Thursday, 2 April 2009

St Andrew, Bishopstone, near Seaford

Bishopstone seems in a world of its own. Driving up a narrow lane from the busy Newhaven-Seaford main road, you leave behind a dull modern housing estate, before climbing through woods up into a tranquil blind valley. The lane is the only connection to the outside world.

The village itself is a picture postcard: rustic flint cottages and houses have lovely country gardens, all set around the church and village hall. The village is a Conservation Area, and the valley is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The inhabitants are indeed fortunate.

The Church was built between 700 and 800 AD and is perhaps the oldest Saxon Church in Sussex. A grand Saxon porch has a sundial inscribed 'Eadric' and a fine Norman carved doorway. The imposing tower, with its pyramidal cap, is Norman work, and has a complete series of carved corbels. These depict wonderfully stylised heads of people and animals.

The nave is basically Saxon, but extended by the Normans with the addition of a north aisle and chancel. Although the aisle has 11th century windows, the arcading and chancel arch are later Early English work of about 1200. The chancel has decorative blind arcading with delicate zig-zag carving and a spacious vault.

Other details include a medieval aumbry and a piscina in the Sanctuary, and the remnant of a wall painting on the West wall. Perhaps most interesting of all is a Norman tombstone, which hangs beneath the tower space. It is decorated with a twisted rope design, formed into roundels, containing a carvings of two doves drinking, a lamb and a cross on a pedestal. It is in amazing condition for its 900 years. Perhaps it belonged to the grave of some local saint?

Bishopstone Road, Bishopstone, near, Seaford, East Sussex BN25 2UD

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