Churchyard secrets revealed for Museums at Night

The bomb being removed in 1943 - it penetrated 30ft below the church without exploding
The bomb being removed in 1943 - it penetrated 30ft below the church without exploding

Take a guided evening stroll and discover the secrets of Southwick’s churchyard.

Southwick Society secretary Nigel Divers will be leading the Ancient Stones, Graves and Bombs walk as part of the national Museums at Night festival.

The tower of St Michael and All Angels  Church in 1941, showing cracks caused by the German bomb and the bomb disposal officer talking to a policeman

The tower of St Michael and All Angels Church in 1941, showing cracks caused by the German bomb and the bomb disposal officer talking to a policeman

Southwick’s churchyard is more than 1,000 years old and its church of St Michael and All Angels dates from Saxon times.

Starting at the Manor Cottage Heritage Centre, in Southwick Street, Southwick, at 7.15pm on Wednesday, May 11, the guided history walk will unravel some of the long history, with stories ranging from pagan times to the 20th century.

Mr Divers said: “The churchyard has seen much of Southwick’s history. There is reason to believe that it predates the church and may have been a pagan site before the Saxons built their first church here.

“The village of Southwick actually began here, as the former Southwick Farm stood next to the church – ‘Southwick’ means ‘South Farm’.

The church tower being reconstructed in 1950

The church tower being reconstructed in 1950

“All could have been lost when a German bomb fell in the churchyard on a February night in 1941. Fortunately it did not explode but the church tower had to be dismantled to find the bomb and make it safe. The tower was faithfully restored after the war.

The churchyard is the final resting place of generations of local people, including James Rooke, who was born in 1805 and wrote a detailed memoire of 19th century Southwick, and Tom Uwins, a Southwick soldier of the Royal Sussex Regiment who was one of the first to be killed in the Great War.

Other graves include members of the Hall family squires of Southwick for 300 years and many soldiers and sailors of the Great War.

Mr Divers added: “On the short walk to the church, we shall also hear something of the Hobdens, a local smuggling family, and Dr Grune, a pioneer of photography and film making.”

The stroll is open to everybody interested in Southwick’s history and is expected to take about one and a half hours. There is no charge for taking part but the Southwick Society will be inviting donations towards the cost of looking after the Manor Cottage.

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