What to See in England
By Gordon Home
Public Domain Books
Penn’s Chapel At Thakeham, Sussex
=How to get there.=–Train from Victoria or London Bridge. L.B. and S.C. Railway. =Nearest Station.=–Billingshurst (3 miles from Thakeham). =Distance from London.=–44 miles. =Average Time.=–1-1/2 to 2-1/2 hours.
1st 2nd 3rd =Fares.=–Single 7s. 2d. 4s. 8d. 3s. 6-1/2d. Return 11s. 5d. 8s. 2d. 7s. 1d.
=Accommodation Obtainable.=–None at Thakeham. “King’s Arms" at Billingshurst.
The little chapel where the great William Penn used to worship when he lived at the old mansion of Warminghurst is so entirely buried in the country that one must make careful inquiries in order to find one’s way to it from Billingshurst. When one reaches the cottage at last, one finds a gate right across the road, for beyond it the lane gradually deteriorates to a mere grassy track between hedges. Locally this Thakeham meeting-house is known as the “Blue Idol,” a name not altogether explained when one discovers that for a long period the interior of the chapel had blue-washed walls.
As one may see from the drawing given here, it is an exceedingly quaint old building, the portion shown being used as a meeting-house, the other half being a cottage occupied by the family who act as caretakers. The cream-washed walls are broken up by the richly mellowed half-timber work, and above is the roof of grey green Horsham slabs splashed over with bright orange lichen.
Inside there are the very old oaken settles as well as less ancient ones. The timber framing shows on the walls and roof, here, as on the exterior, and the general quaintness of the place is enhanced by the old stone-flagged floor. Of William Penn’s house at Warminghurst no traces whatever remain, but this only helps to increase the interest in the little chapel which has remained entirely unaltered for over two centuries. Penn, who bought the house in 1682, probably chose its site on account of its remoteness, for those were the days when their meetings were at any moment liable to interruption–when the members of the congregation met together knowing well that discovery meant imprisonment. In the quaint little meeting-house it is easy to feel the spirit of the Quakers, and one may almost imagine that one hears outside the rumble of the wheels of the heavy ox-waggon in which Penn drove over from Warminghurst Place.
[Illustration: THE OLD CHAPEL AT THAKEHAM NEAR BILLINGSHURST.
Where William Penn used to worship.]