Lord Egremont joined a congregation of more than 100 parishioners on Sunday when Northchapel parish church celebrated its 300th anniversary as an independent parish.
Also at the service, conducted by priest-in-charge the Rev Peter Hayes, were former vicars of Northchapel, Sue Suddaby and Malcolm Pudney.
“We observed the seasons of the year with a series of readings, prayers, meditations and hymns,” said the Rev Hayes. “It connected us to those who have gone before and enabled us to thank God for the worship, prayer and ministry which has enriched the life of our village for the last 300 years and beyond.”
Northchapel was originally part of the large parish of Petworth, which extended from the county boundary to Duncton.
A small stone ‘chapel of ease’ was built in the 14th century, dedicated to St John the Baptist, which was served by a succession of curates.
In 1718 it was decreed that Northchapel should become a separate parish in its own right.
The first rector, Samuel Meymott, a fellow of St Peter’s college, Cambridge, was inducted to the living in 1718.
He is said to have served the community with ‘great simplicity of character and unaffected piety.’ In the parsonage, with his wife Dorothy, he raised 13 children. He died in 1770.
The ancient church of Northchapel was pulled down in 1832 and replaced by a new building at a cost of £662.
The Third Earl of Egremont, as patron, gave a donation of £300. The population of the village grew, as did church attendance, and by 1851 the congregation numbered 193 at morning service and 289 in the afternoon.
To accommodate such large numbers, in 1878 a new nave, the north transept and Lady Chapel were added to the old tower at a cost of £1,800. In 1899 the organ was put in, replacing a harmonium acquired in 1870.
There is a font marked 1662 made of Sussex marble in the church and a stained glass window made by the noted artist Wilhelmina Geddes.
In the churchyard there is a 1,000 year old yew tree, the grave of ‘Ole Bill’, a celebrated cartoonist of the First War, and also the grave of Noah Mann, a member of the legendary Hambledon cricket club.