History of St Mary the Virgin, Yapton

Although there is no mention of Yapton and its church in the Domesday book of 1086 there is a strong suspicion that it was included in the entry for Arundel as Yapton came under their rule. There may have been an earlier church on the site as some of the masonry at the base of the tower and the window at the east end of the south aisle appears to be of an earlier date than the rest of the building.

The existing church was added to down the centuries with the Chancel with lancet windows and a contemporary priest's door being added in the early 13th century. By 1255 Yapton parish was a Prebend of Arundel’s Minster Church and it was during 1255 that the church was appropriated to the Sees Abbey in Orne and was administered by its Priory in Arundel, and it was in 1255 that the vicarage was ordained with the collation rights being reserved by the Bishop. Indications are that this vicarage was situated just south or south-west of the church. The value of the vicarage in 1291 was £5.6s.8d. (£5.33).

The structure of the church continued to evolve with the addition of the quarterfoil windows in the south aisle being added in the 14th century. It was about this time that the first bell for the tower was cast. This was followed in the 15th century by the construction of a timber frame west porch as well as a crown post roof over the Nave.

Today the leaning tower of St Marys, to whom the church was dedicated to prior to 1555, is rather evident as it was in 1617 when it was recommended that buttresses should be built to support the tower, which was duly done using brick and re-used Caen stone. What prompted this remedial action could have been the arrival of the second cast bell that year. The parishioners had to wait another 95 years before the final two bells were cast and hung in place beside the earlier two.

The vicarage also needed attention. It was recorded in 1573 that the building was decaying due to lack of thatching and by 1662 it had totally collapsed resulting in a new one being built in 1664. Further building improvements happened about six years later when the dormer windows were increased in size.

During 1757 the replacement vicarage came under the spotlight following the union of the Livings with Walberton four years earlier. At that time Yapton was usually served by curates and the vicarage was surplus to requirements so it was pulled down.

The next recorded improvement to St Mary's was the replacement of the existing pulpit in addition to having high pews installed in 1765. A few years later there is even evidence that the Chancel could have been rebuilt. But it wasn’t until 1870 that the rest of the church was restored. The west gallery was removed and a new west window added. The pews and once again the pulpit were replaced and an organ was installed and there is also evidence that there was a paid choir.

1875 saw the union of livings of Yapton with Ford.

Improvements to the church fabric continued into the twentieth century when once again, in 1902, the Chancel was restored, only to have more work carried out three years later when the east windows, which dated from the re-building, were replaced; this time with lancet windows. Another area to receive attention was the east gable which was reconstructed. It was at this time that the south aisle alter was installed and the pulpit was again replaced. This also coincided with a new vicarage building being acquired in North End Road.

A disastrous fire occurred in 1909 which seriously damaged the tower (see separate report).

1985 saw a further union of livings when Clymping joined with Yapton and Ford which made the Benifice of Clymping and Yapton with Ford, although each Parish kept their own identity. The new incumbent of the three parishes enjoyed the benefits of a new Vicarage which was purchased in 1990 after the sale (1987) of the old vicarage in North End Road, and is situated in St Marys Meadow. 

A.K.Misselbrook 2015


Previous page: Parish Churches
Next page: St. Mary the Virgin, Yapton