Monday, 11 May 2009

St Nicholas, Iford

Iford is a small village in the Ouse Valley near Lewes, consisting of a single lane which loops off the Lewes to Newhaven road. Half way around is the surprisingly large and complex church of St Nicholas, dominated by an imposing central pyramidal tower.

Built just after the Norman Conquest, the nave and central tower date from around 1090, with the current chancel built slightly later, perhaps around 1100. In the late 12th century, a north aisle was added but subsequently removed, and the remains of the three-arched arcade can be seen inside and out. Around the same time, the pyramidal tower cap was added and, in the 13th century, a little north chapel off the chancel, which now serves as a vestry.

The interior is dark and atmospheric. It is dominated by the tall, Norman chancel arch, decorated with a roll and chevron motif, although the capitals are part of a Victorian restoration. The arches under the tower are all plain. The tower above contains three bells dated 1426, dedicated to Saints Margaret, Katherine and Botolph.

A low, wide arch in the chancel leads to the former north chapel, and has a corbel in the form of a head at the east end: the chancel itself has an unusual arrangement of three, round-headed arches under a single oculus window at the East end. At the west end is the font, from around 1200, lit by a single lancet above the original (and now blocked) west door of the first church. Next to the present south door hangs the Coat of Arms of George III, sternly warning the viewer to 'Fear God, Honor the King'. The intention is, however, rather undermined by the fact that the lion rampant resembles his cowardly counterpart from the Wizard of Oz.

Off Swanborough Hollow, Iford Village, East Sussex BN7 3EN

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