There’s been a church at Sompting since before the Norman conquest of the 11th century. The oldest part of the building is the Saxon Tower, which has stonework that has been dated as pre-1000AD.
The Tower and Spire
The Saxon Tower, now standing around 25 metres high with walls 76cm thick, is thought to have been built in stages. The first stage, which was probably once the west end of the Nave (the central part of the church), is believed to have been constructed before 1000AD. The second stage dates from approximately 1050AD, with its Romanesque architectural features providing additional evidence for the dating.
The spire is the earliest example of a ‘Rhenish helm’ in England. The framework is square, with a four-sided pyramid rising to a central mast. The helm was re-shingled in 1984, which offered the opportunity for a detailed study. Samples of the timber frame were sent for radio carbon dating and tree-ring dating, identifying the wood as 14th-century oak. It is likely that this wood was a replacement of earlier work, because the original tower construction shows a shape that is consistent with the Rhenish helm.
There are currently two bells in the tower, although there were four bells present until 1724. The smaller bell, which is inscribed I.W. 1723, was placed there in 1898. The larger bell bears the inscription Jno. Rudhall, Gloucester 1795, although it has been recast since originally being manufactured.
(Enquiries about the history of Sompting Church can be made to ).