The Parish Church of St Dunstan has a long and interesting history. In the year 960 St Dunstan, the great Saxon Archbishop of Canterbury, built a wooden church at Mayfield and a dwelling for himself next to it. This became a great palace, which is now a Catholic Convent and girl's school.
Between 1100 and 1200 the Normans replaced the wooden church with a stone building, which was, except for the tower, destroyed by a fire which consumed large parts of the village in 1389. A small section of the west wall (including the stonework of the lancet window, pictured) and the foundations of the north wall survived the rebuilding.
The church was rebuilt in the Perpendicular style, the chancel first. The arcades in the nave have four and a half bays, it is possible this was necessary to join the new chancel with the old tower.
Lightening did further unspecified damage in 1621, and an alternative explanation for the unusual design of the arcades may be the subsequent repairs as the four centred arches and incomplete arches at the eastern ends do not accord with known late 14th century work.
The glass in the lancet window was given in 1907 by the Rev. Reginald Rivers Kirby, vicar of Hadlow Down and son and brother of Mayfield vicars. The design, depicting St Dunstan, is taken from an ancient drawing in the British Museum and was made by Mater & Co. of London and Munich.
Here are two views of the nave, the first looking east into the chancel and the second looking back west towards the tower. This church is extremely attractive, light, well proportioned and a lovely place to spend some time.
The interior arch into the tower has been blocked by masonry, and above it may be seen the brick outline of what was probably the height of the original roof. The roof was raised and the clerestory added between 1503 and 1532, previously there was probably a single roof span covering the nave and the aisles. According to some sources the current roofs are Victorian.
There are two magnificent brass chandeliers hanging in the nave, visible in the above pictures. The one shown below is at the east end and is dated 1737 and was given to the church by George Baker (1676-1756). The one at the west end is smaller and used to hang in the chancel until 1965 when the were both converted to electricity. This second chandelier is dated 1773 and was given by George's son Thomas (1728-1782). It is believed that the chandeliers were placed in the church to illuminate the midnight funerals of the Baker family. It was customary in the 18th century for the aristocracy and richer families, who could afford candles, to have private funeral services after dark in the church, followed by a burial in the family vault beside the church. Each chandelier has a weighted balance device to allow them to be lowered, originally to light the candles, now to facilitate cleaning.
The dressed sandstone font has the initials of the vicar of Mayfield, Robert Peck, and two churchwardens, Thomas Day and Anthony White, carved on it together with the date 1666 - the year of the Great Fire of London. The font is typical of the date.
The organ is a replacement for the original 19th century instrument which was worn out and virtually unplayable before the fire of 1994 which completed the ruination and became the catalyst for replacement.
The organ was built by J W Walker & Sons and was installed in 1997. There are two manuals and pedal organ, twenty nine stops and over 1,800 pipes. An unusual feature s a cymbalstern, a revolving ring of tinkling bells, that is used on appropriate occasions such as Christmas.
The two windows below are in the south chapel, west of the porch. The first (in the south wall), shown on the left, is in memory of Sir Frederick Bourne who served in the China Consular Service before retiring to Mayfield. The window was designed by Christopher Webb, who insisted that windows should let in and not obscure the light. The Latin is translated as "Of such truly is the Kingdom of Heaven". The window was dedicated in 1950.
The window on the right (in the west wall) was designed by Frederick W Cole in memory of Sir John Glubb (Glubb Pash) who commanded the Arab Legion and the from 1946 the Jordan Army. He retired to Mayfield where he was a churchwarden to St Dunstan's for fifteen years. King Hussein and Queen Noor of Jordan attended the dedication of this window in 1993. Sir John's coat-of-arms is at the top of the window.
The memorial by the south door, pictured below, is in memory of Thomas and Katherine Aynscombe and was probably carved after 1620 by Nicholas Stone. The Aynscombes were a Mayfield family who had lived at Aylwyns since at least 1422. He was Reader at the Inner Temple as well as Clerk of the Peace for Sussex and a Justice of the Peace.
From the 1882 Kelly's directory:
"The church of St. Dunstan is spacious and chiefly of the Perpendicular period, consisting of chancel, and nave and a tower containing 6 bells: in the church are monuments to the Baker family, and in the south aisle memorial windows to the Rev. John Kirby M.A. thirty years vicar of the parish who died in 1811 and to his son tile Rev, John Kirby, M.A. who was vicar thirty-four years and died in 1844; there are also monuments to the Aynscombe and Sands families and several others of iron, cast at Huggett's furnace, to the family of Sands: the chancel has four windows of Munich glass and there is a pulpit of carved oak and a stone font, dated 1666. The register dates from the year 1570. The living is a vicarage, gross yearly value £800, with residence and 52 acres of glebe, in the gift of and held, since 1845, by the Rev. Henry Thomas Murdoch Kirby M.A. of St. John's College, Cambridge."
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