All About Ticehurst, Flimwell and Stonegate
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St Mary the Virgin Ticehurst
A Short History and Guide - 14th – 21st Centuries
In the year 1018 King Cnut made a grant to Aelfstan, Archbishop of Canterbury of “…a certain little woodland pasture in the famous wood of Andredeswealde, which is commonly called Haeselersc …” The name survives today as Hazelhurst Farm in Ticehurst parish. The Domesday Survey which started in 1086 does not mention Ticehurst, but refers to “Hasslesse” (again Hazelhurst).
The earliest reference to Ticehurst is in a document of 1180 relating to Combwell Priory and mentions “Adam, Presbyter de Tychenherste”. In 1197 the church at Ticehurst is confirmed as coming under Hastings Priory.
No records of the building of the present church have been traced, but from the style of the architecture it is calculated that much of it dates from the 14th C. The arms of the Etchingham family appear in the stonework of the porch ceiling and in a stained glass window. As they were responsible for the rebuilding of Etchingham church (completed 1363) it is thought likely that they were responsible for similar work at Ticehurst.
Early records of the history of the church are few, however the Parish Registers from 1559 to the present day (apart from the Cromwell era – 1641-53) are now in the care of the County Records Office at Lewes. The names of the Vicars are known from early in the 15th C. and are listed in the church.
During the 18th C. the church seems to have been well looked after, but in the first half of the 19th C. there was serious neglect until the arrival of the Revd. Arthur Eden in 1851, who found it in a very dilapidated state. In 1856 he supervised the rebuilding of much of the chancel and its windows, as well as the window traceries in the nave, all at a cost of £1,309, which he raised by public subscription. The old square box pews were replaced by the current ones, and a south porch opposite the north porch was removed with the doorway replaced by the current children’s window. Much of the rest of the stained glass in the church was also put in during the second half of the 19th C.
The 20th C. saw a series of maintenance, repair and restoration works as is necessary for a Grade II* listed building (i.e. one of ‘National Importance’). In 1949 this included the removal of the bells for tuning and re-hanging on new bearings. In 1972 some £9,000 was spent on exterior stonework and treatment of timbers. The great storm of 1987 resulted in over £15,000 worth of work on some roofs. In 1990 substantial work costing some £20,000 was carried out to provide a new ringing chamber, structural repairs to the stonework and reordering of vestries and chapels. A further £30,000 was spent on the roofs in 2001.
St. Mary’s Churchyard probably dates back to before the Norman Conquest and the ground surrounding the church would have been buried-over many times in the following millennium. As full a list as possible of memorials and identified graves is kept in the church, the earliest of which is 1490 but registers of burials only date back to 1560. Much of the churchyard is now closed to new burials. The Garden of Remembrance for the interment of Ashes was consecrated in 1962, while the Book of Remembrance (in the Courthope Chapel) was started in 1969.
Tour of the Church
Outside: The Tower is the oldest and least altered part of the building, most of it being of 13th century origin, although the west window and the arch of the west door are in the ‘Decorated’ style of the 14th C. The Tower is topped by a shingled pitched roof known as a ‘Sussex Cap’.
The clock on the north face of the tower dates from 1835, although it is thought
that there were two earlier clocks one of 1692 which replaced an even earlier
one. There are also the faint remains of a Mass sundial in one of the stones
of the buttress at the south-west corner of the nave, which in pre-Reformation
times showed the times at which Mass was said. All walls are well supported
by buttresses, which contribute to the sturdy appearance of the whole building.
The stone tracery of the building’s windows are of the 14th C. in either ‘Decorated’
or ‘Perpendicular’ styles although those of the chancel and the north or Courthope
chapel are faithful ‘Perpendicular’ reproductions made when the chancel was
largely rebuilt in 1856.
Porch: Over the entrance of the porch there is a modern carved stone figure of the Virgin Mary placed there in 1970 as a memorial and filling the niche which had been empty since Puritan agitation in the 17th C. The entrance is through a slightly pointed arch in the late 14th C. style. Inside there is an interesting vaulted roof meeting at the Etchingham family shield. On the east wall are boards with the Roll of Honour of all those people of the village who served in HM Forces during the two world wars. The memorials of those who died are inside the church.
On entering the Nave from the north porch one can see to the left, through the arch and carved Rood Screen, the Chancel flanked by the North and South Chapels and beyond it the Sanctuary under the big East Window. To the right looking through the Tower arch is the bell ringing platform with the big West Window beyond, and below it the screen of the choir vestry.
