Thursday, 9 April 2009

St Mary, Glynde

Not far from the well-known Opera venue at Glyndebourne is the impressive Country House of Glynde Place and the elegant parish church of St Mary.

Although there has been a church here since at least the 12th century, the present church was built in 1763-65 by Richard Trevor, Bishop of Durham and the then owner of Glynde Place. The style chosen for the new building was Palladian, an unusual one for a parish church - the more so because this style was out of date, even then. But it seems a wise choice today - the approach to the west door presents a picture of restrained elegance.

The church itself is wonderfully preserved, and an oasis of calm. It is a simple, one-room building with original box pews and, unusually, a heavily decorated hessian fabric covering the walls. There are tombstones in the floor from the original church, and a west gallery, added in 1841, to provide additional seating alongside the organist. The gallery seating is rather spartan - these were 'free' seats, as opposed to the more comfortable pews, which were rented. It must have been a torment to sit in them during a long sermon.

The stained glass windows, originally clear, are Victorian additions by Kempe. Their design is unusual for Kempe: the 3 chancel windows incorporate 33 medallions and panels of Flemish glass dated 1533 from the original mediaeval church, and an elborate Renaissance style was chosen to set them off, in keeping. The overall effect is rather gaudy, but the original panels, depicting Biblical scenes, are delightful.

The adjacent churchyard is dominated by Glynde Place next door, but has wonderful views towards the South Downs.

Lacy's Hill, Glynde, near
Lewes, East Sussex BN8 6SX

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