Did you know that St Nicholas Church, in Worth, has a link to The Sound of Music?
It’s hard to equate the beautiful 10th century church in its peaceful setting, with the boisterous singing to the backdrop of Nazi-controlled Austria which made for a hit musical.
But a new book called I Never Knew That About England’s Country Churches shares the fascinating tale.
Following a potted history of the church and an account of his astonishment at seeing the famous Saxon arches, author Chistopher Winn shared this story.
“Buried in the churchyard, not far from the west door, in Robert Whitehead (1823-1905), inventor of the torpedo, who lived at Paddock Hurst, a nearby country estate now occupied by Worth School.
“Whitehead developed his invention in Fiume, an Adriatic seaport, then home to the Austrian navy, who were his first customers.
“In 1912, Whitehead’s granddaughter Frances was invited to christen one of the Austrian navy’s new submarines, which was equipped with her grandfather’s torpedoes.
“At the ceremony, she was introduced to the submarine’s commander, Georg von Trapp, who she later married. They had seven children before Frances died of scarlet fever in 1924.
“Von Trapp moved his family to Salzburg and hired an apprentice nun from Nonnberg Priory, called Maria, to tutor the children.”
So torpedoes and The Sound of Music all in one churchyard – Crawley’s history is truly fascinating.!
As for the book, it shares similar such gems of fact and legend from hundreds of churches all over the country.
Take St Mary Magdalene church, at Rusper.
Mr Winn told the tale of a boy scout who fell from the 70ft tower in 1975 and suffered no more than a broken arm and a colourful selection of bruises.
“His fall was cushioned, it is said, by the prayers of the prioress and four nuns from the nunnery who are buried at the foot of the tower.”
Other curiosities include St Andrew’s, in Yorkshire, which has the only lectern in the world supported by a turkey, and another St Andrew’s, in Greensted-juxta-Ongar, Essex, which is the oldest wooden church in the world.
With beautiful black and white drawings by Mai Osawa, I Never Knew That About England’s Country Churches is packed with information from churches in 36 counties – and leaves you with a burning desire to visit some of these amazing places.