Churches in Sussex


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Twineham Church Gallery 2001

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THE ancient Sussex churches follow a distinctly primitive model, that is easily traced to the earliest examples, so many of which in an unaltered form still remain in the smaller villages.

A considerable variety in the general proportion of these buildings is observed, from the shortness and rather Italian appearance of Clayton, and the former nave of Hurstpierpoint, to the more lengthy nave and relatively shorter chancel of Lyminster ; this latter proportion was generally still retained, even where, as at West Tarring, the whole building underwent complete transformation in the thirteenth century style. Single apartment churches, like Aldrington was and is again, are unusual. Hove Old Church, as badly re-designed by Bassevi, nevertheless still shows the common Sussex proportions.

Twineham Church is quite isolated, indeed a sign-post is encountered directing the traveller to " Twineham Church only; " the building consists of nave and chancel with western tower, and a modern annexe to the north; 74 feet in total length; the whole constructed of bricks of the small sixteenth century description, bonded in the English manner, with the use of closers at the angles; notwithstanding, the perpents are badly observed and led to straight joints in places, with consequent breaking of the bond; the whole fabric retains early mediaeval proportions.

The manufacture of brick never entirely died out in the places where it had been carried on by the Romans; at Hull the fourteenth century brick chancel was looked upon as a luxury and not a structure of mean material.

Elaborated brick churches are found in Essex, as at Bricksmealy, with brick font; and Tonge Church, Kent, was repaired with bricks in the latest Tudor period.

After passing Guldford Church, in this county, which has become a singular object, the first of the Kent churches in that direction-Fairfield-is seen, having steep roofs, a long low chancel and western engaged turret. So essentially a rnediaeval outline was long mistaken for a comparatively modern fabric on account of its brick walls, but these were merely built up to the ancient roofs, which were originally supported by post and pane work, one of the posts being still retained, the inside turret entire with square framing.

Having wandered a long way from Twineham, let us return and see how it compares with Fairfield. Twineham, as already stated, bears a distinctly early mediaeval outline, and yet its architectural forms, viz., the tower and chancel arches, window heads, &c., have a nondescript character approaching four-centre outline. The framing of the roofs is of the simple truss-rafter type with ashlar-pieces over the walls, which are thick; these roofs are probably not older than the walls; the cross tie over the chancel arch has been in previous use; the " thacking " is with Horsham slatts. The porch is post and pane work, and, together with its roof, is earlier than the church. The question arises, why was a new church required in the sixteenth century and where are the materials of the old church, which had a Rector in the thirteenth century ? There are no old worked stones in the present church, or lying about in the hamlets that compose the parish; and we must always bear in mind the total demolition of a church was very rare indeed; an accidental fire would hardly injure the walls. In the absence then of any traces of a masonry church such as Hardham, &c., we may infer that, like the porch, the whole church was of post and pane work, such as the chancel at Newland and the entire church at Besford, both in Worcestershire; ancient timber churches also appear in Cheshire, e.g., Nether Peover, &c., and until recent years Saunderton Church, Bucks, preserved its timber chancel arch, composed of two long curved beams, together with the septum wall and part of the roof, which had belonged to a timber-framed church exclusively till the fourteenth century. The south side of the chancel at Twineham has the sill of its westernmost window slightly lower than the other. The Reverend E. Creswell Gee, whilst Rector there, says he was informed that the shutter found in Priest's windows formerly existed ; if this were the case, all traces of it have been cut away by the modern glazier.

The general effect of the interior is still very good, the Lord's table having been kept at its proper level. The rood screen and loft, when present, were lighted by a specially arranged obliquely splayed window on the north. Jacobean panelling of the usual arched form now encloses the south-east corner of the nave, where was formerly an altar enclosure. The window over this part contains a border-piece of painted glass, looking like fifteenth century work, charged with the coat armour de la Warr. The pulpit is in sixteenth century character. The more ancient bells are also sixteenth century (local tradition refers to A.D. 1516 as the actual date of the re-building). The font appears to be of the thirteenth century ; its lead lining has an indent of the cross fylfot, or potent repotent. Over the chancel arch is a framed oil-painting presented of late years-The Holy Family, by Camillo Procaccini. Tracing church fabrics back to their wooden origins is perhaps a novelty ; but now and again, even in large examples, some feature has survived which enables this to be done.

From Sussex Archaeological Collections LIX, MCMXVIII
Reproduced by courtesy of the Sussex Archaeological Society (SAS). 
SAS grants this licence for the stated purpose in respect of such rights as SAS may have over the articles, 
but those rights may not include the author's copyright in the words and/or images.

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Last modified: 20 February 2010