Wednesday, 28 July 2010

St John the Evangelist, Newtimber

Surrounded by fields and just a scattering of houses, St John's has an idyllic setting, with fine views of the South Downs, close to the old moated manor house at Newtimber Place.

The church dates from the 13th century, but a rather severe Victorian restoration in 1875 by Carpenter and Ingelow resurfaced the walls, and renewed most of the windows. A watercolour in the nave shows the church before restoration. From the outside, the main feature is the pretty Gothick west tower, erected earlier in 1839, which replaced the original turret.

Inside, however, it still has the feel of an intimate village church, lit predominantly through tall lancets, some of which contain glass by Clayton & Bell. The base of the Jacobean pulpit has survived, along with two ancient carvings, now incorporated into the modern lectern; and a carved fragment of the mediaeval rood-beam, used as a shelf behind the font.

There are some interesting wall memorials: a poignant one to John Newnham who died aged just 12 "& near 6 months" in 1756, set in the small north transept chapel that was once housed the private pew of the Lords of the Manor at Newtimber; a grand wall memorial to a former Rector, John Osborne (d. 1774); and a series to the tragic family of Sydney Charles, Viscount Buxton (1853-1935), who lived at nearby Newtimber Place.

A Government minister under Asquith, Lord Buxton held various posts until becoming Governor General and High Commissioner to South Africa 1914-20. He is, however, perhaps best known as the President of the Board of Trade who had to defend the Government's policy on lifeboat regulations in the aftermath of the sinking of the Titanic.

He was the first and last to hold his title, all his sons predeceasing him: his second son Kenneth died in 1894, aged 7; his eldest son, Charles Sydney Buxton, died in 1911 aged 29; and his youngest son, Lieutenant Denis Bertram Sydney Buxton, died in action at Passchendaele in 1917, aged just 19. Charles is commemorated both in a wall memorial (complete with a rather striking profile), and a stained glass window of St Francis, designed by Mary Brickdale (1872-1945). His half-brother Denis has a splendidly romantic carved wooden memorial with a gilded knight in armour, set above the pulpit.

More tragedy was to follow in 1923 when Lord Buxton's daughter, Doreen Fitzroy, died a few weeks after childbirth, aged 25. She is commemorated in the best monument in the church, a sculpture of a mother and child by Sir William Reynolds-Stephens (1862-1943). A nearby slate memorial commemorates Doreen's mother, the Viscount's second wife, Mildred Anne Smith (d. 1955).

Outside, the churchyard has a tumble of table-tombs, some leaning at precarious angles. A recent addition is a black marble memorial to the sinking of the RMS Mendi in 1917, a troopship carrying 823 troops of the 5th Battalion, South African Native Labour Corps, including Chief Henry Bokleni Ndamase. The Mendi collided with the liner Darro in thick fog and sank in under 20 minutes, drowning the Chief and 670 men.

Church Lane, Newtimber, near Hassocks, West Sussex BN6 9BT

Monday, 26 July 2010

Holy Trinity, Poynings

Poynings is a leafy village, nestled under the South Downs, north of Brighton. Its grand mediaeval church was rebuilt all in one go in the late 14th century, resulting in a building of rare architectural uniformity for so small a village.


The Domesday survey of 1087 refers to a church in Poynings, and there is little doubt that there was once a a Saxon place of worship here. The Norman building, erected on an impressive mound, stood for 300 years until the reign of Edward III. But in 1389, Sir Michael de Poynings, Lord of the Manor, left 200 Marks in his will for the erection of a new church, giving us the building we see today.

Although the rebuilding incorporated much of the old fabric, the new church was built in an early Perpendicular style, overseen by Poynings' son Thomas. The unusual width of the south transept, sometimes called St Mary's Chapel, reflected the desire to include the founder's grave within its dimensions. A porch was erected over the grave of the founder's grandson, Thomas of Poynings, who died in 1430, his coat of arms carved on the gable.

The only major post-Reformation work were 17th century roof repairs, as evidenced by a tie beam, now in the south transept, and the addition of new furnishings. The Victorian restoration was unusually sensitive, with only the placing of a screen to the south transept and the insertion, in 1843, of the south transept window, which itself dates around 1643 and was brought from Chichester.

