Monday, 11 May 2009

St Pancras, Kingston-near-Lewes

Kingston appears to most who travel through it to be a rather modern, suburban sort of place, but a wooden finger post sign 'to the 14th century church’ points along a lane of older houses and cottages, and St Pancras church.

The church itself has a nave and chancel but no aisles, and a rather small tower, all set in a verdant churchyard. Victorian restoration after a fire (from a lightning strike in 1865) has left the exterior looking rather neat, but the interior has the atmosphere of a much older church. It is, in fact, a mediaeval foundation, and executed in Decorated Gothic throughout, giving a date of the early 14th century.

It has a wide chancel arch, leading to a chancel where a slightly odd arrangement of windows, and evidence of a rebuilt south doorway, suggests there may have been some early rebuilding. The tower, with its pyramidal cap, is a mystery: its narrow proportions sit uncomfortably with the rest of the church, and suggest a possible earlier date.

The church has a few interesting fittings and furnishings, most notably its bells, three of which date from the 14th century – two, from around 1315, bear the mark of the London bell-founder Walter Wimbiss. The round moulded font is probably also original, and the churchyard has a rare centrally-pivoted “tapsel” gate, originally installed in 1729. Apparently, it can bear the weight of a coffin, should a funeral procession have to wait for the Vicar!

Finally, the chancel has a small but vividly coloured memorial window to Michael Scott (1907-1983) – an early campaigner for equal rights in South Africa and elsewhere.

The Street, Kingston, Lewes, East Sussex BN7 3PD

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