These notes are taken, with permission, from Jenny Drury’s cd
‘Ovingdean Village’. They also rely almost exclusively on the very extensive research of John G. Davies of Ovingdean. John's research was painstaking and precise; it is the result of many hundreds of hours searching sources in East Sussex and London.
A 'little church' at Ovingdean is first mentioned in the Domesday Book . Essentially it is an early Norman building which has been restored and altered many times in its history. It is a Grade A listed building.
DEDICATION TO ST WULFRAN
There is only one other church in England dedicated to St. Wulfran and that is in Grantham, Lincolnshire. The date of the dedication is not known; it could have been anytime between the 7th century (when he lived) and 1512 when it is first mentioned in records. St. Wulfran was born in about 650 AD in a village near Paris, his father was a wealthy nobleman. Much to his father's disappointment he decided to be a priest rather than a soldier. In about 693 he was made archbishop at Sens but three years later resigned and became a missionary. He spent his life converting pagans and performing miracles; he died in 720 at Fontenelle Abbey where he was buried. In 1058 his body was moved to Abbeyville, Normandy where it remains to this day. Although we can only speculate on the reasons for the church being dedicated to this particular saint, it is possible that it was through the auspices of the Warenne family who owned land in both Ovingdean and Grantham.
EVOLUTION OF THE BUILDING
Based on interpretation of historical sources and visual evidence we can suggest that the nave and chancel are probably 1066-86; the tower is c1216 and contains c1430 bell. The porch is probably c1805, the Lady chapel is 1907 and the vestry is 1983.
The church has served the community of Ovingdean for almost 1000 years. St Wulfran's is a fascinating ancient building, recently hailed by English Heritage as ‘an exceptional historical building.’ We must remember that the church is there to provide a focus for the spiritual life of the village: it is a meeting place for the community, and a haven of peace in a noisy world.