The building

From the outside, there is little anticipation of the grandeur inside: the walls are the usual flint, with stone dressings. The central tower is low and has small openings, and the churchyard crowds the building, hiding its dimensions.

The interior, however, is a dramatic space. The building plan is that of a Greek Cross, with nave and chancel of equal length, and generous transepts. The crossing itself dominates the whole, the steeply pointed arches springing from identical robust semi-octagonal responds. The windows are all two-light Perpendicular, except for a grand five-light East window and the later window in the south transept. The overall sense of space is rare, and gives some insight into what an unfurnished mediaeval church may have felt like.

Several windows have fragments of 15th century stained glass, the best being the east widows in the north transept, which depict the Annunciation, with the Archangel Gabriel in one light and the Virgin in the other. The detail is astonishingly well preserved - Mary stands in front of an urn with a rather elaborate lily growing from it.

Fittings and features of interest abound and include the triple sedilia and piscina in the chancel with ogee arches under square heads; the octagonal Perpendicular font with blank ogee arcading; the 14th century screen, now across the south transept; and altar rails dating from 1640, although the angel finials date from after World War II. These were carved by sculptor William Court, in memory of Anthony Stanislaus, an airman killed in combat. The carved pulpit is also Jacobean. The chancel contains two late 17th century family box pews, and the chancel steps include 13th century decorated encaustic tiles. The nave has indistinct wall paintings, with the Ten Commandments painted over earlier mediaeval pictures.

The south transept contains an old carved tie beam dated 1623 and bearing the name of Francis Killingbeck, a former rector who died in 1625. It is probable that he was responsible for repairs to the roof. On the transept floor are the remains of mediaeval tomb slabs, sadly now missing their brass fittings. They have been tentatively identified as those of Agnes de Rokesley (d. before 1346); Sir Michael de Poynings and his wife; Richard de Poynings, in full armour, who died in Spain in 1387; and an unknown couple from the 16th century. Opposite, the north transept is home to a beautiful four-wheeled funeral bier.

The Street, Poynings, West Sussex BN45 7AQ

Friday, 23 July 2010

St Ann, Manchester

St Ann's is Manchester's second oldest town church, and an excellent example of early 18th century English baroque architecture.


St Anne's was built 1709-1712, in the early days of Manchester's expansion, and designed to cater for the rapidly growing population. It was only the second church to be built in the then town after the original 15th century parish church (now the Cathedral). The funds for its construction were provided largely by Lady Ann Bland, and its consecration reflected both her name and that of the reigning Queen. From the start, the church had strong Whig and anti-Jacobite connections - in contrast to the High, Jacobite stance of the older church. John Wesley preached at St Ann's in 1733 and 1738, and the author and intellectual Thomas De Quincey was baptised here 1785.

The architect was probably John Barker, who chose the then fashionable Baroque style, possibly influenced by Wren's churches in London. The church was designed as a 'preaching box', with a west tower, a large galleried nave, and a small sanctuary, giving prominence to the central three-decker pulpit in front of the altar. As built, the tower was topped by a three-tiered cupola, which was removed in 1777 for safety reasons. This was replaced with a spire, which was also later removed on similar grounds.

In 1837 the church was renovated, with the original square piers of the nave arcade replaced by the present Tuscan columns. A more substantial renovation in 1887 by Alfred Waterhouse (architect of Manchester's City Hall) significantly reordered the church: he raised the chancel floor and moved the pulpit to the side, created the vestry and Lady Chapel, placed the choir stalls in their present position and inserted highly elaborate Baroque-style stained glass in the three East End windows. These were later matched by similar windows on the north and south walls.

The church survived damage from a number of incendiary bombs in World War II, but not from the blast by the IRA bomb in 1996, which blew out the windows. These have all now been repaired.

The church

The exterior is imposing and very Wren-like: the nave walls have two rows of round-headed windows, separated by coupled pilasters; the apse is richly decorated with tall fluted Corinthian pilaster and an entablature with a carved frieze; and the north door has a pedimented tetrastyle Corinthian doorcase with fluted columns. All this is executed in a distinctive purplish red sandstone. The area around the church is now pedestrianised and forms part of the city's main shopping area.

