St. Mary the Virgin, North Stoke
This 12C church in farmland high on the South Downs above the River Arun had extended links with the lords of Arundel and Haughmond Abbey in Shropshire, as well as with Tortington Priory. It was built about 1180 and has been in continuous use as a place of worship. Its intense atmosphere is supported by its harmonious architecture, which appears to be an entire design but is in reality composed of accretions over three centuries. On closer inspection it illustrates the development to English church window design over the same period. Some fragments of 13C stained glass (the oldest in Sussex) depict the Virgin Mary. In 2007 the church's lost dedication to St Mary was rediscovered in a mediaeval letter in the National Archive at Kew and the church was rededicated. It is in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust.
Its lightness and unusual serenity derive from its setting and its exceptional architecture. It is completely unspoilt and is a place of extreme tranquillity.
Standard opening times: Open in daylight hours. There is a patronal festival in August and a crib blessing before Christmas, and occasional Roman Catholic services, all by permission of the Vicar of Amberley and the Churches Conservation Trust. In 2020 the British Pilgrimage Trust is inaugurating the Old Pilgrim Way to Canterbury from Southampton and this passes by North Stoke. This coincides with the 850th anniversary of the death of Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral.
North Stoke, Amberley, Arundel, Sussex, BN18 9LS, United Kingdom
Grid reference: TQ 019108
By car – Take lane from B2139 on east side of Houghton Bridge for two miles. (The lane is sign-posted North Stoke and has a brown signpost to the Church).
By public transport (rail/bus) - Amberley Station is on the B2139 to the east of Houghton Bridge. The Church is 10 minutes walk from Amberley Station (see “by car” above). The Arun Valley line runs from Portsmouth/Chichester/Horsham to Victoria. Part of the service runs express from Chichester to Horsham so make sure you get on the stopping train for Amberley. There is also a coastal east/west line between Bognor and Brighton. Change at Barnham for the Arun Valley line.
On foot - As “by car” above. The walk takes about 10 minutes from Amberley Station. A more scenic route exists from Arundel via South Stoke along the Arun Valley and up to North Stoke, where the North Stoke “Ghurkha Bridge” suspension bridge spans a meander of the Arun.
Wheelchair accessible. Park without difficulty in the lane near the church. Toilet facilities can be found at The Bridge Inn 2 miles down the lane at the main road beside Amberley Railway Station (B2139).
There is a bench in the churchyard, and splendid views north and south over the hamlet and the Downs.
Refreshments available at the Bridge Inn, the riverside café at Houghton Bridge and the George & Dragon public house at Houghton. Accommodation also available, and there are B & Bs in Amberley.
Suitable for Quiet Days for individuals or groups, but please note that this is an early mediaeval church without water or electricity.
Hospitaller available by arrangement.
The Old Rectory,
Tel: 01798 872531
Further Information for Hospitaller/Contact Person
Secretary of the Friends of St. Mary the Virgin,