Historic figures behind Sussex's churches

Our historic churches are full of incredible stories. They have stood for hundreds of years and seen countless people come and go. One of the best ways to learn about these people is on one of our Historic Church Tours. Our expert guides will introduce you to the hidden secrets of historic buildings. They’ll bring them to life with tales of the men and women who made and used them.

Most of our Historic Church Tours last one or two days. But this year, we’re introducing our first ever two-night trip, ‘47 ½ hours in Sussex’. Why do we need the extra night? Because the area is packed with extraordinary places and there are dozens of stories to tell. Here are just a few of them to whet your appetite.

Find a founder of the American New World

On 4 March 1681, King Charles II of England granted William Penn a royal charter for land in America, and Pennsylvania became a political, colonial entity for the first time. Penn was a real-estate entrepreneur, philosopher and Quaker who had grown up in England. Before he moved to the colony he owned and lived on the estate of Warminghurst Park in Sussex. The park’s lands included the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is now part of our collection.

Explore a town dominated by its Norman Conquerors

Arundel Castle rises high above Arundel town’s skyline and is a dramatic sight for miles around. It was established by Richard de Montgomery on Christmas Day in 1067. De Montgomery was William the Conqueror’s cousin and one of his chief counsellors. William gave him the title of Earl of Arundel for his endeavours.

For over 400 years the castle has been the home of the Dukes of Norfolk, England’s leading Catholic family. This family was responsible for another monumental building in the town. Henry Fitzalan-Howard, 15th Duke of Norfolk, commissioned the construction of Arundel Cathedral in 1868. He wanted the building to look as impressive as the castle, and the architect designed it in French Gothic style, which gave it a historic look. It is now dedicated to Our Lady and St Philip Howard. St Philip was the 20th Earl of Arundel, who was executed in 1595 for his Catholic beliefs. He was canonised in 1970 as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.

Arundel Cathedral by Karen Roe from Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, UK [CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons]

From Rome to Westminster, via Hove

Between 1817 and 1820 an Englishman called Charles Barry embarked upon an extensive Grand Tour of the Mediterranean and Middle East. He spent a lot of time in Italy, and particularly Rome. His experiences there almost certainly influenced his design of the stunning St Andrew’s church in Hove in the late 1820s. The church sits among splendid Georgian surroundings. Its Italianate style was very fashionable in wealthy 19th-century Brighton and Hove. It brought a little bit of the Mediterranean to the English South Coast.

Sir Charles Barry famously went on to re-design the Palaces of Westminster, including the Houses of Parliament, after a huge fire in 1834.

But that’s not all…

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Arundel Cathedral and St Andrew’s are just three stops on our Grand Tour of Sussex. There are many more extraordinary places to see along the route. Don’t just take our word for it, come and see for yourself! We begin the tour at Brighton train station on Wednesday 20 June and will return there on Friday 22 June. Book online to join us.

The adventure doesn’t stop in Sussex either. ‘47 ½ hours in Sussex’ is just one of 12 Historic Church Tours taking place this year between May and November. You can find our full programme and book online here. Our members enjoy an exclusive rate on all tours, so if you are not already a member and are interested in joining, you can do so today by clicking here.