The interior is an impressive space, with the generous galleries supported by the Tuscan columns inserted in 1837. The east end is a symphony of panelled wood, lit through the strongly decorated stained glass. The fittings include the organ, which still contains elements of the 1730 original, and a painting of the Descent of Christ in the Lady Chapel, painted in the 16th century style of Annibale Carraci and brought from Italy early in the 20th century.

The church is happily open every day and provides a peaceful oasis in the centre of the city.

St. Ann Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester M2 7LF

Monday, 19 July 2010

St Mary, Storrington

St Mary’s stands at one end of a sprawling churchyard, a few minutes from the village’s main street. The site of a church since Saxon times, the present building is an amalgam of work from the Norman to Victorian periods.


The church is mentioned in the Domesday Book, and the original 11th century Norman nave now forms the north aisle, together with a Lady Chapel, formerly the chancel. A new nave was added in the 13th century, and from this date survive the arch at the east end of the north aisle, and an arch between the present Lady Chapel and chancel, as well as the windows of the north aisle. What is now the north arcade was rebuilt in Perpendicular Gothic style in the 15th century.

In 1731 the original shingled spire was struck by lightning, but repaired so badly that in 1745 it collapsed, bringing down part of the nave. The nave and tower were rebuilt in 1750, though the nave rebuilt in 1843, and again in 1876, when the present south aisle, with an arcade matching that of the north aisle, were added. The chancel was also extended eastwards at this time. The present chancel arch is Victorian: the original chancel arch now rests between the chancel and the vestry.

The church

The church is unusual for this part of Sussex, being built of stone with ashlar dressings, built rather than of flint. The plain but handsome west tower built in 1750 stands over the three gables of the church and aisles.

Inside, the interior is dominated by the nave arcades which, although 500 years apart in date, are happily well matched, with piers composed of four attached shafts. The 13th century arch in the north aisle is pointed but tapered slightly towards the imposts, giving a ‘horseshoe’ appearance.

There is a brass to a former Rector, Henry Wilshaw (d. 1591) on the south chancel wall, and some imposing 19th century wall monuments, including one by the sculptor Sir Richard Westmacott to Sir Henry Hollis Bradford (1781-1816). A Lieutenant Colonel in the First Grenadier Foot Guards, Bradford died at La Vacherie, near Lilliere, on December 7. 1816, of wounds received at the Battle of Waterloo.

In the graveyard, in a small area enclosed by privet hedges, is the grave to the Jesuit Father George Tyrrell (1861-1909). Regarded by some as the foremost intellect among English Jesuits since the Reformation, he was an important Catholic theologian whose modernist views led him to be expelled from the Jesuits and excommunicated from the Catholic Church, although he is now more usually regarded as ahead of his time. The gravestone is an early work of the sculptor and stonecutter, Eric Gill.

Today the church is the centre of a busy Parish life, and on my visit I was treated to some fine change-ringing by local bell-ringers.

Church Street / School Lane, Storrington, West Sussex RH20 4LA

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

St Andrew, Jevington

Jevington has an impressive church for a small village, with a well preserved Saxon tower, set in a steep-sided valley running down through the South Downs to the sea.

The tower is obviously the earliest part: although later altered, the remains of the short, robust Saxon windows with Roman tiles as crude voussoirs, and the baluster shaft on the bell openings, are impressive. The date is less certain: the church guide claims 900-950, though others claim a mid to late 11th century date. Inside, the tower arch is also probably 11th century (the openings either side are Victorian).

There must have been a nave here when the tower was built, although the details of the present nave – for example the south porch – date from around 1200. The chancel was built around 1230, although the East Window is later in date, around 1300, on the cusp of the Early English – Decorated divide. The squints either side of the chancel arch were inserted during a Victorian restoration. The north aisle added later in the 13th century. This is unusual, with a central transverse arch, presumably added for strength. The north wall lancets are original in style but renewed, whereas the windows in the south nave wall date from around 1500. The heavy, dark roof is also from around this period, with alternating hammer-beams and kingposts.

