Tuesday, 3 May 2011

St Peter, Chailey

Although Chailey is recorded in the Domesday Book, the first reference to the church is in a 13th century will of one Richard de Plaiz in 1269. The chancel, with its lancet windows dates from the 13th century, as does the tower, and there is 14th century work in the south aisle. It was substantially enlarged with the addition of a new north aisle in 1846, and a further north aisle was added in 1878.

The dominant feature from outside is the robust tower, capped by a substantial pyramidal cap. The chancel shows evidence of Victorian restoration, but the three northern lancets and east window are from the original 13th century design. The south aisle is believed to date from around 1350, and contained a gallery used by the servants of the Hooke and Ades estates, removed in 1878.

Two of the most interesting features can be seen in the chancel, where the shafts of the rere-arches of two of the north wall lancets have interesting capitals: the westernmost one shows a ‘Green Man’, spewing foliage from his mouth, while the easternmost has two entwined serpents biting each other. Four of the tower’s bells date from 1737, with additional bells cast in 1818 and 1882.

Chailey Green, Chailey, Lewes, East Sussex BN8 4DA

St Mary, Newick

St Mary’s is one of those churches which rewards careful study, of what is an unusually complex building history. Tucked off a lane to the east of the present (and very modern) expanse of the village, it has a lovely churchyard overlooking fields, sheltered by two particularly fine cedars.

The oldest part of the present building is the south nave wall, either side of the porch, which contains an original round-headed window. The church guide dates this to around 1080. The porch and tower are also mediaeval, the porch from around 1400 (still with some original roof timbers) and the tower a robust 15th century Perpendicular design with angled buttresses. In 1836 a north aisle was added.

However, in 1886-7, under the careful and sympathetic guidance of John Oldrid Scott (1841-1931), the chancel was taken down and rebuilt further east, and both the nave and north aisle were extended to match, doubling its size and altering its proportions from those of a humble village church to the impressive building we see today. Thus the chancel, although largely Victorian, retains late 13th century details in the bar tracery of three of its windows (a fourth was reset in the choir vestry).

Many of the most distinctive features belong to Scott’s work: at the east end of the north aisle, an unusual setting of twin gothic arches leads to the choir vestry. More impressive still is the chancel itself. This has a complete Victorian decorative scheme of high quality, with elaborate and rare encaustic wall tiling, above which are walls patterned with stencil designs, all covered with a wagon roof, also with stencil designs. Further decorative work is found in the beautiful, delicate wrought iron chancel gates.

The other furnishings of note are pre-Victorian, and include fragments of mediaeval stained glass in the chancel windows, a Decorated Gothic font with ogee panels, and a dignified Jacobean pulpit topped with a sounding board.

Church Road, Newick, Lewes, East Sussex BN8 4JZ