To quote the church guide book:
"For something like a thousand years a church has stood on this site, serving not only as a centre of Christian Worship but also as the focus for many other aspects of the life of our town and parish."
When I visited the east end of the church was encased in scaffolding for restoration work. Although the tower of St Swithun's dominates the skyline of East Grinstead, owing to the closeness of buildings and trees it is remarkably difficult to photograph!
Pictures from the late eighteenth century show that a church of largely fourteenth and fifteenth century style stood here until 1785 when the collapse of its tower, which had been poorly rebuilt after being struck by lightning in 1684, made the present building necessary.
A national appeal for funds (a 'brief') raised £516 in 1788. Building began the next year but the money ran out when little more than the walls had been constructed. An Act of Parliament was therefore obtained authorising trustees to levy rates and raise loans. By 1793 the church was in use but in 1811 a further Act was necessary to pay off loans of £4000 and to raise as much again to build the tower, a task completed the following year. By the time the final load repayments were made, in 1876, the church had cost some £30,000.
Here are two views of the church interior, one looking east into the sanctuary, the other west towards the large pipe organ which has been installed on the west gallery.
The local gentry and tradesmen responsible for the construction were originally led by Gibbs Crawfurd, m.P., whose house, Saint Hill, was being built at the same time. It was probably he who secured one of the leading architects of the day, James Wyatt, to design the church, which is still much as he planned it. The main exception is the tower which was modified by William Inwood, a protégé of Charles Abbot, Speaker of the House of Commons, who settled in Kidbrooke, Forest Row, in 1805 and soon came to the fore in the rebuilding work.
At this date it would have been usual for a church to be classical in style, with an open hall without dividing columns. It would be roofed by a plaster decorated barrel vault. However at East Grinstead, Wyatt combined the requirements of the Church at the time with a respect for the earlier traditional mediaeval church on the site, demonstrating remarkable sensitivity a generation before the rise of Gothic Revival. So, for example, his pillars are much like those in the previous church and he provided a small structural chancel.
Here are the font and attractively carved pulpit.
A programme of restoration in 1874 left the interior much as it can be seen today. Wyatt's plastered panelling was removed from the walls, his flat ceiling was taken down and one bay of the nave was converted into a choir. In addition the present seating was installed at this time. The shields of local families on the ends of the pews were carved by East Grinstead boy scouts in the 1930s. The kneelers were embroidered by parishioners in the 1980s.
The present roof was installed in 1876 at which time stained glass began to be installed in the windows.
This grave slab is set into the nave floor and was found in a garden near the church. It was placed here by the care and at the expense of Mr W.V.K, Stenning A.D. 1881 and it the oldest dated example in Sussex.
"HERE LYETH ANNE BARCLEY SOMETYME
WYFE UNTO HENRY BARCLEY DOCTOR OF
LAWE DECEASSED THE 12 OF MAY 1570"
At the eastern end of the north aisle is the Nativity Chapel, where the console for the organ is also located.
At the eastern end of the south aisle is the Memorial Chapel which was designed by Arthur Blomfield in 1920. It commemorates the dead of both world wars. It contains the two windows below in the eastern wall, which depict St George and St Michael - in my opinion these are the most attractive windows in the church.
For those interested in the stained glass windows, there are photographs of the rest here, that is except the lovely circular windows in the clerestory which were too high to photograph easily!
This grave stone took my attention in the church yard - a heart with an arrow through it.
This final picture was taken from below the south wall looking up at the tower. The bells were recast in 1982, and later augmented to a peal of thirteen bells to commemorate the centenary of the Sussex Ringers' Association. This makes the peal the largest in the county. The clock in the tower dates from 1813.
The church is dedicated to St Swithun, bishop of Winchester, who died A.D. 862. It was traditionally dedicated to St Edmund King and Martyr. The church was given by Alured Pincerna c:1070-80, to the Priory of Lewes.
Visitors to this album since June 2003
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