The church has some unusual and interesting fittings. Most celebrated is the late Saxon sculpture on the north wall, showing Christ in a loin cloth, piercing a rather diminutive beast with a cross-topped lance, with Urnes-style interlacing at his feet. This may depict Psalm 91, verse 13: You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

The square font is 14th century in style, with corner pillars on the broad stem, and there is a 14th century piscina in the chancel. Various memorials are also of interest: in the south chancel, a large monument to Charles Rochester (d. 1758) has a bold portrait in a medallion, with his wife Leonora (d. 1756) standing just behind him. Opposite is a cartouche with pilasters and broken pediment to Robert Rochester (d.1723), two sons and a grandson.

On the south wall at the west end of the chancel are three brasses to the Markwick family; that to Elizabeth (d. 1608) was lost for over 90 years before being found in an antique shop. Opposite, a black marble tablet to a former Rector, Nathaniel Collier, depicts the date as 1691/2 – demonstrating the dispute over the start of the New Year (25th of March in the Julian calendar or 1st January in the Gregorian calendar) – not settled until 1752.

On leaving, go via the churchyard towards the village, through the fine, centrally hinged Tapsel Gate.

Church Lane, Jevington, Polegate, East Sussex BN26 5QE

St Peter, Folkington

Found at the end of a narrow lane and surrounded by dense woodland, Folkington’s diminutive church, with its intimate interior, nestles in the lower slopes of the South Downs. Its parish today is home to just 60 parishioners.

The church is a simple 13th century building with lancet windows, neither aisles nor chancel arch, and the familiar Sussex flint walls and red tiled roof. Part of the dark king-post roof, as well as the bell turret, may also be of this date. From the 15th century come two nave windows, as well as the attractive octagonal font, with a moulded bowl and panelled stem. The Victorians rebuilt the west wall and inserted the window with Y-tracery.

The nave contains a group of spacious and high 18th century box pews, the seating arranged to face the pulpit, which may be late 18th or early 19th century. The sanctuary contains a cartouche memorial to Lady Barbara Thomas, (d. 1697), with two putti, opposite one to her husband, Sir William Thomas, Bt. (d. 1720), surmounted by his coat of arms, an urn and two more veiled putti.

The inscription reads (in rather odd rhyme):

A right worthy Gentleman
Deservedly Remarkable
For his great Zeal for ye Publick good
For his generous Hospitality
For his strict Justice
And extensive Charity

Outside in the graveyard is the tombstone to Elizabeth David (1913-1992), the cookery writer who did so much to open British minds to continental food. It is carved with vegetables and a cooking pot. Over the wall, a wild garden contains two sculptural images of the Long Man of Wilmington; unlike the original, they stride defiantly forward, proudly displaying their manhood...

Folkington Road, Folkington, Polegate, East Sussex BN26 5SD

St Mary & St Peter, Wilmington

This interesting church was an unusual foundation, built both as village church and to serve the small community of Benedictine monks in the adjacent Priory, founded in the early 12th century.

The church itself has a Norman chancel; the monks would have used the latter (the parishioners restricted to the nave), which still preserves its Norman lancets and low ledges for seating the monks: originally, the floor would have been lower, so making the seating more practical.

The north transept chapel was added early in the 13th century, with the two-bay south aisle following slightly later. This was later partially blocked, but reopened during Victorian restoration. The chancel arch is also a 19th century replacement in the 13th century style.

The nave rebuilt with the fine roof, with kingposts and tie-beams inn the 14th century, and most of the windows renewed in the decorated style. The north porch was added in the 15th century, as well as the Perpendicular East Window.

The best furnishing is undoubtedly the Jacobean pulpit, dating from 1610, complete with a back panel and sounding board, topped off with a fine open-work obelisk. A puzzling, weathered carving set in the south chancel wall, brought in from outside in 1948, is thought to be 12th or 13th century and female (possibly a Madonna holding a diminutive Christ?), though Pevsner felt it more likely to be male. The viewer must decide.

Also of interest are the fluted frieze and steep pediment from an Elizabethan monument in the south aisle, said to have been to a member of the Culpeper family. Finally, in the north chapel is the ‘Bee and Butterfly window’, inserted in 2002 to replace an 18th version, destroyed by a fire. The window incorporates pieces from the original and depicts St Peter surrounded by butterflies and bees, above - appropriately enough - a Phoenix.

