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9th century. Among the ancient Anglo-Saxon saints was Cuthman, a native of Devon or Cornwall (judging by his name; some ancient documents seem to indicate that he was possibly born at Chidham near Bosham, c. 681), who spent his youth as a shepherd on the moors. A grey and weather-beaten stone high among the heather is said to mark the spot where he used to sit, and around which he drew a wide circle in the gorse, outside which his sheep were not allowed to wander. When his father died and his mother was left poor, Cuthman proved himself a good son and worked hard for their joint livelihood, but when she fell sick he was unable to leave her and they became destitute.

Cuthman, at his wit's end, made a wooden two-wheeled barrow in which he laid his mother, and with its two handles supported by a rope round his neck, begged from door to door. But the dream of his life was to build a church, and though he had no idea how this could be done, he resolved to leave Cornwall with its bleak and windswept moors and travel eastward.

Putting his mother in the barrow along with their few belongings, he pushed it day after day across the breadth of England until he came to Steyning in West Sussex. There the rope which held the barrow broke, and this he took for a sign that it was here where he must settle. He prayed by the roadside: O Almighty Father, who has brought my journey to an end, You know how poor I am, and a labourer from my youth, and of myself I can do nothing unless You succour me.

Here by the River Adur, in a lonely and quiet spot among the Downs, he built a hut to shelter his mother, and then measured out the ground on which to build his church. The local people were kind to him; they watched him dig the foundations single-handedly, cut the timber and build the walls, and they provided two oxen to help him. One day, however the oxen strayed and were carried off by two youths who refused to return them, whereupon Cuthman was angry. I need them not, he said, to do my own work but to labour for God. and he yoked the two youths themselves to his cart to draw it. It must be moved, he said, and you must move />
So Cuthman built a church and preached and stirred up the people. And there where he worked, he died, and was buried beside the river, and they called the place Saint Cuthman's Port, for the river in those days was navigable.

Cuthman's name occurs in several early medieval calendars and in the old Missal that was used by the English Saxons before the Norman conquest (kept in the monastery of Jumieges, in which a proper mass is assigned for his feast), a German martyrology clearly indicates a pre-Conquest cultus, and the church at Steyning seems to have been dedicated to him in the past. Saint Edward the Confessor (f.d. October 13) gave the Steyning church to Fecamp, which monastery built a cell of monks on the site of his old wooden church and built a new one dedicated to his memory, although Cuthman's relics were translated to Fecamp. The information on Cuthman preserved there may contain some genuine material. The memory of this once forgotten saint was revived by Christopher Fry in his one-act play The Boy With A Cart (1939) (Attwater, Attwater2, Benedictines, Farmer, Gill, Husenbeth).

In art, Saint Cuthman is always shown among sheep because he was a shepherd of Steyning (Roeder). He feast is kept at most Benedictine monasteries in Normandy (Husenbeth).

Another Life:

In the Sussex Downs, not far from Brighton, is the village of Steyning with the church founded by St. Cuthman. He originally lived in the West Country, a son of a shepherd, who spent long hours watching over his father's flock. There is a legend that he had a favourite stone on which he used to sit and on one occasion he drew a circle round his stone with the tip of his staff and commanded the sheep in the Name of Christ to remain within the circle while he went off to get food. The flock obeyed his instructions and never strayed, and the local people began to regard Cuthman and his stone with reverence.

When his father died, Cuthman decided to move eastwards in search of new pastures, and as his mother was crippled with age, he devised a kind of wheelbarrow to convey her, which was supported by a rope around his shoulders. He travelled in this manner for many days until one day, as he was passing through a cornfield, the rope broke to the amusement of those working in the field. Cuthman substituted a branch of alder for the rope and this held for some days, but when that broke he decided that God meant him to settle in that place. He built a hut for his mother and then began laying out the foundations of a church.

The spot is described as a quiet sequestered place, below the Round Hill where two streams meet It was a woody area and Cuthman built his church of timber, having two oxen to help him to move heavy loads. On one occasion two young men stole the oxen, and when they refused to return them, Cuthman made them draw the loads themselves. On another occasion Cuthman found one of the pillars was bending under the weight of the roof, and the whole structure was about to collapse. At that moment a man of a grave and beautiful aspect appeared, who helped him to straighten it. He asked the man who he was, and he replied, I am Jesus for whom you build this house and then disappeared.

In the porch of the present church there is an ancient stone with what is thought to be pre-Christian incisions on one side throughout its six foot length. Once it was thought to be the tomb stone of St. Cuthman, but now it is regarded as the origin of the place name. The Saxon "Stenningas" means the People of the Stone, and this may be the sacred stone that stood in the centre of a pagan grove converted, in accordance with the policy of S. Gregory, into a Christian sanctuary by St. Cuthman. The stone was used as a door-step until 1938, when the engravings were discovered.

The River Adur, then called the Bramber, was navigable as far as Steyning, and the place became known as St. Cuthman's Port. The Saxon kings had an estate here, and King Alfred's father, Ethelwulf, is buried in the Church. In the eleventh century, Edward the Confessor gave this church and manor to the Abbey of Fecamp in Normandy and the withholding of the revenue from Steyning was one of the reasons that William gave for making the Norman invasion of Britain a "Holy War". In the twelfth century the monks of Fecamp built the present stone church to replace the wooden one of St. Cuthman (Baring-Gould, Cockman, Mee).

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