The parish church is not mentioned in the Domesday Book, but a stone church was here from a very early date as the tower shows traces of late Saxon or Norman work. The present building was completed c.1230 and the unusual dedication is post-reformation, prior to which it was simply dedicated to Our Lady St. Mary. The nave roof is covered in Horsham Stone. For many years the roof was an all over cat-slide roof, covering nave and aisles, and pictures from 1805 show that this hid the clerestory windows. These, revealed during the restoration of 1880 (under the supervision of the architect John Oldrid Scott), are of the Decorated period. In June 1965 an area of the nave roof on the south side was damaged when an area of the Horsham stone became detached and slipped off. This required the stripping and re-hanging of all the stone of this side of the roof.
A shallow Norman buttress is still perfect on the north side of the tower where it can be seen embedded into the wall of the aisle. The large butresses on the west side were added c. 1340. The northern wall is more than 12 inches off square with the other sides. Comprising two stories, the tower has a single plain round-headed light in each of the north, south and west sides in the lower stage and at the belfry level are double, wide headed, openings of original Norman overlap work. The eastern opening can now only be seen from inside the church following the raising of the nave roof in the 14th century. The spire was probably first erected in 1340 and the whole of the tower floors and spire itself are carried on an independent timber frame built inside the earlier stone walls of the tower.
The tower contains a peal of eight bells, two new ones having been added in 1949.
The Perpendicular porch is early 15th century and has a Horsham stone roof and small square-headed windows on each side. It also contains a small holy water stoup. The oak door leading into the church is 15th century and is hung on Sussex wrought iron hinges as are all the doors in the building.
This fine example of the arms of the Stuart Kings is thought to be of the reign of James I. It shows the quartered arms of England, France, Scotland and Ireland, surrounded by the insignia of the Order of the Garter. It is carved from oak and the parts fastened together with hand-wrought iron rivets. Henry VIII ordered Royal Arms to be displayed in all churches to signify his headship of the church, and there are many examples all over the country dating from Tudor times to the present day. This example, previously coated with brown varnish, was cleaned and repainted in 1965. It hangs over the north door.
Here are two views of the nave, the first looking west, the second east. I love the sunlight on the walls and the rich colours of the stonework. The level of the capitals on the piers and the apex of the arches rise from the west to the east, indicating that the nave floor once rose from west to east in a steady incline. The original Norman church was probably the length of the present nave and the width to the present piers. There is a fragment of a blocked window from this period above the arch of the most westerly of the southerly arches (visible in the photograph below).
Click here for more pictures and information about the windows in the nave.
Click here for more pictures and information about the windows in the aisles.
These two hatchments hang either side of the south door - the first on the west, the second the east.
These two hang on the north wall, the first at towards the west, the second the east. All four are of the Sheffield family: Lucy, daughter of Thomas first Earl of Chichester; Abigail, wife of the first Earl of Sheffield and daughter of the first Earl of Guildford; an unidentified lady; and John Baker Holroyd first Earl of Sheffield.
Here are the two transepts, the south and the north - both are viewed across the nave from the opposite side of the church. They were part of the general rebuilding in Early English style in the 13th century.
Click here for more pictures and information about the windows in the transepts.
The north transept was converted to a chantry chapel probably occurred about 1340, and a door, now blocked, was opened in the west wall to give access without having to enter the church. This transept also contains a squint to the high altar and a Decorated Piscina between the two Early English windows. The Piscina has a circular drain and a large recess. The hood-mould at its apex is made into a small stone bracket with a flat top for an effigy - an unusual feature. The date is thought to be c1340 and its position tells of an adjacent altar. The chapel was restored to its original use in 1965.
The mausoleum for the Earls of Sheffield family was added in the same style in the late 18th century, being built by John Baker Holroyd, the first Earl of Sheffield. Also buried in the mausoleum is Edward GIBBON, author of 'The Decline and Fall of The Roman Empire', a close friend of the first Earl.
The south transept also houses some important monuments and brasses.
This colossal tomb is of Richard Leche, who died in 1596.
The brass shown below is to a member of the Dalyngrygge family and his wife, c.1380. It is probably attributable to Sir Walter of that name. The man is depicted in full armour of the mixed mail and plate period, hands together in prayer, feet resting upon a lion. His lady wears a long kirtle under a mantle, and has a small dog at her feet and this indicates the true date. The figures are under a double canopy with emblems (missing), side shafts, and unusually, with a central shaft between the two figures. There was once a stone canopy over the monument, probably fan-vaulted and richly coloured with mediaeval paint, but it was neglected and in a poor state of repair and fell to destruction after 1820 and was lost. There is remaining a large stone crest of the family, a unicorn's head surmounting a helmet, over a shield bearing a cross engrailed. The family built Bodiam Castle with the approval of Richard II and the unicorn head is over the castle gate.
The image of the brass has been corrected for perspective distortion - I didn't hover over it to take the picture!
Here are two closer pictures of the funerary armour that are mounted above each of the transept arches, north and south respectively. By the number of webs, perhaps the spiders prefer the warmer southern wall?! The armour dates from about 1720 and are from the Nevill family, the Earls of Abergavenny, who were once Lords of the manor. They were restored in 1965 by the Master of Armouries of the Tower of London.
The huge font is situated at the west end of the nave in front of the very high west door. The pulpit is Jacobean, dating from about 1660.
The chancel is four feet wider than the nave - an unusual characteristic. It is also very long (50'). The construction of the vestry on the north side in c1880 destroyed the centre pair of windows on that side, where the organ is now situated. The organ, whose exterior pipes are painted an unusual blood red, is a two manual instrument built by Foster and Andrews in 1881. In 1973 it was dismantled and overhauled at a cost of £3000.
Click here for more pictures and information about the windows in the chancel, including the large and beautiful east window.
There is a priest's door in the south wall, built under the string course of roll-moulding which encircles the chancel. The piscina and sedilia are modern, replacing the former mediaeval work.
The 'rood' chancel screen of heavy and detailed work of varying dates. In original state it was a good Perpendicular screen from the early 15th century.
All above are digital photographs
During the summer vacations whilst at University I several times accommodated groups of my friends in my parents house for house parties. During these times we often visited local villages and other attractions. Here we are in Fletching in August 1980 en route to the Bluebell Railway.
Left to right, Teknee Chang, Andrian Roberts, Agnes Lee, Phil Stanmore, Keith Perry and Helen Stanyon.
Scanned 35mm slide
The historical notes on this page were obtained mainly from the excellent guide for sale in the church "Fletching, The Parish & Church, 4th edition, December 1998, by B W Howe" and from notices in the church.
From the 1882 Kelly's Directory:
"Fletching is a parish 4 miles north-west from Uckfield, 10 1/2 north-east from Lewes and 40 from London, in the Eastern division of the county, Rushmonden hundred, Uckfield union, Pevensey rape, Lewes county court district, rural deanery of Pevensey, No. 3, archdeaconry of Lewes and diocese of Chichester. A station, called Sheffield Bridges, will shortly (1882) be opened on the branch line from East Grinstead to Lewes, in connection with the London, Brighton and South Coast railway, a portion of the line extending from East Grinstead to the main line. The area is 8,463 acres, a great portion of which is wood and common land; rateable value, £8,917; and the population in 1881 was 2,213."
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