Outside, the great Yew tree by the porch is said to be 1,600 years old. Walk around to the churchyard extension for good views of the remains of the Priory Buildings, now part of a private house.

The Street, Wilmington, Polegate, East Sussex BN26 5SL

St Pancras, Arlington

St Pancras is a delightful church set in lush countryside in the Sussex Weald, with plenty of historical interest.


The nave is Saxon, with long-and-short work on three corners, and a window with Roman tiles used as crude voussoirs to form the arch. The north chapel was added around 1200, and the Early English Gothic tower and north aisle in the 13th, though the presence of the chapel arch indicates that an aisle must have been in place when the chapel was built. The chancel was rebuilt in the 14th century, and both the chancel arch and the two arches from the north chapel into the chancel date from this time. The fine king-post roof may also date from the 14th century. The tower arch was renewed in the 15th century, when the solid tower buttresses were added. Two Victorian restorations (in 1868 and 1892) were sensitive and restrained.

The church

The most striking feature of the church as you approach, is its squat tower with tall, shingled broach spire, which can be seen from some way away through the thickly wooded churchyard. From the outside, the Saxon remains on the corners of the nave, and the Saxon window, to the right of the porch, are clearly visible.

Inside, the interior is entirely whitewashed, save for patches of wall painting. The elegant Early English arcade has octagonal piers and leads the eye to an impressive chancel arch, though it is also worth looking up to the roof, picked out by the whitewash. The late 12th century arch from the north aisle to the north chapel has a half dog-tooth motif below the imposts. The windows include the Saxon round-headed window, Early English lancets and Decorated windows. The East Chancel window has particularly fine tracery of arches upon arches, and features head stops on the hood moulding which are said to be of Edward III and his wife, Eleanor.

The fittings and furnishings are of great interest. The robust square font is a good example of 15th century Perpendicular Gothic panelling, and the chancel screen, though Victorian, is a good replica. The wall paintings with lettering left of the chancel arch are Elizabethan, but the flowers and crosses are 14th century. Also from the 14th century are the traces on the north (St Christopher) and south (St George) walls of the nave, though they are now too indistinct to make out their contents.

In the north chapel are several mediaeval grave slabs with crosses, and a niche containing an exceptionally rare 13th century pottery storage jar, found close by. The north aisle has an impressive wooden chest, and the sanctuary a very unusual 14th century piscina with ogees beneath a castellated top. The pulpit is 18th century, as are the arms of George III atop the tower arch.

A short walk from the churchyard south east brings you to the lovely Cuckmere River.

The Street, Arlington, Polegate, East Sussex BN26 6SE

Sunday, 4 July 2010

St Simon & St Jude, East Dean

Typically Sussex from the outside - flint walls, tiled roofs and a low tower - the first impression of East Dean’s interior is of modern restoration. However, a more careful inspection is rewarded with a wealth of historic detail.

The oldest part of the church is the low 11th century tower, which may predate the Conquest. This was originally part of a nave on the Saxon model, and shows signs of a former arch to the east for an apsidal chancel.

The present nave was added in the 12th century, and the chancel – which has a prominent inclination to the north - in the early 13th century. The nave was extended west in 1885 to include the bridge and organ, and again in 1961-2 to provide the bright modern baptistery.

Once inside, the nave to the west, including the baptistery, are light and bright, thanks to a wealth of windows with clear glass, all undertaken in a sympathetic modern Gothic style. The chancel arch is clearly modern, but the chancel walls shows the remains of a pair of now-blocked lancets to the north (with pointed heads) and to the south (with rounded rear-arches), next to another, larger pointed archway, which corresponds to a blocked 14th century trefoil headed window embedded in the wall outside. The 15th century east window is flanked by the shafts of earlier Early English lancet windows. There are yet more blocked arches in the wall between nave and tower.

The fittings are of particular interest: pride of place goes to a beautifully preserved Jacobean font, complete with sounding-board, with delicate carved decoration. Beneath the pulpit’s lectern an inscription dates the whole to 1623. There is an aumbry by the pulpit, opposite another opening covered by a modern grille.

