steps which the visitor must descend in order to reach the west door. In 1287 a great storm inundated the port with four feet of sand and shingle. The church, built initially in 1160-70, stood indomitable and immovable. In the course of that one night, however, the Rother estuary moved to nearby Rye and Romney’s access the sea and status as a port was lost forever. Simon Jenkins rightly says that it is hard for today’s visitor to imagine the fact that until the storm ships would have been berthed close to the churchyard and that the nave of the church would have been crowded with “with traders fixing prices and guarding monopolies”. Such were the many functions of the mediaeval English parish church.
Beyond the tower, the Norman nave is still intact, surmounted by a clerestory whose windows sit awkwardly on the aisle arcades below. The existence of the arcades tells you that the Norman church was built with aisles. Those clerestory windows, though, show you how low and how narrow these original aisles were. The chancel arch is from the fourteenth century rebuilding work but above it you can still see splendid Norman arcading. The rebuilding extended the chancel to the east. The aisles were widened and gabled and they were also extended to the west level with the tower. Similarly, the aisles now extended as far as the east wall of the chancel. Thus New Romsey church has three great parallel rooms connected by arcades all surmounted by the imposing west tower. The fourteenth century work was finely executed so that the church presents an almost perfect fusion of Norman and Gothic.
You might reasonably wonder how all of this escaped the “modernising” philistines of the Victorian era. Well, it very nearly didn’t! In 1880 the architect J.O.Scott started a “restoration” by demolishing the two westernmost bays of the Norman north arcade. The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings founded in 1878 went into battle under the leadership of its first Secretary, William Morris (of whom you may have heard!). As Pevsner put it, “the vicar was silent, the architect hostile”. The SPAB then published the correspondence in the local press and the ill-judged program was abandoned. No doubt the vicar’s angst was assuaged by a considerable financial saving!