Sadly the church was locked on my first. However between the first and second visit we moved house to live close to Etchingham and made contact with then incumbent, Rev. Robert Dixon (who has since left the parish). He kindly gave us a tour of the building. I have recently been informed that the church is now to be open from 11.00am until 4.00pm on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays - you can find information on the church website http://www.etchinghamchurch.co.uk/.
This first photograph was taken from the north. At the east end, under the smaller north window of the chancel, can be seen roof corbels above the remains of a piscina and a blocked doorway This is all that remains of a small chantry chapel which once opened off the chancel. The smaller building under the central window is a small vestry built around 1860, later converted for use as a boiler room. It was damaged by fire in 1980 and the repair work included re-decoration of the chancel. Apart from these and minor changes and restorations by the Victorians, the building remains much as it was built.
The 14th century church was originally built, in the Decorated Style, within the grounds of the moated manor owned by Sir William de Echyngham. Evidence of the (now dry) moat can still be seen. It has been suggested that the draining of the moat caused the subsidence damage to the building - the many repairs and reinforcements, old and new, are evident, especially on the tower.
The present church replaced an earlier building as there is documentary evidence in the form of details of incumbents and also the inscription on the founder's brass refers to him building the church anew.
The church has a number of notable features including probably the oldest brass weathervane in England still in its original position, the weathervane depicts the coat of arms of the De Etchingham family. The enormous tower contains a solitary bell, dated 1632 and inscribed "John Wilmer made me".
Here are two views of the nave and chancel, the first looking east, the second west. The arcades are supported by octagonal columns. The massive arches supporting the tower are higher to the east and west than those on the north and south. In 1937 the tower was underpinned using piles sunk into the ground and jacked upright to correct the aforementioned subsidence. Other measures included filling the vaults under the nave with concrete, after the coffins in them had been reburied in the churchyard.
I have been told that the holes visible around the underneath of the choir stalls are an early form of amplification contrivance, and may originally have had jars mounted behind them to amplify the singing of the choir, much like the sound box of acoustic musical instruments.
A few of the original encaustic floor tiles remain in the chancel and on the floor under the tower (adjacent to the chancel), pictured below. The Victorian replacements elsewhere copy the original designs but to my taste are too bright and perfect to suit this ancient building.
Here is a view of the chancel. For more information and pictures of the large brass memorials in the floor (as well as other memorials in the church), click here or on the picture below. High on the north wall above the chancel screen is a wooden door. The guide says that prior to 1856 a wooden staircase up to this door gave access to the belfry - however I would think it likely, as there is a stone stair turret all the way up the tower, that this door was originally designed to give access to a former rood loft from the tower.
The oak reredos was given to the church by the Russell family in memory of Thomas Russell. The three seater sedilia and piscina are in their usual place on the south wall.
Etchingham church is renowned for the misericords in the choir stalls. Click here or on the example below to see more photographs of these fabulous treasures.
To see images of the stained glass windows in the church click here, or on the window detail image below.
On the north wall hangs a large reproduction of Ruben's Antwerp Cathedral triptych of the Descent from the Cross, which was painted in 1612.
The font, Early English in style, is probably from the earlier building. It comprises a sandstone bowl on a Purbeck marble composite column.
The 19th century organ is by Marley, Young and Oldnow of London.
The war memorial stands in front of the south door.
This heavily decorated gravestone caught my eye. More memorials have been recorded on the Sussex OPC website.
The information on this and the other Etchingham pages was gleaned from a guidebook available in the church copiled by Ilse M Baker BA in 1983, revised in 1994 and from other reference books.
Visitors to this album since June 2003
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