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Our history

The Benefice of West Wittering with Birdham and Itchenor is situated on the Manhood Peninsula. All three parishes, West Wittering, Birdham and Itchenor have shorelines that are continuations of Chichester harbour. The villages are in areas of outstanding natural beauty. The peninsula enjoys a maritime climate, with mild winters, cool summers and around 2,000 hours of sunshine per annum. The long settlement history of the region dates back to the Roman invasion of AD43.  Chichester, located to the North of the benefice; was an important Saxon location, with close proximity to the [then] capital Winchester. The name Manhood is a corruption of the original name Manwood or using the Saxon spelling: ‘Manwed’ the latter part ‘wed’ being the Saxon word for forest, or wood.

Saxons and Selsey

In 681 St Wilfrid brought Christianity to Selsey (part of the Manhood Peninsula), which at that time was ruled by the South Saxon King Aethelwealh.  St Wilfrid was granted land in the Manhood Peninsula by Aethelwealh who was the first Christian king of Sussex. However, the south Saxons were conquered by the Kingdom of Wessex, which was ruled by King Caedwalla. But Caedwalla had met St Wilfrid when he was a prince, in exile. He had asked St Wilfrid to be his spiritual father and promised to be his spiritual son. King Caedwalla readily confirmed the land grant which enabled St Wilfrid to build a monastery in Selsey.

The Domesday Survey and West Wittering

From around C10 the Manhood Peninsula was self-regulating with its own local authority known as a Hundred. In the Domesday Survey the governing body for the benefice was known as the Hundred of Westeringes and was comprised of West Wittering with Birdham and West Itchenor. A Tudor painting by Lambert Barnard, depicts King Caedwalla confirming the Manhood land gift on St Wilfrid in 686. The painting was commissioned by Chichester cathedral and demonstrates the significance of this early Christian saint to English religious history.

Our three parish churches are open daily during the hours of daylight.

To find out more about our ancient parish churches West Wittering St Peter & St Paul, Birdham, St James; and Itchenor, St Nicholas – see images and further church history below.

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