The roofs of the Nave and the North and South Chapels are supported by crown posts on tie beams, which are 8.5 metres from the ground.
Throughout the church there are memorials set in the floor or on the walls, and many of the artefacts in the church were also given in memory of loved ones. (A full list of memorials and identified graves in the church and churchyard is available in the Visitors’ Corner.)
The pews in the church have kneelers mounted on platforms over the central heating pipes. In 1981 Mrs Jean Williams the wife of the newly arrived vicar suggested, and then organised, the decoration of the kneelers, which have continued since then to be designed, stitched and fitted by people of the village. The many varied subjects are depicted in needlepoint (canvas work) and are described in detail in the Visitors’ Corner.
The Font at the south end of the cross aisle has a fine carved oak cover of 16th C. origin. There are eight panels, four of which open on hinges, and all are carved with delicate designs of the period. (The top is modern.) The remains of the inscription on the plinth read ‘God’ and ‘Elizabeth Chefe’. (NB. John Sheffe married Elizabeth Swattynge in the church on 17 September 1581.) The Pulpit was erected in 1856 and replaced one of the old ‘three decker’ type.
War Memorials: These are on the north and south pillars of the chancel arch. To the left is that listing the 62 men of Ticehurst who died in the Great War (1914-19) and to the right the 20 of the 2nd World War (1939-45)
The Rood Screen. Above the 1st War’s Memorial is an opening which is all that remains of the stairs to the Rood Gallery across the entrance of the chancel which would have supported the ‘rood’ (a crucifix), and was probably demolished late in the 16th C. The modern screen and cross was carved at Frant and erected in 1916.
The Lectern and Choir Stalls were made by Robert Thompson of Kilburn, North Yorkshire, each with his trade mark signature of a carved mouse, and installed in 1964. The reredos over the altar was by Martin Travers and was installed as part of a restoration of the sanctuary in 1947.
The East Window: In 1856 the stonework of the window was restored and in 1897 the glass in the window was replaced by the present stained glass, the central light having gained first prize at the Paris Exhibition of the year before. Some of the original medieval glass was re-used in the window in the north wall of the sanctuary, where the lower left quarter is a remarkable 14th C. ‘Doom’ picture showing sinners being taken down to hell, including a bishop, a king and a pope! The remaining fragments were used in the window at the west end of the north aisle.
To the south of the chancel is the former Pashley chapel, now housing the organ
and vicar’s vestry. There are no memorials to the Pashley family but there are
to the Mays who owned Pashley Manor from 16th to 19th C. The present organ made
by Norman and Beard, was erected in 1909, but included pipe-work from the previous
one by J.W. Walker supplied in 1866.
To the north of the chancel is the Courthope Chapel, named for the Courthope family who had a 400 year connection with Whiligh, an estate on the Wadhurst side of the parish, many of whose members are buried beneath the chapel in the family vault, which is now sealed.
The north aisle contains a plaque and window in memory of The Revd. Arthur Eden, who was the much loved and greatly respected vicar of this parish for 57 years, and who arranged all the restorations to the church in the second half of the 19th C. The four black and gold panels on the north wall display The Creed, The Ten Commandments and The Lords Prayer and are dated 1764.
Above the north door (the usual entrance to the church) at the top of the modern oak staircase (1992) is a small door giving access to the Porch Chamber or ‘priest’s room’, which has had a variety of uses including serving as a prison, a vestry and Sunday School, but is now used for storage.
In the south aisle near the Visitors’ Information Corner there is as full a list as possible of the vicars of Ticehurst, from ‘Adam, Presbyter of Tychenerste’ of 1180 to the present day. The window facing the cross aisle is the children’s window.
The Tower: The west walls either side of the tower and the base of the tower are probably among the few remaining parts of the 13th C. building. Beneath the great arch separating the lower floors of the Tower from the nave is a panelled wooden screen with ornamental glass (c.1893) forming the front wall of the choir vestry. Above it is a modern oak glazed panel enclosing the ringing platform in front of the big west window. The West Window required major repair in 1985 and the badly faded face of the upper right hand figure (St Mark) was renewed using that of The Revd. Arthur Eden (see above). Above the ringing platform are hung six bells made in 1771 by Thomas Jannaway of Chelsea, although there were bells in the tower as early as 1542. They were last tuned and re-hung in 1950, and are rung every Sunday.
For over seven centuries this church has been at the centre of the village
bearing witness to the living Christian faith. This guide shows how succeeding
generations of people of the village have contributed to the maintenance, beautification
and development of the church, a process which continues to this day.