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The Fernhurst Society

Memories of Fernhurst: Fernhurst Church

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A very delightful church, built originally in the 11th century. It stands amongst beautiful Sussex countryside and from its porch are views as far as the downs on one side and Blackdown on the other. It is a typically placed for an old village church, being almost on the green with two inns in the vicinity.

The residents tell that the north wall and part of the chancel are the only remaining work left of the old building. The church was restored in 1859 and the story of the aumbrey is very intriguing. It was taken down and thrown in the vicarage barn, amongst a lot of rubble. It was found and taken away to be used as a birdbath in a private garden a few miles away. In 1939 this birdbath was pointed out to Lord Ponsonby as being a portion of Shulbrede Priory, but Lord Ponsonby thought it was the original aumbrey from Fernhurst Church. So it was brought back and replaced in the church, where the builders found a crevice which exactly fitted it and it remains there to this day.

The rood screen was put up after the First World War by Mrs Rankin in memory of her husband and the other men of Fernhurst who did not return. The Rev George Rankin was the Vicar of Fernhurst when he went to the 1914-18 war as a chaplain, and was the only chaplain who did not return. His death was a great shock to the village.

There is a stained glass window on the north wall given by Miss Schuster in memory of her father and mother. It represents St Francis of Assisi and St Clair and is truly very beautiful.

Ancient treasures to be found in the church are an Elizabethan chalice and very old registers that date from 1548. These have been treasured down the years.

We record with pleasure church activities, which have been so much enjoyed by the residents of Fernhurst, and which have helped to mould their lives, within living memory.

In 1901 a friend and parishioner went to the churchwardens a very general contribution of £10 to wipe off the magazine debt of £6. With the balance it was possible to pay certain expenses in connection with the churchyard improvements and purchase plants and creepers, also to make a contribution to the church choir outing.

The Sunday school treat of 1910 is very well remembered as being the first to be held in the Village Hall. The organisers responsible enjoyed the enlarged accommodation which so simplified their arrangements. The number of Sunday school scholars was 106, not including 22 Fernhurst scholars who attended the Henley Sunday School. The prizes were given for good behaviour as well as good attendance. We do hope all the children received a prize. During the interval several of the younger members of the guild gave a short programme of music, singing and recitations. This was quite delightful and so much enjoyed, the experiment was repeated.

The opening meeting of the Young Women’s and Girls’ Clubs for those over 14 was held in October 1909. The regular meetings were held on Thursdays from 5 to 7 o’clock in the Village Hall and the weekly subscription was one penning and a half-penny for the younger ones. The meetings were varied by fancy and plain needlework with music or reading and a series of fireside talks on various subjects. The last half hour was devoted to drill and exercises of an interesting nature.

Also that winter a combined entertainment was produced, in which the Club, the Scouts and the Children’s Guild took part. This was fun as the various clubs kept their activities secret until the evening of the concert, which we record was a very happy and successful affair.

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The Fernhurst Oral History Project was supported by the Local Heritage Initiative. The Local Heritage Initiative was developed by the Countryside Agency and was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Nationwide Building Society.