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. Interestingly, it has been suggested that some of the stones used for the building work were recycled from the nearby Roman camp.
It is a simple church with just a nave and chancel. The outside walls are whitewashed, something that was very common for mediæval churches. Some of the early lancet windows have survived, although in some places larger widows were introduced in the 16th century to allow more light to enter the church.
To the south of the chancel there used to be a small anchorite’s cell. One occupant of this cell appears to have been Prior Richard in 1285. Also, in 1253 St Richard of Chichester, as he was to become known, left money to the anchorite at Hardham. Despite some archeological investigations, however, remains of the cell have never been found. All that we have today to mark the spot is a ‘squint’ through the chancel wall in the direction of the altar beyond.
The most unique feature of this little church is found within its sturdy walls. As you come through the door of the church, and your eyes adjust to the light, St Botolph’s ancient wall paintings come into focus. They were discovered in 1862 when the church architect, Henry Woodyer, was engaged to carry out some restoration work.
Amazingly these paintings are 900 years old! They are thought to have been painted by a group of artists known as the Lewes Group shortly after 1100. Today their rich colours have faded, but the extent of the paintings, covering almost every part of the church, means that they are among the most important wall paintings in the country.
The paintings include the Annunciation, scenes from the Nativity and the apostles. There is also an interesting depiction of St George. Most notable, however, are the group of paintings in the chancel depicting scenes from the story of Adam and Eve. An excellent explanation of this sequence may be found by following this link.
St Botolph’s is open each day to visit and as a place of prayer. We hope you enjoy your visit.
Father Peter Mallinson
Tel: 01798 839057