This pretty church is situated on a high part of the downs overlooking the English Channel.
The oldest part of the church is the nave, which dates from around 1050. There are two interesting features in the nave, which are remnants from the Norman building. These are the blocked up doorway in the south wall and a small high window also in the south wall. The doorway was the original entry to the church. At an early date, soon after the church was constructed, a western extension, marked by the huge beam supporting the bell cote was added, but this left the south door inconveniently located too far east. So it was blocked and the present one was made.
The roof timbers date from about 1450. The tie beam at the eastern end is deliberately bowed to give space for the Holy Rood, the figure of Christ on the Cross, which would have been attached to the king post which rises from the beam. Behind the pulpit, which dates from the reign of Queen Anne, are the remains of a piscina which indicates that a side altar stood here prior to the reformation. The ancient north door now opens into a modern vestry.
The font is small and shallow and was made by the Puritans. It is of sussex marble, sometimes called "winkle" stone as it contains fossil deposits.
The chancel was constructed c. 1300. It probably replaced an apse similar to those in Newhaven and East Dean. There is a low segmental arch giving entrance from the nave, and on either side of the Chancel are depressions in the wall. In the east wall over the altar is a recess, or aumbry. On either side of the altar are two projecting stone slabs which in mediaeval times would have supported images; typically of Christ and the patron saint of the church.
The lancet window on the south side contains glass depicting St James the Apostle (centre below), a gift of Lord Liverpool.
Here is the east window.
This window is in the north wall of the north transept depicts the annunciation. It is the work of a local artist, Marguerite Douglas Thompson and was installed in 1960.
The Selwyn transept was built in the middle of the 19th century by Miss Anne Gilbert, who lived at Birling Manor House, to give extra seating but also to accommodate the two large Selwyn monuments which had previously stood in the chancel, seriously reducing the space.
The monument above, and below, is in Alabaster and is a monument to Thomas Selwyn, who died 1613, and Elizabeth his wife and six daughters.
The porch is ancient, possibly pre-reformation, for it contains ancient graffitti. One of special interest is a mutilated carving of Christ on the cross. In a corner is a broken holy water stoup. The small bell-cote on the west gable contains one bell. It is inscribed "John Palmer made mee, 1651".
The churchyard gate is a tapsel gate, an old Sussex type.
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