Eastbourne Church Recording Group

Eastbourne Church Recording Group

8 Jun 2018 - 10:41 BY Susan de Angeli

The Eastbourne Church Recording Group was set up in 2005, initially under the auspices of Eastbourne Decorative and Fine Arts Society but now of course, the Arts Society, Eastbourne.  Jenny Lush, the then Chairman of the Society had talked enthusiastically about forming such a group and eventually in the Autumn of 2005 we began work in All Saints Church, West Dean, which dates to Saxon times and has several impressive monuments, particularly in honour of the Thomas Family.
The newly formed Group visited five churches before settling on All Saints which was small, (21 m by 4.87 m) open all day, easily reached and not too overwhelming a project.  Only two members of the eleven strong group had any previous knowledge of church recording ….  A steep but fascinating learning curve.
In the last century various monuments were installed in the church – a bust (by Clare Sheridan) of Oswald Birley (1880-1952) the artist, who lived at Charleston Manor. Lady Churchill unveiled the bust on June 1, 1958. A bronze portrait head of the Right Honourable Viscount Waverley, John Anderson (1882-1958) (he invented the Anderson shelter) is situated in the north west corner of the nave and was unveiled by the then Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan on April 19, 1960.  The 1st Lord Waverley of West Dean is buried in the graveyard.
The Record was presented to the Revd. Frank Fox-Wilson in church on December 16, 2007.
Only one of the five churches we went on to Record, had toilet facilities and warmth!
Our next project was St. Michael the Archangel in 2007, a 12th century church where Charles La Trobe, the first Lieutenant Governor of Victoria, Australia is buried.  He had been living at Clapham House in the village when he died.
St. Michael’s has three bells, one of which, the treble, is thought to be one of the oldest working bells in England and dates from the early 15th century.  The church also has a beautiful chalice and paten made by Eric Clements in 1950 for the 800th anniversary of the church.  These two silver pieces were on show in 1951 at the Goldsmiths’ Company at Goldsmiths’ Hall as part of a display to celebrate the Festival of Britain.  The splendid octagonal, trumpet-shaped oak and pine font cover dates to Jacobean times.  Its stopper in the shape of carved acanthus leaves is used in the bowl of the font.  The Record was presented to the Rev. James Howson in the Autumn of 2009.
Having worked in two churches which formed part of the Cuckmere Benefice, the Group decided to tackle St. Andrew’s in Alfriston and began work in 2009.  A large church, with a small kitchen, toilet and warmth!
St. Andrew’s dates from about 1360 and is built in the form of a Greek cross.  In the centre of the church, forming the crossing, are four large arches which support the bell tower and the six bells are rung from the floor of the Chancel crossing.
The beautiful stained glass east window depicts St. Alphege, St. Andrew, St. Wilfred and St. Nicholas of Myra besides much decoration and was made by James Powell & Co. in 1904.  Two further stained glass windows are in the Lady Chapel and were made by C. E. Kempe & Co. and date from 1914.
Set in the south wall of the Chancel is a small window depicting St. Christopher carrying the Christ Child over a stream.  This was designed in 1902 by Maxwell Balfour (to commemorate Frederick Stephen Beynon the son of the then Vicar of St. Andrew’s).  Max Balfour was born in Valparaiso, Chile but was sent to live in Bristol with his brothers following the death of their mother.  A pupil of Clifton College, he then attended Slade Art School before becoming a student at New College, Oxford.  Maxwell lived in Cheyne Walk and became friends with C. R. Ashbee, the architect, who worked in St. Andrew’s.  Ashbee also restored the 14th century Clergy House which was sold to the National Trust in 1896.  After Maxwell married Nina Joachim, the couple spent their honeymoon at the Clergy House.
The Record was presented to the Revd. James Howson in September 2012.
Our next project, was to complete the remaining church in the parish, the Church of the Good Shepherd in Lullington, began in 2012.  This 13th century church is in fact the only remaining part of a bigger church, the ruins of which can still be seen to the west of the building.  Built in the Early English style of architecture and originally a chapelry of Alciston the building had for a time belonged to Battle Abbey.
The church (about sixteen feet square) was restored in 1894 having been made suitable for services in 1806 when its one bell was installed.  In 1927 the church was united with St. Andrew’s, Alfriston and was known as Lullington Church although extensive research had been carried out to try and find out whether this tiny building had ever had a name.  In 2000 on September 10, it was dedicated by the Bishop of Lewis, as the Church of the Good Shepherd.  Incidentally, this is the church where Dirk Bogarde worshipped as a child.
The reredos is most unusual and probably dates from the 1930s.  It is entirely hand painted and depicts on its five panels, a Pelican in her Piety, a gold-painted chalice, a crucifix, the Sacred Monogram IHS and the Agnus Dei with the Banner of Victory.
As the church has no electricity or running water, services are held during the summer months on the second Sunday afternoon of the month.  However on the first Sunday of Advent, a late afternoon service is held by candlelight, a wonderful way to celebrate the beginning the festive season.
The Record was presented in September 2013 with the Group deciding to take a sabbatical.
