The earliest date of which there is any record of a Rector is 1288, when one Selfridus held that office.
However, the architectural features of the church point to a date for the original building not later than the 11th century. The original doorway arches (north and south) are exceptionally lofty for so small a church. This may have been to allow Knights to ride in on horseback!
The chancel arch is Norman and the east end was originally apsidal, reconstructed in Perpendicular style when the east window, depicting Barttelot heraldic shields, was inserted in 1638.
Of the other windows, the chancel, north and south, the south-east and the south-west windows are all nineteenth century. The north window, which is the most interesting, is by an artist from the Netherlands named Roelandt (perhaps Roelandt Savery,1576-1639) whose signature with the Tudor Rose is to be seen in the bottom panel.
Apart from the small kneeling figure (at bottom left) in a red cloak, which is a later addition, the glass pieces are all painted, not stained, and date from the early seventeenth century. The main kneeling figures represent two of the Stopham ancestors, Brian and Ralph, his son, who flourished in the reigns of John and Henry III (13th century). The yellow medium used by Roelandt is unknown to modern glass artists. This rare window was completely restored in 2015 and now has a plain glass backing to protect it from the elements.
On the outside of the north wall of the chancel and on both sides within, the original lancet windows can be traced. The tower is, in part, of 12th century workmanship. The wooden shutters to the belfry windows form an unusual and interesting feature. The bricked-in vestry door is another indication of an early date for the tower. At one time – not later than the seventeenth century – there was a ring of three bells but the ceiling to the tower suggests that there may at some time have been a full peal of six bells. During the nineteenth century, one of the three remaining was disposed of, and the treble bell is now cracked and so cannot be rung; it is dated 1614.
The tenor bell, currently in use, is a late medieval London casting, probably within the period 1470-1487. It is inscribed: ‘Vox Augustini Sonet in Aure Dei’ (Augustine’s voice sounds in God’s ear), by the side of which is a shield of the Royal Arms.
The font is 13th century, octangular and ornamented with quatrefoils. The piscine on the south wall near the pulpit would seem to have served a side altar.
There are no remaining traces of the cell of a female recluse, who is mentioned as a legatee in the will of St. Richard of Chichester (13th century). The registers of the church date from 1543 and the Communion Plate is from 1570. The Terrier is dated 1635 (glebe ‘terrier’ is a document which gives details of glebe lands and property in the parish owned by the Church of England). The Colours of the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards were laid up in December 1985. These hang on the north wall above memorials to two members of the Barttelot family who served with the Regiment. New hassocks were made in 1982. These were given in memory of relatives of those who worked them. An overall design by Mrs Joan Field left the space under the depicted arch to be worked as desired: family crests, local scenes, birds and animals can be seen.
Stopham (meaning the home of Stoppa – ‘ham’ being Anglo- Saxon for ‘home’) has retained its name with slight variations only (it is Stopehamin the Domesday Book) since a Saxon named Stoppa held the manor, perhaps from Earl Godwin and King Harold. Another Saxon name is that of Quells Wood, on the northern boundary of the parish, still as full of springs as in the time when the Saxons noted the fact and gave it their word for ‘source’ or ‘spring’.
At the time of the Domesday Book, Stopham’s male population numbered eighteen: Ralph, who held the manor from Robert, perhaps his elder brother, who owned fealty for it to Roger Montgomery Earl of Arundel, Torchill, who as a freeman, retained the land he had in the time of Harold, and 16 others in varying degrees of villeinage. Even in those days Stopham was noted for its fisheries.
Stopham Bridge – of seven arches – was constructed in 1309 and, until the early 19th century, was the joint responsibility of the Rapes of Chichester, Arundel and Bramber. In 1986 a new bridge was built alongside and the old one closed to vehicular traffic.
Stopham House was built in the reign of Elizabeth I on a site where there had been a dwelling house for the Barttelot family since the Norman Conquest in the 11th century. After an almost complete reconstruction in 1787, the house has since suffered architecturally from unbalanced additions. The Manor House, north of the church, is a fine example of Elizabethan domestic architecture, as is also Lee Farm, on the south-west boundary of the Parish.
The Barttelot family (in the words of the Reverend James Dallaway in 1832, “highly ancient and respectable”), claims to have come over with William the Conqueror. The surname is recorded in the Battle Abbey Roll as Bertuilay. The claim to the right of their coat of arms (sable three gloves pendant argent tasselled or) is based on the legend of Bertolet, who acted for his uncle, the Emperor Charlemagne, at the cost of his life, in a dispute over a game of chess with a Frankish noble. In 1379 John Barttelot married Joan, heiress of Stopham and was buried in Stopham Church in 1428. He held the office of Treasurer to the Earl of Arundel. John’s son, also John, fought at the Battle of Agincourt (25th October 1415) and returned safely. The family has since been in unbroken possession of the Stopham Estate and has provided many holders of high office in the County and State, as well as many distinguished soldiers.