St John’s church is perched on a bank of high ground close to the River Arun in the village of Bury.
Following the Norman conquest the parish of Bury was given to the abbey of Fécamp in Normandy. It seems likely, therefore, that the present church was built under the direction of the abbey. Certainly the tower and nave are 12th century, and the south aisle dates from about 1200. Separating the aisle from the nave is a fine arcade. Interestingly, the tool marks from the craftsmen who shaped the stones all those centuries ago are still clearly visible. Along with these tool markings there are other curious shapes that, it has been suggested, are mediæval games. Credence of this suggestion is heightened by the fact that these ‘games’ are all on the far side of the pillars, and thus out of sight!
The most noticeable feature on approaching St Johns is the broad shingled spire. It appears that this was built when the church roof was restored in 1603.
The 15th century rood screen is another feature of this little sussex church. Puncturing the screen are a series of small holes that many people suppose are for decoration. But no, these holes had an important function. They allowed the faithful who were kneeling in prayer close to the screen to be able to see the Body and Blood of Christ as they were held high by the priest at the consecration.
The chancel was completely rebuilt in the 19th century. The most notable feature of the chancel is the fine oak panelling and reredos by Nathaniel Hitch. The altar was carved by J. Philips and designed by the vicar at the time, Revd John Sale (1887-1915).
Another vicar whose creativity left its mark in St John’s was the Revd J King (1856-1887). Most people, when they see the date 1628 prominently carved on the pulpit, suppose, not unreasonably, that it must commemorate the date it was made. But things are not always what they seem. It was actually built by Revd King from an old box pew. Apparently he used to boast that it only took him a day to build.
St John’s is open each day for you to visit and as a place of prayer. We hope you enjoy your visit.