Church of the Transfiguration, Pyecombe, West Sussex - 18th January 2004

The church was largely built in 1170, the tower following a century later in traditional Norman village style.  It stands on the ancient prehistoric track along the South Downs from Stonehenge.  After the murder of Thomas--Becket in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170 it was also on a main pilgrim's route to the Saint's shrine.

Church of the Transfiguraton, Pyecombe, West Sussex - 18th January 2004 - MTC

In 1603 a particularly bad outbreak of the plague drove the villagers to resettle a mile further north, and the village remains in two halves to this day.  The original dedication of the church was lost.

In the old forge, opposite the church, the famous Pyecombe shepherd's crooks were made for two hundred years until the mid 1970's.  Many bishops all over the world carry a Pyecombe crook as his crozier, or pastoral staff.

The chancel arch is Norman (1170), the two side arches are modern additions.  The two pictures below show the interior of the building, firstly looking east from the base of the tower and secondly looking west from the chancel.

Nave, looking east, Church of the Transfiguraton, Pyecombe, West Sussex - 18th January 2004 - MTCNave, looking west, Church of the Transfiguraton, Pyecombe, West Sussex - 18th January 2004 - MTC

The pulpit carries the date 1636 and was made in 1898 from the original Jacobean 'three tiers' pulpit, as was the rector's stall.

The sanctuary is paved with 13th century encaustic tiles, some with well preserved motifs such as birds, running stag and hound.  The tiles were made by craftsmen from the famed Lewes priory.  Modern encaustic tiles were laid in the base of the tower in 1995 following the relocation of the organ to the end of the nave (which also exposed the west window which had been blocked by the organ). 

The organ is a Victorian Tracker Organ which was acquired in 1952.  The superb Norman font made of lead in 1170 is one of only three in Sussex, the others are at Edburton and Parham.  It is made from a strip of lead formed into a circle and joined by a seam, which is still visible.  The traces of whitewash still to be seen on the font were to disguise the lead during the 1645 Civil War to prevent it being melted down to make bullets.

West window, Church of the Transfiguraton, Pyecombe, West Sussex - 18th January 2004 - MTCFont, Church of the Transfiguraton, Pyecombe, West Sussex - 18th January 2004 - MTCOrgan, Church of the Transfiguraton, Pyecombe, West Sussex - 18th January 2004 - MTC

The tower is early 13th century and contains one bell from the 15th century which is dedicated to St Katherine. It was cast by William Chamberlain of Aldgate, second master founder of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry.  It is thought that sometime in the past two other bells were given to the next village, Clayton, as a payment of a debt.  The tower is topped with a pyramidal clay-tiles wooden roof, known as a 'Sussex Cap'.  These are uncommon in counties other than Sussex.

The 14th century porch is roofed with enormous Horsham slab stone tiles.

The south doorway is now blocked, but is still faced on the outside with the pebble dash with which the whole church was encased in 1898.  The caused great problems with damp as it prevented the walls breathing and covered the lovely flint work - it has been removed on the rest of the building.

Window, Church of the Transfiguraton, Pyecombe, West Sussex - 18th January 2004 - MTCWindow, Church of the Transfiguraton, Pyecombe, West Sussex - 18th January 2004 - MTCBlocked south door, Church of the Transfiguraton, Pyecombe, West Sussex - 18th January 2004 - MTCEast window, Church of the Transfiguraton, Pyecombe, West Sussex - 18th January 2004 - MTC

In the graveyard, near the porch are some very early thick, low 'sarsen' gravestones.  There are also several 18th century gravestones along the path which leads out of the churchyard through a "Tapsel gate".  These centrally pivoted gates are only found in Sussex.  Other examples are at Kingston near Lewes, Friston, East Dean and Coombes.  Tapsel may well be the name of a local family of craftsmen.

The final photo is the north side of the building showing the vestry (nearest camera) and the north porch.

North side, Church of the Transfiguraton, Pyecombe, West Sussex - 18th January 2004 - MTC

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