The small parish church of St. Botolph at Hardham contains perhaps the best preserved program of Romanesque paintings in England, first discovered in 1866. The paintings, together with those at Clayton, Coombes, Plumpton and Westmeston, belong to the group of five related programs known as the “Lewes Group.” The name derives from their supposed – and now largely dimissed – connection with the Cluniac Priory at Lewes. The date of the paintings at Hardham is difficult to establish, although it is most likely that they have been executed the first two decades of the twelfth century.
The paintings contain several cycles, dedicated to Adam and Eve, St. George, Dives and Lazarus and the life of Christ. There is also a Last Judgment on the west wall and apocalptic imagery in the chancel.
The cycle of paintings on the north wall, dedicated to St. George, contains a representation of the miracle of his posthumous intervention in the Battle of Antioch, fought on June 29, 1098. The anonymous chronicle Gesta Francorum describes the appearance in the thick of battle of “a countless host of men on white horses, whose banners were all white.” When the crusaders saw this, “they did not understand what was happening or who these men might be, until they realized that this was the succor sent by Christ, and that the leaders were St. George, St. Mercurius and St. Demetrius.”
The paintings represent St. George mounted on a horse and holding a lance with a four-tailed pennant. The representation of his opponents is in a poor state of conservation, but one discerns a naked figure seated on the ground, bleeding from his wounds. There is also a vestige of a kite-shaped shield.
The hamlet of Hardham is located on the old Roman road from Chichester (Regnum) to London (Londinium), now A29 London Road. It is just over a mile southwest of Pulborough, with sidewaks all the way. It takes about 1h20m to reach Pulborough from London Victoria. The church is usually open to the public during the day.
Park, David. “The ‘Lewes Group’ of Wall Paintings in Sussex.” Anglo-Norman Studies 6 (1984): 200-237.
Gesta Francorum et aliorum Hierosolimitanorum. The Deeds of the Franks and the other Pilgrims to Jerusalem. Edited and translated by Rosalind M. T. Hill. London, 1962.