Parochialization and patterns of patronage in 11th-century Sussex
By Neil S. Rushton
Sussex Archaeological Collections, Vol. 137 (1999)
Abstract: The 11th century was a crucial period for the formation of the parochial system in England. The old minster parochiae were being broken up and their rights encroached upon by an increasing number of new churches, which can be recognized as the parish churches of the later Middle Ages. A study of Anglo-Saxon law-codes, Domesday Book, charters, confirmations, and other documentary sources from Sussex is used to recreate the chronology of parochialization in the county and allow for an assessment of the effect of the Norman Conquest and the subsequent changing patterns of patronage on the parish system. The patronage of magnates, particularly Robert of Eu and William de Braose, is used as an example of how a change of aristocracy did, and did not, come into conflict with the previously established jurisdictional areas of the minsters. An interdisciplinary approach is vital: archaeological and architectural evidence is assessed in order to gain as full an understanding as possible about the extent to which the parochial system was changing in the 11th century. The topographical and socio-religious peculiarities of Sussex are taken into consideration; especially the Wealden coverage of large parts of the uplands and the relatively late conversion of the South Saxons to Christianity which may have stifled the development of the minster parochiae in the first place. Although the county is treated as a discrete example of parochialization, the interpretations are applied to the rest of the country in order to make some useful generalizations.