Remembering the chapel near Ferring that was reclaimed by the sea 400 years ago
Residents and councillors have banded together to commemorate a chapel near Ferring drowned by the sea centuries ago.
Almost 1,000 years ago, a small chapel stood by the sea near modern-day Kingston as the centre of village life.
But as the years went by, the settlement was reclaimed by the waves and passed into the tides of memory – until one resident suggested a monument should be put up to mark its existence.
On Friday, Kingston Parish Council unveiled a two-ton natural boulder in the shape of a seat on the West Kingston greensward to show where the chapel’s final resting place is, 250 yards out to sea just south of the black rocks seen at very low tide.
These were thought to be the foundations – but geologists now regard them as slabs delivered by floating sea ice in the Pleistocene era.
The Welsh glacial boulder with a plaque giving details of the history was unveiled by councillor Geraldine Walker, chairman of Kingston Parish Council, who was joined by others who helped with the project.
She said: “It will give the opportunity for residents to sit in a beautiful spot and look out towards the lost chapel.”
According to an article written by Stephen Webbe from the Ferring History Group, the chapel could have dated back as far as 1100, when Kingston Manor as the village was known was owned by Tewkesbury Abbey in Gloucestershire.
He cited Richard Standing – a consultant for the wording of the plaque – who believed the chapel would have resembled St Mary’s church in East Preston with ‘a simple flint rubble nave and chancel’ under a ‘Horsham stone slab roof’ and ‘externally whitewashed walls of flint’.
As a medieval harbour, Kingston exported wool and, in 1295, it was given two coastguards to guard against French attack by Edward I.
But it was sold in 1540 when Henry VIII disbanded the monasteries and by 1626, the year of Charles I’s coronation, the chapel was finally lost to the sea. Nevertheless, tales of the chapel’s bells tolling beneath the sea when storms and spring tides battered the coast endured – including Stephen himself. He said: “I grew up in Ferring and we used to walk out at low tide to try to find the foundations of the village, so I am thrilled they have done this.
“I would love to find an old map or drawing of the church to see what it looked like but no-one has found anything.
“That would be a great discovery.”