A 13th century church in Cowfold, a motte-and-bailey castle in Nuthurst and an 18th century chapel in Billingshurst are among several ancient and venerable buildings in the Horsham district that have been deemed ‘at risk’ of falling into disrepair or decay.
The English Heritage Foundation last week relaunched its annual ‘Heritage At Risk’ register for 2013: a programme that monitors the health of England’s built heritage every year by publishing a list of the sites most vulnerable to being lost through neglect, disintegration or inappropriate development.
The Horsham district sites considered ‘at risk’ on the register include the Parish Church of St Peter in Cowfold, the Unitary Chapel in Billingshurst and St Nicholas Church in Itchingfield. Sites of historical interest, including Slinfold’s Alfodean Roman site, the Bowl barrow of Black Hill in Colgate and Sedgwick Castle in Nuthurst have also been listed.
The Grade 1 listed St Peter’s Church in Cowfold is a medieval village church built of Wealden sandstone with Horsham slab roofs. Dating towards the end of the 13th century, many of its original medieval features still remain, including the 13th century chancel on the north side and the remnants of a piscina on the south. The building was completed during the reign of Henry VIII, and later underwent a thorough restoration in the 19th century.
The church has been persistently placed on the Heritage At Risk register.
Recent grant-aided repairs of the tower, valley gutter, drainage and inner roof have ameliorated its position, and crucial repairs to the defective outer roof are now underway.
The Parish priest Fr Keith Littlejohn commented: “The Parish Church of St Peter has enjoyed an excellent partnership with English Heritage; we have benefited very much from their support and encouragement. We have also been engaged in a vigorous fundraising campaign to raise the monies needed to repair and maintain this beautiful and ancient church.”
Michael Burt, a member of the Cowfold Village History Society, spoke of the importance of conserving and restoring the church: “It is the local community’s wish to retain an important part of their heritage. St Peter’s is a landmark building for Cowfold and has been so since the 13th century.
It is iconic and the village would lose some of its heart if the building was allowed to fall into ruin and be demolished.”
The Unitary Chapel in Billingshurst, long a centre of community activity right in the heart of the village, has also reprised its place on the register for 2013.
The Grade II listed brick chapel, dating back to 1753, has been designated by English Heritage as in ‘poor’ condition due to the damaged lead valley gutter, insufficient drainage and timber decay.
A grant has been offered by the Heritage Lottery Fund and English Heritage for investigations into the extent and cost of repairs needed.
Chapel secretary Shirley Neve remarked: “Obviously it is very important to preserve the Chapel: it is the oldest religious building in Billingshurst and has kept going consistently since the 1700s. That can’t stop now.”
The Horsham district site deemed the most severe case is Sedgwick Castle in Nuthurst.
The 12th century moated medieval castle is currently in a ruinous state and its fragmentary remains can be found in the grounds of Sedgwick Park House.
It has been listed in the second highest priority category and considered to be at ‘immediate risk of further rapid deterioration or loss of fabric’.
English Heritage states a conservation strategy has been agreed upon with Sedgwick Park owners John and Clare Davison, but has not yet been implemented.
After repeated approaches from the County Times, no-one atSedgwick Park House was available for comment.
Horsham District Council (HDC) is hopeful that the buildings highlighted within the Horsham area will be removed from the ‘at risk’ register in future years. A spokesperson for HDC commented: “The Council is pleased to continue to work with English Heritage and owners of the sites to enable a secure future for our district’s and South Downs National Park heritage.”