Situated a short walk from the entrance to the famous castle, Pevensey parish church is appropriately dedicated to the patron saint of sailors.
The church remains, on the whole, an excellent example of Early English architecture, and its size reflects the importance of Pevensey at the time of its construction. The chancel was built first, followed by the nave and tower.
The Norman font, situated at the west end of the nave, is of Caen stone. The retractable canopy was carved by Mr Albert Vidler, of "The Gables", Pevensey, c. 1890. Two pillars, one each side of the front east end of the nave, contain rough hewn niches, cut into the stonework rather than created as part of the original design. Pre-reformation these would have contained religious images lit by candles held in sconces. The sconces have been removed but there are still some filled holes and one piece of remaining metal providing lasting evidence of their existence.
The tower was taken down to the 1st storey in the 19th century restorations and rebuilt with a further two storeys. A new shingled spire, higher than the original, was then built on top. The iron spiral staircase, in the north west corner of the tower lead to the bell chamber.
On the north wall, west of the main door, is the alabaster and marble monument shown below. It commemorates John Wheatley, a wealthy parishioner who, during the reign of Elizabeth I, contributed £40 to the cost of fitting out a ship in the port of Pevensey to fight the Spanish Armada. The coat of arms topping the monument have been restored and repainted - the two lions at the base predate the monument which prior to the 19th century restoration stood in the chancel, where the archway now leads to the vestry. It is probable that John Wheatley lived at "The Manor House", Pevensey, the foundations of which were unearthed, in June 2000, during an archaeological investigation.
The inscriptions on the monument read, (top) "To the memory of her worthy & deare beloved husband John Wheately, gent: sonne of Thomas Wheately of this parishe, gent: by Ione daughter of John Dunston of Cowfolde in this county, gent."; (lower left) "His sorrowful wife Elizabeth daughter of Michaell Smallpage Esq:r by Katherine daughter of William Devenish of Hellingly in this Cou:ty Esq:r in regard of his virtues & her love erected this monument." (lower right) "He died the 23rd day of Marche Ano: Domini 1616 leaving behind him Katherine, theire only daughter and heire."
The three lancet windows below depict three saints, St Nicholas, St Dunstan and St Wilfrid. St Nicholas (who was the Bishop of Myra and shown holding a pastoral staff and three golden balls symbolising his generosity to the poor) and St Wilfrid (the Patron Saint of the sister church at Pevensey Bay and shown holding a crosier and scallop shell) are to be found at the west end of the north and south aisles respectively. St Dunstan is in the north wall of the tower and is a memorial to George Penfold, headmaster of Pevensey School from 1888 to 1922 and also a master bellringer.
The north wall contains the latest stained glass window to be installed in the building, it is a 1950's memorial to members of the Boniface family.
The south wall of the south aisle contains two stained glass windows (below), which were installed by parishioners in memory of the Rev. Robert Sutton, Vicar of Pevensey and Archdeacon of Lewes. The most eastern one depicts the Angel's visitation to Mary and the other shows Mary Magdalene and the resurrection. All these pictures of the glass have been electronically corrected for perspective distortion.
Here are two pictures of the nave, looking east and west respectively. Unusually in this church, the nave is only 5' longer than the chancel at 60' long. Thi8s gives credence to the view that the the church was originally intended to have been extended to make the relative sizes into a more common relationship. This theory is also supported by the position of the tower, which had it been built in the more common position at the west end would have precluded any such extension. The nave, c. 1210, was built later than the chancel, c. 1205, and probably under the direction of a different architect.
In the eastern looking view, the deliberate offset between the chancel and nave, common in mediaeval churches, is obvious - this is said to create an illusion of greater length or to depict the position of Christ's head on the cross.
The wooden pulpit came from Chichester cathedral.
All the stained glass in the chancel is Victorian and forms a collective memorial to the family of Rev. Henry Browne, Vicar 1854 - 1875. The stained glass in the original lancets of the east window, below, is "To the Glory of God and to the beloved memory of Henry Browne, M.A., 30 years vicar of this parish and 28 years chaplain to Bp. Gilbert this window of the restored chancel is put up by parishioners and friends. He died June 19 1875 aged 71." The reference to the restored chancel is important because previously it had been divided from the nave by a crude wall across the chancel arch and used for general storage of implements and materials and as a stable for cattle and sheep which grazed in the churchyard. A drawing of the church, early 19th century, inside the front cover of the church guide, clearly shows the shorter tower, the chantry chapel (now the vestry) demolished, a general air of dilapidation and the east window of the chancel bricked up. The Victorians certainly saved this church from complete ruin!
The final picture shows the vestry and tower from the north east. The vestry was built on the foundations of a former north chapel, or chantry. The vestry also contains the pipe work for the organ; the console is situated on the sourth side of the chancel.
The original bell was inscribed "Roger Tapsell made me 1633"; the second: "William Hull made me 1676" and the third "Sit Nomen Domini Benedictum", meaning "Let the name of the Lord be praised". These bells were probably cast in the churchyard by travelling bell founders. By the time of the 19th century restoration, two of these bells were cracked and they were melted down. new metal, including, it is said, some silver, was added, and the present bells, making a ring of six, were cast. The bells weigh from 197 kilos (the 'Treble') to the Tenor at 396 kilos.
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