The UK is filled with strange oddities. Take for example the red-brick remains of a roofless church in West Sussex tucked away in a small hamlet called Bedham. Once home to woodcutters and charcoal burners the woodland is now a nature reserve open to the public. The tiny community that lived here for generations after generations eked an existence from the land in the shadow of trees and the nearby market town, Petworth.
Religion of one faith or another has always brought people together. Long before the days of modern thinking, transportation and social media, a place of worship was the hub of the community. In the late nineteenth century the Anglican Church came to Bedham providing ministry to the rural inhabitants and education to their children.
Now, isolated and standing decaying in not much more than tumbled down bricks are the remains of the school and church. The shell of a building looks out of place. The Bald Explorer goes to investigate.
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The Bald Explorer is off in search of the smallest church in Sussex. Lullington Church, part of Cuckmere Churches, is tiny, only 16 feet square. It is a hidden gem in the East Sussex countryside on the South Downs. Used now for as the backdrop for weddings, it still has regular services for the community.
Its history is intriguing for a large church was originally on this site, but thanks to Cromwell’s puritan sensibilities his men are believed to have burnt down the nave. What we see today is really only the chancel of an earlier building.
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The parish church is one of the oldest buildings in the British landscape. Most of them have been here for over 900 years and some date from the Saxon period. They are ubiquitous; their steeples point above the rooftops, the bell towers chime on a Sunday, pews of some age are lined up towards the altar and their churchyards are packed with ancient headstones of once prominent members of the the locality.
The importance and role of the village, or town church, is hard to over state; and yet, these very buildings, where men, women and children have been baptized, married and sent off to life beyond (if there is such a thing) are in trouble. The parish churches are crumbling away and there is not enough people supporting the faith, attending the congregation or concerned about it’s up keep.
Richard Vobes, the Bald Explorer, is on a mission to find out if we should continue to try and preserve these icons of our history or whether it is better to allow them to crumble away gracefully.
Richard Vobes is out and about exploring the British parish churches for the next programme of the Bald Explorer coming soon to the Community Channel.
In this preview, Richard is looking at pews and seating as well as discovering an abandoned church in the woods at Bedham in West Sussex, near Petworth.
Rector, John Gay, tells Richard Vobes about the problems with the roof of his beautiful church in Itchingfield, West Sussex in this preview of the new Bald Explorer episode coming soon to the Community Channel in 2013.
Wendy Dorkings, the church warden at St. Nicolas, allows the cameras in to see the wonderful and rare priest house that stands in the church yard and shares some of the fascinating history.
Itchingfield is home to a group of dedicated bell ringers who enjoy practicing the traditional art in the extraordinary timber built bell tower.
This is just a preview of the episode that will explore the problems the rural parish churches faces as congregations decrease and ancient buildings begin to need attention.
You find out more and watch full episodes at www.CommunityChannel.org.
Richard Vobes, the Bald Explorer, is setting off to investigate the fate of our parish churches. He is in the south of England finding out about the history and uses of the old religious buildings. He also wanted to find out how money is being raise to prevent them from crumbling away and what happens when the buildings are disposed of.
This is a preview of some of the scenes shot so far and some of the fascinating contributors that will be appearing in the episode, hopefully broadcasting on the Community Channel later in 2013.
Julian Humphrys is part of the Battlefields Trust that looks after and promotes the battlefields in Britain.
Farther Godfrey is the reverend at Plumpton Green in East Sussex and a professional brewer, supply his church ales to the area.
Scott Ralph is an historic buildings specialist and advises the church how to dispose of unwanted religious houses.
You can find out more about the Community Channel, run by the Media Trust, at www.CommunityChannel.org.
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