Ford Church Restoration

The following was written by Malcolm Williams prior to the repairs to the church rafters and painting conservation work undertaken in 1998-99.


St. ANDREW by the FORD has its origins in the eleventh century, although firm evidence from the styles of architecture suggests tweith century with fourteenth century modifications. It has had a busy history as there used to be a proper village surrounding it. It was evidently a good place to cross the Arun, and was also a place for gathering seaweed.

In 1899 Philip Johnson, diocesan architect, undertook restoration work. During this he discovered the fourteenth century wall paintings over the chancel arch and next to the windows on both the north and south walls. You can find his assessment of the church in Sussex Archaeological Collection no. 43 which is in Chichester reference library [1]. He also built the vestry and cellar for the central heating below it. It is clear that it was considered the congregation justified the expense.

The church is a Grade I Listed Building of immense architectural importance which is why ENGLISH HERITAGE (not the National Heritage Lottery Fund) have given us £133,736. It is in desperate need of restoration: we cannot allow it to decay any further.

The work to be done is:
* Stabilise the south west corner which is currently held firm by the scaffolding
* Major roof repairs (some of the plaster from the plaster and lath ceiling is falling, and there is suggestion of rot in the laths)
* Gutters and drainage repairs
* External wall repairs
* Internal plastering repairs
* Refurbishment of bells and bellframe
* Conservation of the wall paintings

The Parochial Church Council has determined that the restoration must be done. The urgency is great and some work must start before winter sets in and causes further damage. The proper work will have to commence in March 1999, so as to ensure that the long-eared brown bats find alternative nesting sites while the work is completed. English Nature have been fully involved In assessing how the bat problem should be handled.

This church belongs to the community. The restoration will cost £171,000 so the full support of the surrounding community is essential to ensure satisfactory completion of the project.

Malcolm Williams
8 October 1998

[1] and various other libraries in the county e.g. Littlehampton, Bognor Regis.


The restoration work was overseen by diocesan architect Richard Meynell who was awarded the King of Prussia's Gold Medal by the Ecclesiastical Architects and Surveyors Association. The Medal is awarded for the scheme of church repair that overcomes the greatest aesthetic or technical challenge. Richard received his award personally from Prince Nicholas Von Preussen at a ceremony at Lambeth Palace in 2001.

By 1994 the church was not used and was threatened with closure.

St Andrew by the Ford stands isolated in a field south of Arundel and near to the banks of the river Arun. During medieval times a village existed near the church which was situated on high ground. The surrounding plain flooded at each Spring tide and the main village occupation was seaweed collection. Seven styles of architecture are represented in this tiny Grade I listed church which is over 900 years old with Saxon origins. It has had a chequered history of fire, restoration and extension. Medieval paintings exist on the walls, many of which are still hidden behind limewash applied after the reformation. In 1899 a Doom painting was uncovered above the chancel arch dating from the 13th century and overpainted during the early 16th century.

The church was found to be in a state of sad neglect. The roof was leaking and the guttering ineffectual. The tie beam and connections had failed. Rafters and wall plates had slipped outwards and the walls were rotating as a result of the roof spread.

Temporary shoring to hold the wall movement was put in place whilst the Parish funding programme proceeded. As a result of help from various trust finds and a 90% English Heritage grant, a contract was let early in 1999 to principal contractor T Couzens and Sons Ltd. The cost of the work was £187,000.

The crown-post roof contains timbers felled c AD 1512. Experts agree that the current Doom painting is coeval with the crown post roof and the dendrochronological dating study provided important information for typological dating of other paintings in the region.

The efforts of the churchwardens and the local community have enabled this project to be a success. A regular weekly service is now held at 6pm and the atmosphere is magic. No power exists and candles light the proceedings.

Richard Meynell