St Nicholas' Church, Worth

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St. Nicholas' parish church

St Nicholas Church is a Church of England parish church in Worth, a village in Crawley, England. At one time it had the largest geographical parish in England.[when?]


East end, showing apse and tower

The church is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and parts of it probably date to between AD 950 and 1050, in particular the chancel arch and apse. It was built in what at the time was a forest. The reason for building a church here is unknown, but the area may have had good hunting grounds, and royal or noble visitors to the grounds would need a place to pray in comfort.[citation needed] As it was a large church isolated in the forest, it is unlikely it was just for local needs. After the Norman conquest of England in 1066, William the Conqueror gave the church to his son-in-law William de Warenne, whose coat of arms is still visible in the stained glass windows of the church. In the 14th century the church was passed from the de Warrenne family to the Fitzalan family, who lost it in 1415 to Nevills, Earl of Abergavenny.[clarification needed]

The tower, with its broached and shingled spire, was added in 1871 by Anthony Salvin.[1]


In 1986 workmen were treating roof timbers of the church for protection against vermin when a fire broke out. The fire brigade quickly put out the blaze, saving the main building, but the roof timbers were severely damaged. This rendered the building unstable, however, which resulted in much scaffolding being put up, which in turn required pews and flooring to be removed. The roof was redesigned and the walls were strengthened. New floors and pews were fitted. The new pews, unlike the pre-restoration ones, are easier to move, giving the church more flexibility. The old pews were considered impossible to re-install in the church. The restoration cost about £510,000 and was complete by 1988.

The church today[edit]

Interior, looking east towards the apsidal chancel

Worth Church is still in use as a parish church with at least two services each Sunday and a midweek Eucharist on Wednesdays. It performs ceremonies such as weddings, baptisms and funerals. About 150 people are officially on the parish's electoral roll, and up to 400 people attend major services at Christmas and Easter.

The churchyard includes the grave of Robert Whitehead, inventor of the modern torpedo. In a plot bordered with blue railings, his epitaph reads "His fame was known by all nations hereabouts".

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Sources and further reading[edit]

Coordinates: 51°06′37″N 0°08′30″W / 51.1103°N 0.1416°W / 51.1103; -0.1416