The four churches in the benefice date from the 11th to 13th century and contain interesting, even unique, features. St Giles’ church in Coldwaltham has a rare 11th century tombstone that pre-dates the current building. Also, beside the church stands a magnificent yew tree that is thought to about 3000 years old. Hardham church is the smallest in the benefice, and yet this unassuming church houses the most complete scheme of mediæval wall-paintings in the the country. St Nicholas’ church in Houghton appears to be without interest, although its simple, almost 18th century, interior is exactly what endears it to many people. Even so, those who are observant will find just inside the door a fascinating in-situ pre-reformation brass. Finally, St John’s church in Bury has an unusual 15th century holy water stoup built into the outside wall of the porch. Once inside the church, the eyes are immediately drawn to the fine 15th century wooden rood screen.
As interesting as our historic buildings are, however, they are not mere history. When the craftsmen fashioned their sturdy walls eight or nine hundred years ago, they did so to provide a place from which God’s word could be proclaimed to the local community, and a sanctuary to which the people of our villages could come to be fed by the true, Living Bread. In the many centuries that have come and gone – through the countless tides in which the River Arun has ebbed and flowed – our churches have continued to proclaim the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ.
You are welcome to visit our churches, but as you do so, do not simply marvel at the ancient stones, marvel too at the God of love who created you and holds you in being. With St Mary and our patron saints offer up a prayer to God for yourself, those you love, those in need, and those who minister and worship in our churches.
St John’s church is perched on a bank of high ground close to the River Arun in the village of Bury.
St Nicholas’ church stands just above the water meadows near the Arun river crossing at Houghton Bridge.
St Giles’ church was built about 1200. Like several local churches of the period it first consisted of a chancel, nave, south aisle, and tower.
St Botolph’s church lies just to the south of Pulborough in the hamlet of Hardham. It is believed to have been built on the eve of the Norman conquest in the 11th century.