Monday, 11 May 2009

St Peter, Rodmell

Half way along the Lewes to Newhaven road is the attractive little village of Rodmell, best known today for the Monk’s House, home of Leonard and Virginia Woolf until 1969 and now in the care of the National Trust. But it also has an ancient and interesting church, which is worth visiting if you are in the village.

From the outside, the church has the square tower, pyramidal cap and flint walls typical of this part of Sussex. The interior has a complex series of spaces, reflecting a building programme from the 12th to the 16th centuries, plus the inevitable Victorian restoration.

The nave, chancel and south chapel are from the 12th century, with the south aisle, tower and a small room (now the baptistery) at the west of the south aisle added around 1200.

Although the chancel arch is Victorian, the arcades are original: the south aisle arcade of two arches has a round pier with stiff-leaf carving on the capital, and corner corbels, one of which is in the form of a human head. The arcade between the chapel and chancel has a strikingly low pier, and again pointed arches. Puzzlingly, the arches either end of the south aisle are round headed, implying some later rebuilding of the arcades, or a mixing of styles. Windows include a mix of the round headed Norman style, single lancets and a fine 15th century perpendicular East window.

The furnishings are the equal of the architecture. The robust square font is 12th century, and has a Tudor cover. Beside it is a rare 14th or 15th century carved wooden screen, originally located between the chapel and chancel, with ogee arches and quatrefoils. In a small north aisle window (pictured above) is an exquisite fragment of 15th or early 16th century stained glass, depicting Christ being supported on the cross by God the Father.

The chancel floor has several well preserved 17th and 18th century memorials on the floor, complimented by colourful Victorian encaustic tiles.

Rodmell, East Sussex, BN7 3HF

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