About St Peters

About St Peter’s Church in Upper Beeding

The village of Upper Beeding is at the northern end of the River Adur gap in the South Downs, the site is a bridging point over the river: on the opposite bank are Bramber and Steyning.
The community at Upper Beeding was originally (and for the majority of its history) called Beeding, with the civil parish changing to Upper Beeding only in modern times. As is common in such cases, the ecclesiastical parish retains the original name (hence it is the parish of Beeding, and the parish church is Beeding Church).
In Saxon times Beeding had a near neighbour, the hamlet of Sele. Today’s village of Upper Beeding incorporates both communities, with the village center located between the sites of the two original Saxon settlements. Saxon Beeding was closer to the Dacre Gardens area of modern Beeding, whilst Saxon Sele was nearer to the parish church (Sele Priory Church of St Peter) in modern Beeding.
In the early 13th Century the monks of Sele Priory (St Peter’s Church, Beeding) began a mission to the area of St Leonard’s Forest near Horsham, and established a small mission base, naming it Lower Beeding. Despite being some 10 miles away, Lower Beeding remained a part of (Upper) Beeding parish until Victorian times. The existence of Lower Beeding led to differentiation in the name of the original Beeding in some medieval sources, but always as River Beeding. For this reason the prefix Upper is still ignored by many local people today, who refer to their community by the original (and current ecclesiastical) title of Beeding.
For more information about the church building and its history please go back to the menu and follow the link on the Sussex Parish Churches tab.


Priest and Parish in the Middle Ages

By 1291 the country had been divided into parishes, each served by a parish church and Priest. Farmers gave a tythe (tenth) of their crop to pay for this, and the grain was collected and stored in tythe barns.

The Parish Priest had a daily allowance of food – perhaps two flagons of ale and a loaf of bread. He was also given a house in which to live.
The Tythe Barn at Glastonbury
The Priest’s house at Muchelney
Carving showing the Priest with his bread and ale.

The church service (mass) was in Latin, but the sermon was in English, and people enjoyed listening to these.

Huge Cathedrals were built and added to by communities eager to give their best to God, at great personal cost.

Mary the mother of Jesus became more important to Christians in the Middle Ages, and the popular custom of praying to her using a rosary came to England from churches in Eastern Europe.
Salisbury Cathedral was built in the Middle Ages
When Henry III came to the English throne in 1217 there were around 680 monasteries in the country, and they owned about a fifth of the country’s wealth. There were also “Chantries” – small chapels where Priests were paid to say masses and pray for people who had died. Medieval chantry chapels can still be seen in the Cathedrals.
   A Chantry Chapel at Winchester Cathedral
Photographs by Mike Strange
The first Christian monks and nuns were hermits – people who lived on their own in lonely places to live a life of purity and prayer. The first monastic community (group of monks or nuns living together) was started in Egypt by Pachomius around 320AD
Western Monastic life began with Saint Benedict (480-547) when he started the first Benedictine Monastery at Monte Cassino, Italy, in 529AD. The monks and nuns lived in separate monasteries.
A Benedictine Monk
Photograph by Mike Strange
Even today, little has changed in the daily routine. The daily life is still guided by the “Rule of Benedict” based on a pattern of prayer and work. The Abbot is the spiritual head of the monastery and, once they have taken their vows, monks and nuns stay in the same monastery for the rest of their lives. The vows are promises of poverty, chastity and obedience – this means they do not own things, they stay unmarried and celibate, and promise to obey the leaders and “rules” of their order.

“I will praise you seven times a day”. (The Bible, Psalm 119 verse 164).”At midnight I rise to thank you.” (The Bible, Psalm chapter 119 verses 62). The day revolves around a pattern of eight services (offices), although the times may vary. These services include prayers, chanting psalms, Bible reading and singing. This is called the ‘opus Dei’ – the ‘Work of God’.

2.00 am Matins
5.00 am Lauds.
7.00 am Prime
9.00 am Terce
12.00 Sext
3.00 pm None
5.00 pm Vespers
8.00 pm Compline