Romanesque cruciform church but, sadly, that is not the case. In around AD1300 the apses were removed and the chancel was rebuilt and extended. A chapel was added to the east of the north transept but this has been demolished. The chancel windows we see today were, apart from a “low side window” to the south, replaced in around 1840. The glass in the east window was shown at the Great Exhibition of 1851.
Despite these alterations, around 80% of St Nicolas has its origins in the Anglo-Saxon and Norman periods. It is the Norman crossing that dominates this church and, it must be said, it is probably a complete pain in the neck for priest and congregation, creating a considerable discontinuity between nave and chancel! Each of the four arches is original and their orders of decoration are particularly distinctive including, amongst other things, courses of rosettes and limpet shells, some of which pay tribute to Shoreham’s former maritime importance. High above the crossing are the small Norman tower windows.
The tower is a rare beauty, complete with a stair turret on the north west side. Each side has a group of three window openings, two of each being “blind”. Above this is a unique course of round openings, two on each side. The tower is intact and priceless.
Entry to the church is through a Norman west doorway to the south transept. Passing through this door and into the crossing is one of the most remarkable entries to any of the English churches I have visited. The nave has Anglo-Saxon fabric. The north wall has both a blocked Anglo-Saxon doorway and a Norman one, which must be pretty unique!
This church has, remarkably, a Norman tie-bar made of timber and complete with billet moulding across the east end of the nave. It also has an original wooden tie-beam across the chancel, still with its mediaeval paint.
Sadly, the area around the north transept is a total mess. This tiny church apparently had need of both a choir vestry and a vicar’s vestry. Just to cap it all (literally) the bell stair has acquired - of all things - a chimney pot! It’s grim, frankly.
This is a much-loved church, however, and kept with pride by its congregation. It’s a gem. If you visit this part of West Sussex this little slice of history should be on your “must see” list.