The Enigma of Sele
The Site of Sele Priory in Sussex holds a landscape puzzle
awaiting solution ~ a remarkably symmetrical configuration of ancient churches
in the Sussex landscape.
years ago I put up a Website on the Internet which I called “The Secret of Sele”. It became a casualty when my IP’s free hosting
was discontinued but a simplified version still exists, generously accommodated by Templar Mechanics :
of the reasons I was relaxed about its demise was that I had become “piggy in the middle” between strongly opposing views, those of the inconvincible
sceptic and others of a more credulous mystical
My position all along has been that although
I can offer no explanation why this unique configuration should exist, the oddness of the enigma
ought to continue to be available for consideration by those of an enquiring
The ancient site is at Upper Beeding, near Steyning & Shoreham by Sea, just
ten metres above sea level on the east bank of the River Adur between spurs in
the South Downs. With panoramic views it lies north-west of Bramber Castle and
the towns of Steyning and Shoreham-by-Sea are close by.
Once used as a Benedictine Priory, today the location is the
home of the Parish Church of St Peter,
its Churchyard (with new burial ground) and an adjacent residential building,
its former Vicarage. It seems likely that the location has been used for sacred
purposes since earliest times.
Sele Priory Church and former Vicarage
any misunderstandings arise I need to make it clear that what is under
discussion are “ALIGNMENTS”…………not New Age invisible, mental or bodily
experiences but objective, factual, observable, measurable, verifiable,
repeatable relationships between solid objects securely anchored in the
landscape and shown in inks, to scale, on officially surveyed maps.
pattern is one of landscape lines, triangulation, equi-distancing and central
focusing, balanced and mirrored to a surprising tolerance and difficult to
attribute to a random origin.
the key points are all, and only, found at the sites of ancient Christian
churches ……….... no convenient manholes, pillar boxes, electricity pylons or
other tempting features have been included to assist with the symmetry of the
The layout is indicated by red lines.
overlays the sites or buildings of a total of 27 Churches. 24 appear to be components of the overall layout, although 4 of these are just off alignment. That leaves 20 of the 27 positioned in the configuration and marking key points.Most are Norman or earlier. It covers
about 10 miles overall.
Equidistances are within a tolerance
inconceivable by co-incidence. Most of the shapes, particularly the isosceles
triangles with apexes at Ashurst and Henfield, are “handed” i.e. they can be
folded over each other.
Some of the intermediates, particularly
Lancing and Newtimber would have been dismissed had they not been in such
proximity to the “overall scheme”.
Pyecombe is suspect and at this stage its inclusion can only be
justified on the hypothesis that originally it had an earlier and very
Of the remaining six, Steyning acts as an intermediate
described in “b” of “Other Significant Landscape Features below. Only five, St Botolphs,
Bramber, Buncton, Albourne and Woodmancote appear, so far, to make no contribution whatsoever.
Random or Reason
main argument in favour of a “below
chance” explanation is that there are indeed a number of other contemporary
churches, not part of the pattern within the same study area. It is
opined that if enough peas are thrown
onto a table some sort of image will be observed because the human brain is programmed
to make sense of what it perceives. I have so far been unable to persuade a statistician
to examine the enigma for me but I find it very hard to believe that "too many peas” have been broadcast in
The believers, working from an intuitive position
claim that aerially viewed alignments and landscape patterns of this kind are
found the world over. They cite the desert of ancient Egypt, the lines at Nazca,
the ceremonial landscape at Stonehenge & Avebury and numerous other pre-historic ancestral and
astronomically inspired designs.
“enigma” springs from the original choice of this unique site,
known for centuries as Sele. In
earlier times sea and river levels would almost certainly have been higher resulting in a much larger flood plain in the estuary. Sele would have been a small but
attractive island and other options for building in the area would have been
vastly reduced. Nothing too puzzling about that, perhaps! However, it is the subsequent focus upon this
tiny site by later developments, mainly the relationship it has with
neighbouring ancient churches and perhaps its two high horizons, which creates
the riddle or riddles because there are many. The location is shown in more
detail on the map below.
The layout and its accuracy is easily established
by overlaying the latest 1 : 50,000 Ordnance Survey
Map 198. The illustrations to this website are based on an O.S. one inch to the mile edition issued over 50 years ago and
therefore out of copyright. They are no longer true to scale.
Sele Priory is spotted black on red.
Historical Anglican Churches forming the main configuration are
dotted blue on mauve.
Ditto, either apparently outside the configuration or slightly off line, are marked in green and dotted black.
According to the Church guide-book there was a
pre-Norman Christian presence with the original Saxon building, probably of
wattle and plaster, being built sometime after St Wilfred entered Sussex in AD
681. King Alfred’s father, Elthelwulf, died in the parish in AD 858. After the
Normans invaded, William de Braose, Lord of Bramber Castle, founded a Priory
just north of the Church and it became known as Sele Priory. It was placed
under the control of the Benedictine Monastery at Saumur on the River Loire in
Thereafter to the present day, the site has had
an almost unbroken sacred use. Sighted on a hillock the point has views
directed towards the two downland ridges over which the sun rises and sets for
most of the year. There is also a magnificent prospect of Chanctonbury Ring and
an east/west Roman road crossed the river nearby.
Benedictines were first in possession of the House back in mid C11th. and the
former Order is reputed to have taken a “heretical” interest in geometry (as
did the Knights Templar who also feature very heavily in the history of the
There are seals showing the building and its three towers and also a
nearby hospital, which seems to have had associations with St Catherine’s wheel
and displays a strange tree icon.
Many ancient Sussex Churches are believed to have
occupied pre-Conquest sites.
Various Place-name derivations have been
suggested but “sel and sol” have
astronomical associations, although more likely the name Sele has resulted from the early
salt-panning industry in the estuary.
a. The straight parish boundary between the parishes of
Sompting and Lancing, which arises near
the likely lowest bridging point of the Teville Stream, when projected
arrives at Sele after passing through
Lancing Clump. Blue line
b. A line drawn from
Chanctonbury summit through St Andrews,
Steyning finishes at Sele. Green Line
c. A projection of the line of the Roman Road from Pulborough is also sighted on Sele..Yellow line
Not directed at Sele: Four church alignment to Devils Dyke – Sullington, Washington,
Wiston, Edburton. Red line
For those wishing to dig deeper into this mystery, notes on the relationship of the churches to each other and
possible explanations are set out in on the next pages in Appendices I &
© RB 2001 - 2014