By the door is a damaged stoup of an elaborate decorated design, an octagonal basin beneath a trefoiled head. Next to the tower door are the remains of a tombstone bearing the arms of the Bardolf family. Finally, the font, although modern, has been designed around fragments of the original 11th century font.

Gilberts Drive, East Dean, Eastbourne, East Sussex BN20 0DL

St Mary, Friston

Despite being next to the busy A259, Friston’s little flint-built church sits in a lovely spot, next to Friston pond, and from its graveyard are sweeping views down to East Dean.

The nave is thought to be mid-11th century, extended west in the early 12th century. The chancel and porch are 14th century, as are many of the windows and, possibly from the 14th or 15th centuries, the fine king-post roof. The only modern addition is the 19th century north transept.

The interior is intimate and charming: on the south wall, remains of a small round-headed window and door are thought to be Saxon or at least in the Saxon-Norman overlap, the present south door being Norman. The handsome west window is 14th century. The chancel arch is wide and low, and the tiny chancel has unusual blank arches to the north and south, both with a single trefoil-headed light, and a blank reredos arch to the east, beneath a 19th century double-lancet east window.

The fittings are of great interest. The nave contains two remounted brasses of Thomas Selwyn (d.1539) and his wife, but more splendid are the later Selwyn monuments, moved from the chancel recesses to the north transepts in the 19th century.

Sir Thomas Selwyn (d. 1613) and his wife are depicted kneeling, facing each other across a prayer desk, within an elaborate pillared and arched frame of alabaster. Below the children all face east, with three babes in swaddling clothes beneath the prayer desk - ‘like small French loaves’, according to Pevsner. That to Edward Selwyn (d.1704) is a simpler classical design, carrying a long Latin memorial.

In the porch, the east window surround has an unusual form of mediaeval graffiti, showing Christ on the Cross, and other marks, possibly showing a Gothic window. There are several aumbries, piscina and stoups, all 14th century, and an elegant bowl font, dated to around 1700.

Outside, just to complete the picturesque is a fine tapsel churchyard gate.

Crowlink Lane, Friston, Eastbourne, East Sussex BN20 0AU

Friday, 2 July 2010

St Michael, Lewes

Located right on the High Street in Lewes, yet strangely hidden, St Michael's is a fascinating amalgam from different periods, with a distinctive and rare round tower, with a tall shingled spire.


The church dates from the late 12th or early 13th century, the actual date a puzzle as the pointed arches indicate a 13th century, but the round tower is more typical of the 11th or 12th centuries. There are two others of similar design in Sussex. The list of rectors goes back to 1283.

The church was rebuilt in the 14th century with the addition of a south aisle, the arcade of which survives. However, the church suffered badly after the Reformation (Lewes being a fiercely Protestant town) and was semi-derelict by the 18th century.

This necessitated a significant rebuilding in 1748, in which a north arcade was added (or rebuilt) and the south arcade extended - unusually in wood - but in a vaguely matching style. A further rebuilding in 1884 extended the chancel, remodelled the interior and replaced three Georgian windows in the south wall with Gothic versions.

The church

The most distinctive external feature is the tower, now rendered, with a single pointed lancet window, and a later trefoil window above. The tower is adorned with a prominent sculpture of St Michael by Harry Phillips, erected in 1976. The 18th century frontage to High Street is an attractive example of square and knapped flintwork, with two doors, each surmounted by rounded windows, and the three Gothic windows inserted in 1884.

Inside, despite the dark and atmospheric interior, one can clearly identify the distinction between the original 14th century arcade of slender Gothic arches, and the 18th century wooden versions - painted a slightly odd chocolate colour. At the west end of the south aisle is an original lancet window, an equivalent on the north side now blocked and infilled with a Victorian wall painting of St Pancras.

The fittings are of extensive interest. Behind the attractive Victorian font are two brasses, relocated from the floor. The older brass, dated around 1430, is of a knight in full armour, now sadly headless, a lion at his feet. One heraldic shield survives. He may be a member of the extended de Warenne family (who built Lewes castle), possibly John Waryne, a member of the household of Henry IV. Adjacent is a half brass to John Braydforde, (d. 1457) a former rector of St Michael's. His brass has a wonderfully touching expression.