After a gap of some eighteen months, a meeting of the church recording group was held and the decision was taken to Record St. Pancras Church in Arlington and work began in 2015.  This church is Saxon in origin with Norman additions but evidence has been found of an even earlier church.
It has many interesting features:  a leper window in the south wall from the 11th century; the north aisle was added during the Decorated Period of Gothic architecture (1280-1380); the bell tower dated around 1200 which houses three bells dating from the 1600s.  The building fell into a state of disrepair with the Diocesan Bishop describing the church in the Victorian era “in a state of decay, dirt and ruin … worse than any other church in Sussex … devoid of every decent requisite of worship”. 
The Rev. Thomas Bunston (1839-1918) was appointed Vicar in 1889 and remained at St. Pancras until 1910.  He began an ambitious restoration programme which included a new screen, an enlarged altar, new chancel seats and the removal of the very old grave stones from the flooring of what became the Lady Chapel, previously having served as a school room.  Some of the gravestones are in place around the church walls.
The church was the coldest building we have ever worked in.  It boasted a most extensive selection of vases and pots and boxes and boxes of Christmas decorations.
The St. Pancras Record was presented to The Revd. Frank Fox-Wilson on April 23, 2017.
Our next project took some time to organise as the Group had originally selected St. Simon & St. Jude Church in East Dean village because the Fine Arts Society hold its monthly meetings at East Dean Village Hall.  Having made the approaches to the Rector, churchwardens and PCC who gave us their permission, we held our first meeting in the church in December 2016.  However it was not to be.  Difficulties in being allowed access to the vestry where most of the documents were held proved insurmountable.  Following a group meeting and a wish to continue working in ancient village churches, we settled on St. John the Evangelist in Piddinghoe.
Work in Piddinghoe commenced in the Spring of 2017 and we were fortunate to be given a key to the south door which meant that we were able to come and go at will, although we meet regularly once a fortnight on a Monday.
This church has a Norman round tower which houses the three bells which were recast in 1713; the earliest parts of the chancel are 13th century and are of early English style.  The green sandstone font from the 13th century has a cover given by the Sunday School in 1905.  There are three attractive, slender and deeply recessed lancet windows at the east end with an additional round window.  The beautifully decorated pipe was built in 1882.
In 1882 major changes took place, thanks in part to the generosity of a parishioner and the church was closed for some months whilst building work commenced.
A south aisle was built over the old foundations, stained glass windows installed as memorials given by relatives and friends; encaustic tiles laid over the old stone flagging.
A dole board, detailing specific amounts of money from £350 of consolidated stock, left by Elizabeth (nee Thompsett) Croft (1813-1889), was to be handed out annually to three groups of Piddinghoe villagers;  The Little Edith Trust, the Hugh Croft’s Gifts and the Gilmore Croft’s Rewards.  These three separate amounts of money related to three members of Elizabeth’s family who had predeceased her:  Edith her granddaughter, Hugh her husband and her son Gilmore.  Surprisingly this annual tradition survived into the 21st century.
Work in St. John’s has come to an end.  Jenny Cross our typist and compiler, along with her husband Keith, the photographer, are busy checking the various sections (stonework, metalwork, textiles, windows etc.) before they are sent to our Area Organiser, Sheila Ryan.  When Sheila has made any alterations to the script, usually minor, the work is returned to us ready for printing and presenting to the incumbent.
Currently we have 12 members of the group.  Over the 13 years that the group has been formed, we have gained and lost a few people.  It has been a rewarding and interesting project.  Much of the work is carried on after church visits by researching, checking, emailing and generally making use of the many avenues open to us.  This is when PCC Minutes come into their own.  The Minutes record gifts to the church, (but not always) such as altar frontals, flower stands, carpets etc. which complete the picture.  These items were almost always presented to a church as a memorial and the Record re-establishes their names and acts of generosity.
The same can be said for the many memorials hanging on church walls.  Often a name and few words from long ago are all that remain.  Unravelling the whole family is fascinating - i.e. St. John’s has a strong connection to Bonham’s the London auction house, whilst another member of the same family became the Curator of Dulwich Picture Gallery.
When the group started in 2005, the Volunteering department at Head Office organised courses which they no longer do. This is now left to each area organiser.   Aside from the obvious opportunity to learn, it was a chance to speak to other church recorders from all around the country.
We want to thank our sponsoring Society, Eastbourne.  We feel that Recording six churches in 13 years is an achievement and has been mutually beneficial for us all.
For the record, our recorders are:
Brigitte Aubrey-Mundel, Jennifer (typist & compiler) & Keith Cross (photographer), Susan de Angeli (group leader),  Doris Hammersley,  Juliet Heasman,  Rhylva Holder, Vivienne Lester,  Nancy Whitworth,  Mary Nash-Wortham and Ann Williams.


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