Monday, 11 April 2011

Chiddingly Parish Church

This large and impressive church, with its landmark spire, sits in the middle of an attractive and historic village.


The village name is Saxon, recorded in Domesday as ‘Cetelingei’, the place of Cedd’s people, but it is unclear exactly when the church was first built. However, when the chancel was rebuilt in the 19th century, traces were found of Norman masonry from the 11th and 12th centuries, suggesting there was an earlier church on the site.

The present nave was probably built in the 13th century, from which period it is clear the chancel arch and two lancets in the aisles remain. The nave arcades are later, probably 14th century, as are the Perpendicular windows in the north and south walls of the aisles, which presumably replaced smaller, earlier windows. The south transept (of which more later) has a large, rectangular Elizabethan window with transoms. The chancel itself was rather thoroughly rebuilt in 1864.

The church

The fine tower, with its 60ft spire, dominates the exterior; the west door beneath has label stops in the shape of the "Pelham buckle", a familiar feature in the area, denoting the generosity of the Pelham family in 14th century donor.

Inside, the interior is dark thanks to some particularly heavy Victorian glass, but the nave at least retains its 18th century box pews. There are three bays to the nave arcade, and a king-post roof (possibly 14th century), but eyes are drawn to the church’s most prized possession, the Jefferay monument, in the south transept.

This huge 16th century monument, executed in pink alabaster, commemorates Sir John Jefferay (d. 1578), Chief Baron of the Exchequer under Elizabeth I, and MP for Arundel and East Grinstead. He lies in his legal robes, some height above his first wife, Dame Alice, also recumbent. Very unusually for the period, they are flanked by the upright, life-sized figures of their only daughter, Elizabeth, and her husband Sir Edward Montagu. (Only one other monument of this period in England has standing figures). Below is a kneeling grand-daughter, also Elizabeth.

Lady Elizabeth Montagu is dressed in the most incredibly elaborate costume, with a tall collared ruff, a remarkably revealing cleavage and a huge farthingale; Pevsner described her costume as ‘preposterous’. More humorously, a friend of mine suggested her outfit would make a perfect model for a toilet-roll holder. Regardless, the monument is generally well preserved.

Other monuments include a charming wall tablet to William Jefferay, (d. 1611) with his wife, attended by his two sons and seven daughters. The tablet records that all the children survived – a rarity in the 17th century. The eldest son, Thomas, emigrated to America in 1631 and is recorded as living in Weymouth, Connecticut in the New England registers.

In the nave floor is a brass commemorating John Jefferay, the first of the local Jefferay family, who died in 1512, and his wife Agnes. Other memorials include a fine polished black stone slab in the chancel to the Bromfield and French families, local iron-founders.

Other furnishings of note include the 18th century pulpit, its sounding board with an unusual ogee cap; and a rather intimidating 20th century carved wooden eagle lecturn, brought from a derelict church at South Heighton.

Chiddingly, near Lewes, East Sussex BN8 6HT

St Bartholomew, Chalvington

This little church, with its pretty weather-boarded bell turret, has a nave dating from the late 13th century, with windows mostly in the late Early English style, with simple bar tracery. The chancel dates from the 14th century and its windows have the more familiar Decorated Gothic form. Outside, the east and west walls of the nave are tile hung, and above the north doorway are fragments of Norman zig-zag carving.

The interior is unusual for the absence of a chancel arch - in fact the chancel walls project into the nave. The east end of the nave roof has a most complex arrangement of beams, with six braces attached to the easternmost king-post.

The most interesting features are the stained glass: in the curvilinear Decorated east window are 14th century fragments relating to the donor, the rector, Thomas Diliwyt, who held the living between 1388 and 1409. The glass includes the inscription: John Diliwyt Rector Huise Ecclesie Me Fieri Fecit. But better still are the remains in the south east nave window, which depict St Thomas a Becket, dressed as a Bishop, his right hand raised in blessing and his left holding a crozier, with the letters ‘S. T.OM.AS’. This glass is thought to be late 13th century, making it the oldest in East Sussex.

Church Farm Lane, Chalvington, Hailsham, East Sussex BN27 3TD

St John the Baptist, Ripe

Ripe is an exceptionally pretty village, complete with pub and village shop. The church is set at one end of the village, overlooked by two impressive houses and the junior school.


The village is mentioned in the Domesday Book, appearing as Achiltone, with various spellings. Although there was certainly a church here in the 11th and 12th centuries, the present nave and south porch date from the 13th, with a late Decorated chancel (c. 1350) and a fine Perpendicular tower, which bears the buckles of the Pelham family as label stops, indicating their patronage.

The church

The interior is exceptionally attractive, and all eyes are immediately drawn to the east window, with its beautiful curvilinear tracery. The north-east corner of the nave retains the two doors of a staircase that once led to the rood loft, and between them and the chancel arch is a delicate Decorated arch indicating the site of a nave altar, with a plainer matching one on the south side; records legacies left for two altars, one to St John and St Dominic, and one to Our Lady of Pity. To the west, the tower has a very handsome Perpendicular window.

Furnishings of note include a much restored late 13th or early 14th century font, a fine sedile and piscina in the chancel, and substantial fragments of mediaeval glass in the otherwise clear east window. The outside door jambs of the south door are worth a look for their graffiti, which include a votive cross on the east jamb, and a heraldic shield with three Pelham buckles on the west jamb.

Outside, there are some fine 18th century headstones with fearsome skulls, and in the west graveyard is the grave of Malcolm Lowry (1909-1957), the troubled writer best known for his novel ‘Under the Volcano’, who died while living in a boarding house in the village.

Church Lane, Ripe, Lewes, East Sussex BN8 6AU

All Saints, Laughton, Sussex

This pretty and unusually village church sits at the end of a long lane from the crossroads in the centre of the village, set in a spacious churchyard.


The area has been settled since Palaeolithic times, with a continuous history through the Bronze Age, Roman and Saxon periods. First mentioned in the Domesday book, it is probable that there was a church here in Saxon times.

The present building, however, is firmly 13th century, with a fine 15th century tower and chancel arch, and a chancel replaced in the 18th century, in an early example of the ‘Gothick’ style. The tower in particular is of interest, one of a number in the area financed by the local Pelham family, and the west door carries the distinctive ‘Pelham buckles’ as label stops – recalling the tradition that Sir John Pelham and another knight captured the French King at the battle of Poitiers in 1356, for which Pelham was awarded the buckle of the King’s sword belt.

The church

The church has a very wide, unaisled nave leading to a chancel in the east and the tower room in the west. Two lancet windows in the nave date it to the 13th century, but the others are later perpendicular Gothic, along with the tower and chancel arches. The nave roof has fine old tie-beams and king-posts.

The chancel is sizeable, square and rather bare inside; the east window is a decent attempt at Perpendicular, but the two south windows have very odd tracery, with round-headed arches with hexagonal upper lights. Between them is a priest’s door, framed on the outside by a most impressive ogee arch. Other external details of interest include large, diagonally set crocket pinnacles and a band of quatrefoils on the jambs.

Furnishings of note include two helms, one Tudor from about 1540, and one from about 1660. These may have carried at a knight’s funeral or hung above his tomb. Behind the altar, the screen incorporates the tracery of the mediaeval rood screen within more modern wooden panelling. There are piscinas and aumbries in the nave, indicating the place of nave altars.

Memorials of note include an impressive war memorial, and several to the Pelhams between the 17th and 19th centuries, including one to Sir James Pelham (1792-1873), Lord Mayor of London (1848), which includes a pretty carving of a ship, recalling his naval career.

Church Lane, Laughton, Lewes, East Sussex BN8 6AH