Saturday, 15 September 2012

St Laurence, Telscombe

Telscombe is a hidden treasure. Although close to the dull suburban sprawl between Brighton and Newhaven, the little village and its ancient church nestle in a steep-sided valley, accessible only from the Ouse valley to the north.
Despite not being mentioned in Domesday, the church is recorded as being given to the monastery of Winchester  in the 10th century, a gift confirmed by King Edgar in 996 AD.
The basic form of the church is, however, 12th century: the nave and chancel date from the late 11th or early 12th century, and later in the 12th century the tower, north aisle and Lady Chapel were added. The 14th century provided the east window, and the 15th one of the south nave windows.
After that, the 19th century provided a modest restoration, which saw the north wall rebuilt, the chancel arch replaced, a porch added to the south and a matching vestry  to the north. The wall paintings were undertaken in 1905.
The Church
From the outside this is perfect, small village church. Sitting on a steep slope next to an old row of cottages (now the youth hostel), in summer, it is almost completely hidden by trees. The walls are flint, with simple stone dressings.
Inside, there are two sets of arcades, both with simple rounded arches. The nave arcade has simple round piers and plain capitals. The chancel arcade has been rebuilt, but again has round arches but this time the capitals have scallops and crocket leaf decoration. The east respond is clearly original.
The east chancel window is an early example of 14th century Decorated Gothic, as are the two lancets. The easternmost nave window dates from the 15th century, with a matching Victorian one further west. Possibly the only 12th century windows are in the west walls of the aisle and tower – two simple round-headed lancets.
Furnishings and fittings include a fine late 13th or 14th century font, decorated with pointed arches. The chancel has a kneeling desk incorporating 16th century bench ends, and above the south door is a fine 17th century Royal coat of arms. The chapel window contains coloured fragments of 14th century mediaeval glass.
The wall paintings on the chancel arch and east wall were undertaken in 1905; the church guide attributes their design to Clayton and Bell.
Although the parish has a population of just a couple of dozen, there is a regular Sunday service, attended mostly by people from Peacehaven.
Telscombe Village, East Sussex, BN7 3HY