The Southwick Estate owner is also the Master of Southwick and holds the offices and dignities of Lay Prior, Ordinary, Patron and Rector of the Peculiar and Parish of Southwick, and Boarhunt. This includes the parish churches of St James without the Priory Gate, Southwick and St Nicholas, South Boarhunt.
Both St Nicholas and St James are wholly owned and administered by the Southwick Estate under the care of the Squire, Mr Thistlethwayte. Both churches are Donative Lay Peculiars. ‘Donative’ describes the legal ability of the owner, to gift or will property, in this case a church. ‘Peculiar’ is the state of a church exempt from the jurisdiction of the Ordinary (the Bishop), in whose Diocese the churches are. The term ‘Lay’ is used to distinguish the fact that a church is not ‘Royal’. The Squire acts as a ‘Lay Bishop’ with the intrinsic authority to appoint a Vicar/Chaplain, a Verger and a Church Warden.
You can’t leave St Nicholas without a glance at the old yew, recently measured, and dated to be approximately 1,850 years old. A legend has it that a family lived in the hollow bole for a winter.