St. Mary’s old church is a Grade II* listed building and a scheduled ancient monument, first listed in 1961 and formerly called the Old Parish Church but later re-listed under the name of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin.
The church site is believed to date from the 10th century, when the structure would have been a barn-like building with thick walls and high slatted windows. At this time churches were often built on high ground to the north of a settlement. It was probably re-built c.1350 in the Perpendicular style, the fabric being mostly of coarse ironstone rubble with ashlar dressings. The large perpendicular windows were added into the nave c.1450.
The nave walls are older than the tower. Improvements were made in the early 19th century, with a west gallery added in 1814 and a new east end to the chancel in 1819.
By the 1820s the population of Clophill parish had outgrown the church and plans were made to enlarge it however these came to nothing, partly as a consequence of the rector falling ill: he died in 1843 and a new rector was appointed, who opted to relocate the church to the village centre. A new church was built (1848–1849) with the old one functioning, for a while, as a mortuary chapel for the graveyard which remained in use. Some items were removed at this time for inclusion in the new church. The graveyard adjacent to the old church site is still in use today.
In the mid 20th century the roof lead was stolen from the old church and it began to fall into a ruinous state. Deterioration continued until Clophill Heritage Trust restored it in 2014.
Observation tower tours
The ruin of St. Mary’s old church sits on a hill at the centre of the beautiful 40 mile long Greensand Ridge walk which can be seen stretching out to the east and west along a long line of monastic buildings and a Roman trackway. The views from the observation tower are spectacular. The spiral staircase is enchanting and has been sympathetically restored to make it safe for the public to use.
Guided tower tours are available on the last Sunday of every month when our cafe is open between 2pm and 4pm. And on special events – see our Events Calendar.
They can also be pre-booked on any day between 10am and 3pm by calling 07935 911207, or book online at http://clophillecolodges.org.uk/book-a-tower-tour/.
There is a minimum donation required of £3 per adult and £2 per child to help to cover costs.
There are endless things to learn from St. Mary’s old church and the surrounding area. We provide talks and classes on a number of subjects including geology, history, art and nature. Some highlights feature below but please visit our Things to do page for loads more information on all the opportunities we offer.
The view from the top of the tower enables you to see the whole history of the area from prehistoric times to the present day. Some of our historian volunteers have collected artefacts, over the decades, from our heritage sites. Pictures of selected finds and some of the stories behind them can be seen on the History Around You board installed on site.
Phone: 07935 911207 Email: info@ClophillHeritage.org
*Please note that prior, written permission must be gained from the Clophill Heritage Trust for any ceremonies, photography and / or filming either on or featuring our sites.