The Parish Church of Bosham has been dedicated to the Holy Trinity since the early
part of the 14th Century. But it has an earlier history. It is to the Romans that
we owe the site of the church for there can be little doubt that the spot was formerly
occupied by a basilica. Roman pottery, bricks and coins have been found within the
precincts of the church and the churchyard. The bases of the Chancel Arch are almost
certainly the actual remains of Roman columns that probably supported the basilica
fifteen centuries ago.
Saxon Chancel Arch
When the Roman Occupation ended at the beginning of the 6th Century
the basilica at Bosham probably fell into disuse and ruin until the Saxons came and
utilised what remained of it in the erection of a Christian place of worship. The
first actual record of Christianity in Sussex is given by the Venerable Bede (673-735)
in his "Ecclesiastical History of the Anglian Nation". He tells the story of the
conversion of the South Saxons and mentions the Irish monk, Dicul, who had a small
monastery in the place which is called 'Boshanhamm', a spot surrounded by woods and
After the 7th Century there is a 300 year gap in the history of the Church. But the
materials of the church itself tell some of the unwritten history. The style of the
greater part of the building is late 9th Century Saxon with the tower and original
nave built possibly as early as the late 800s. The Chancel Arch was cut through the
original east wall and the first third of the Chancel was built 1040-1050. A further
extension was made in the late 11th or early 12th Century and the final stage, together
with the splendid east window, was built in the late 12th or early 13th Century.
Evidence for these extensions is visible in the different styles of stonework in
the three different sections.
King Canute 1016-1035 is thought to have had a home in Bosham in the early 11th Century
and the long held tradition that his young daughter drowned in the mill stream was
verified in 1865 when her coffin was unearthed in the nave.
King Harold prayed in the church before his fateful voyage to Normandy and this incident
is depicted in the famous Bayeux Tapestry.
Extracts taken from
'The Story of Holy Trinity Church Bosham' 1912 by Rev K H MacDermott
revised 1995 by G W Marwood
Since the archaeological and geological survey which was carried out on Bosham Church
in 2003/4 it is not now thought that Bosham Church stands on the site of a Roman
basilica, although Roman tiles and bricks have certainly been used in the construction
of the building. The other is that the Chancel Arch is not Saxon but is thought to
have been built at the very beginning of the Norman period, at the same time as the
top section of the tower, probably by Saxon builders!