl posts a letter.
During this era, Walderton had blacksmith and farrier, wheelwright and carrier and finally, a Post office. The barley Mow had a shop stocking provisions and home made bread. Cottagers’ meals could be sent to the bakery. “Bakings carefully attended to.” Many cottages were still small and primitive. The congregation of the small non-conformist chapel probably differed socially from that of Stoughton parish Church, but some people went to both. All the family names of Walderton, Stoughton and district in this era are well remembered, although now scattered. Between 1820 and 1840 five Mills brothers were christened in Stoughton Church and at one time there were seven families of Mills in the village.
13. 1900-1950: Two World Wars
A soldier of World War I just back from the trenches (based on a contemporary drawing). The poppies and the memorial stone from the church yard remember the casualties of World War I. The grey cross from the track up to the downs remembers a crashed Polish pilot of World War II. A Home Guard of World War II scans the sky for aircraft from the many local airfields and German enemy planes. The aircraft represents a Hurricane from the RAF station at Tangmere. Behind the Home Guard is a corrugated iron earth shelter which could be a hideout of the Stansted patrol (trained to be the nucleus of a local resistance movement if there was an invasion). A small red tractor turns up potatoes and a team of women pick them.
The main omission from this scene is the World War II background of the bombing of Portsmouth and the troops and tanks assembled for D Day (in Stansted Forest and elsewhere locally before embarking from Portsmouth).
14. 1950-2000: The Modern Scene
During the 1960’s the farming and village scene started to change rapidly: big machinery, fewer farm workers, modernized cottages with incomers, barns converted to houses, much less village self sufficiency and too much traffic. However, still much wildlife, woodland and well kept fields remain, and the Church
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The Octagon Parish is made up of eight villages with churches: Stansted, Racton, Stoughton, East Marden, North Marden, Up Marden, Compton and Forestside and two villages without churches: West Marden and Walderton. Blessed with wonderful walks and fine views down to the south coast, its small ancient downland churches are noted for their spiritual peace and tranquillity, some dating back to Saxon times. There are two stately homes in the area: Stansted House and Uppark.