This grave and memorial lies in St Swithun’s churchyard next to Church Lane and near Sackville College, where John Mason Neale was the Warden from 1846-66. He was a young clergyman with a wife and 2 small children, a daughter and a son, in 1846. 3 more daughters were born whilst he was Warden. Neale worked tirelessly to restore the buildings at Sackville College, and had the Chapel adorned in a High Church style, which caused conflict with the Bishop of Chichester at the time. He wrote many books, articles, hymns and carols- perhaps the most famous being ‘Good King Wenceslas‘, first published in 1853. He died in 1866, aged only 48, probably of tuberculosis.
At the foot of the memorial stone there are other gravestones which are now very worn and hard to read. One is dedicated to a nun, a Sister of the Society of St Margaret, which was founded by John Mason Neale. Another is to William Wood Thornton, a builder who worked on the Convent for the Sisters of the Society of St Margaret.
Every Christmas, Guides from Sackville College place flowers on the memorial stone of John Mason Neale.
He was ‘perhaps one of the most brilliant and versatile priests of the Church of England in the nineteenth century‘.
(Quotation from Peter F. Anson, The Call of the Cloister (1955), p. 337.)