April 1st, 2021

Ovingdean

My grandparents lived for a while in Rottingdean- and I have a memory of being taken to an Easter Sunday service in a nearby church which had been decked out with spring flowers. I remember the church being full of light, and the walls being white-washed and the flowers being altogether lovely. I've been looking for that church for several years now- and haven't found it. I had high hopes of St Wulfran, Ovingdean- but when we checked it out on Tuesday it didn't look at all like the one I remember. It is of course entirely possible that my memory is composite or corrupted in some way- or even entirely imaginary.

I stood in Ovingdean churchyard and took this picture.




I thought it was a pretty view and the house in the middle distance looked interesting. And my instinct was sound because it is interesting. Behind that rather peculiar 19th century facade with the false windows lurks a Tudor farmhouse- called Ovingdean Grange- which is one of the oldest residential buildings in the area. There's a legend, which can't be substantiated, that Charles II hid in one of its chimneys when he was being hunted after the Battle of Worcester. The Victorian novelist Harrison Ainsworth wrote a book about the incident- which I'm unlikely to read at this late stage (though Ainsworth, if you have bags of time to burn, can be quite good fun). In 2011 the Grange was bought by the comedian Steve Coogan, who- having alienated his neighbours with plans to build a swimming pool in the grounds- sold it on at a profit a few years later.

St Wulfran's is a typical Sussex downland church- early Norman, faced in flint, with a tower that could withstand a siege- and- though not the building of my childhood memories- very much the kind of church I'd love to be the vicar of- if I was still a vicar that is...




As it happens I met the vicar- briefly. He was stood in the churchyard having a loud conversation and I had to go past him and his companion as I left the church. It felt a little like an ambush- and I would have preferred to be invisible- because, well, I don't know exactly- but I suppose I just don't like having to give an account of myself to professional Christians. As it was he asked me cheerily how I was and I said "Fine" and scuttled off. I knew he was the vicar- even though he wasn't wearing his collar- because I'd just seen his picture on a notice board. He wears a beard and is half my age...

I took this picture of a window in the tower because I liked the way the light was falling through it. Also because it shows the thickness of the wall.