“It was one of those perfect English autumnal days which occur more frequently in memory than in life. ~P.D. James, English author.
Those of you who follow my blog will know by now that I have a very special affection for West Sussex and particularly the area around Chichester.
And Apuldram near Chichester is a very special place. Still a little removed from the modern world reveling as it does in its ancient history. Many of the houses date back to the 18th and 19th century. One could imagine Jane Austen or one of the Brontes setting their stories here. Its inhabitants are scattered over the flat, sweeping landscape, with its glimpses of the harbour, the Cathedral spire and the South Downs. The sea still plays a role in the activities of the inhabitants. Where once boats and the sea were means of livelihood for the people of Apuldram now there are sailing boats and runabouts anchored in the basin at Dell Quay.
And of course the Church. The beautiful 12th century building is still used regularly for church services. The last time I was there, there was still no shop, hotel or petrol station in the village and the Church is the hub.
But it is a very small church and the uses to which it was now being put required some extensions. With this in mind, thoughts turned to fund raising.
The gardens of West Sussex are beautiful and the gardeners produce prolific blooms. Music is important to most people, and has a special place in a church.
So it was decided that a Festival of Music and Flowers would be held. Months of planning would have followed this decision and the outcome of all the work was a weekend in September. I think this was 2005. The Festival would run Friday through Sunday with floral displays decorating the church, the gardens of the manor house open to the public for refreshments and of course, music in both the Church and the gardens.
It was a glorious weekend. We chose to go on Saturday, as did many others.
Music greeted us as we entered the church. The church was absolutely beautifully decorated with displays by local florists, flower societies and churches from far and near. Every window, each nook and cranny, including the Squint, had a magnificent arrangement.
This Squint, or more properly called an Hagioscope, was installed so that those who were confined to worship in the small chapel behind the organ could have a clear view of what was happening at the altar. This small chapel is a 14th century addition to the church.
Of particular interest was the organ loft. Local lore has it that this organ was the one temporarily installed at Windsor Castle for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s first Christmas party.
The design here was a representation of a Victorian Christmas. Of course, this incorporated a Christmas tree (remembering that Prince Albert introduced the Christmas tree to Britain). The Victorian’s love of fashionable items was also apparent with paisley shawls, finger-less gloves and of course, feathers.
The vestry is accessed through an arch and worshipers at Apuldram garlanded this arch. Garlands were popular in Ancient Rome and in Greece. They adorned the heads of Caesars, dignitaries and brides. Garlands have also been discovered in tomb paintings. This garland was spectacular.
Other floral exhibits and arrangements depicted “Harvest Festival”, “Mountains and Hills and all Green Things Upon the Earth”, “All the Powers of the Lord”, “Light and Day, Night and Darkness”. In all there were 19 arrangements. It was a sensational effort by many people working together for a common cause.
Historical notes were included in the programme. For instance the decoration called ‘The Founding of St Mary’s as a Chapel of Ease” had the note that the church was built in the 12th century for the Bosham Collegiate. And that before the channel silted up and Apuldram had a burying ground, the dead were rowed over to Bosham.
The font’s decoration was entitled “O Children of Men and Priests of the Lord”. This lovely arrangement had been done by two of the worshipers at Chichester Cathedral. There was a historical note accompanying the information “The font is 12th Century in origin and is of Purbeck marble and is most probably the original one”.
The quiet, classical music played throughout our time in the Church was totally in keeping with the floral decorations. It was uplifting and glorious.
We then went back down the church path to visit the Manor Farm gardens. Along the way we passed a farmer on a tractor. But no ordinary farmer this: He was stuffed – literally.
At the church gate we saw an old bicycle that was no doubt originally used for deliveries by a local merchant, bearing in its basket a mass of flowers of all colours. And a pair of Wellington boots planted with flowers.
The children were enjoying pony rides while those of us in need of refreshment made our way to the tea marquee.
Here the ladies of the church and their children (and some grandchildren) had excelled themselves. The marquee was set with tables and chairs. Pretty tablecloths adorned each table. Around the marquee were placards giving information on various plants, flowers and herbs. Of particular interest to me, was the following:
“Woody Nightshade. Relating to the potato and tomato. Attractive climbing plant with heart shaped leaves and shiny berries. The berries were used medicinally and the dried second-year stems were pounded into an essence. This was then prescribed for skin diseases caused by metabolic disorder, rheumatic conditions and blood disorders.”
It also stated “An overdose produces paralysis of the tongue, difficulty in swallowing and breathing”. Clearly an essence to be avoided. How many other medicinal herbs commonly used in earlier times, had such disastrous side effects?
A ploughman’s lunch was on offer, as were sandwiches and a variety of cakes. We were well fed and ready to inspect the various produce and bric-a-brac stalls dotted around the grounds.
A second marquee was set up for the string quartet. They entertained with light classical music to the enjoyment of all. There were chairs set around outside this marquee and people were sitting in the sun, some with cups of tea, but many sitting just enjoying the music.
The atmosphere was one of good humour, friendliness and neighbourliness.
The festival was entitled Jubilate. We are told by Josie Pound, the Festival Designer, “Looking in the Book of Common Prayer, Psalm 100 ‘Jubilate Deo’ fairly leapt out of the page, as did the Benedicite Omnia Opera, with all its wonderful descriptive verses, ideal for interpretative work by keen arrangers!” The Festival certainly lived up to its name.
We thoroughly enjoyed this very English way to spend a lovely, September Saturday in this beautiful part of the world.
- A Winter Week in the Country (growingyoungereachday.wordpress.com)