On the north wall, a 16th century classical style memorial to Sir Nicholas Pelham shows him and wife facing in prayer, their ten children as mourners below. He is famous for his defence of Seaford against a French force which had previously sacked Brighthelmstone (modern Brighton). A wonderful inscription on the monument has a play on his name:

His valr's proofe, his manlie virtues prayse;
Cannot be marshall'd in this narrow roome;
His brave exploit in great King Henry's dayes,
Among the worthye hath a worthier tombe.
What time the French sought to have sack't Seafoord,
This Pelham did repel them back aboord.

Opposite are the remains of the monument to George Goring, MP for Lewes, (d. 1601) and on the north wall a brass memorial records the life of Dr Gideon Mantell, (1790-1852), a local doctor, geologist and paleontologist. He discovered first the teeth and then a skeleton of an Iguanadon, now on show in the Natural History Museum, and is credited with helping inaugurate the scientific study of dinosaurs.

There are two paintings, one large 17th century canvas of the Descent from the Cross, possibly by Balucchi, and one of the Madonna and child, thought to be Spanish of 17th century. Finally, the reredos is by celebrated Victorian Gothic architect J L Pearson.

Through a door in the north wall, steep steps (formed from tomb slabs) lead up to the small but tranquil graveyard. A surprising space for the town centre, from the rear there are fine views of Lewes Castle's keep.


The church is normally open during weekdays until 5pm. The church is part of the united benefice that includes St Anne's and St Thomas a Beckett in Cliffe. There is a Sunday Mass at St Michael's at 10.30am.

High Street, Lewes, BN7 1UW

St John sub Castro, Lewes

St John-sub-Castro - or St John's-under-the-Castle - is a large early Victorian church just to the north of Lewes castle, which incorporates 11th century elements from a previous building, and has a lovely, hidden graveyard.


The first church on this site (actually slightly north of the present church) was erected at least as early as the 11th century, and possibly before. Details of this church are sketchy - almost literally - as what is known of it comes from drawings and descriptions made before it was rebuilt.

These show a traditional Sussex church, with elements from the 12th-14th centuries and a tower, and which lost its chancel some time around the reformation.

The present church was designed by George Cheesman, part of a family business based in Brighton, and completed in 1839. This incorporates some Anglo-Saxon elements from the fabric of the earlier church. An apsed chancel was added by Philip Currey in 1883.

The church

Cheesman's design is neo-Gothic in style, of flint with red brick detailing, and tall windows with broad transoms, decorated with trefoil headed arches. The axis runs north-south, with the ritual east end to the north.

The most prominent - and best - feature is the beefy castellated tower at the west end, which dominates the view along Abinger Place. Pevsner was unkind about the window tracery, but as a whole, the building works well enough. The spacious interior has galleries on iron columns on three sides.

Of most interest, however, are the relics from the earlier church, set into the walls either side of the apse at the east end. On one side is a late Anglo-Saxon doorway, with three demi-shafts supporting an arch with three matching roll mouldings, and unusual, wide square marble abaci which cut across all three. In place of a door, a mediaeval tombstone slab decorated with a cross design is set into the wall.

On the opposite side, next to the churchyard footpath, is an archway which may have been set in the old church's chancel - there is some debate about whether it was the chancel arch proper or not. Again, in place of a door is another ancient cross tomb slab, of similar design to that on the other side.

The arch is inscribed in Latin: CLAUDITUR HIC MILES DANORUM REGIA PROLES MANGUS NOME EI MANGNE NOTA Þ GENIEI DEPONENS / MANGNUM SE MORIBUS INDUIT AGNUM Þ PETE Þ VITA FIT PARVULUS / ARNACORITA. This refers to a warrior of Royal Danish lineage, Magnus, who became an anchorite at the church.

Anchorites were an extreme type of hermit, who were literally sealed up in a cell attached to a church. Through a window onto the chancel they could participate in services, as well as being fed and watered. They usually stayed there until death.

The churchyard itself is also worth a look; it is a wonderfully hidden space; semi-derelict, surprisingly large and heavily wooded.

Church Row, Lewes, BN7 2PU