Bosham (pronounced Bozz'm) stands on a small peninsula between two tidal streams at the eastern end of Chichester harbour and is the oldest Christian site in Sussex. In 1875 two Saxon coffins were discovered under the church floor. The corpse in the first coffin measures 3 ft 9 in and is believed to be that of King Canute's 8 year old daughter who drowned in the nearby mill-stream. The second coffin contained the bones of a 60 year old man. It is possible that these were the remains of Harold's father Earl Godwine.
Bosham appears in church history from the seventh century. Bede records that when Wilfrid came to preach the Gospel to the South Saxons in A.D. 681 there was already among them a Scottish monk named Dicul who had a small monastery at the place called 'Bosanham'. Bede mentions not only Wilfrid's preaching, but also his practical good sense in teaching the people how to survive a famine, by instructing them in the art of fishing.
Bosham was a flourishing port in the days of Alfred the
Great, but the Sussex coast was frequently attacked by Viking raiders. A story
tells of how the townsfolk, on seeing the approach of a band of Viking raiders,
abandoned the village.
The raiders, on finding the village and church undefended, carried off the churches great tenor bell. They secured it to the cross-benches of their ship and set sail. The monks on their return rang the remaining bell. It is said that the stolen bell broke loose and replied, in a single loud note. The bell then crashed through the hull and sank into the depths, along with the ship and all its crew. To this day, whenever the Bosham bell tolls, the sunken bell answers.
Ye bells of Bosham,
ring for me,
For as ye ring,
I ring wi' ye.
Return to Main Index