All Saints, West Dean

All Saints church (grade 1 listed) is of great antiquity with parts of the building dating back to Saxon times.  Most of the present structure is Norman, measuring 21m by 4.87m, and is constructed of flint and Eastbourne sandstone.  At the west end the square tower is covered by an unusual gable spire which John Betjeman in his Guide to English Parish Churches describes it as unique in Sussex.  It has been likened to a monk’s cowl and from a distance, the small high windows on the tower give the appearance of a face.  The tower houses a single bell made by William Hull and inscribed “William Bell made mee (sic) 1677”.    

Internally there is a prevalence of Early English work dating from the first quarter of the 14th century.  The church was updated in the mid Victorian era when the two metal commandment boards and pulpit were installed, along with red and beige encaustic floor tiles, these have now been replaced with old York stones.  At the same time, the beautiful coloured east window was installed in memory of George Allfrey and his son George.  The three main windows depict, left to right, Mary Magdalene and the Virgin Mary, the Crucifixion, St. John and the Roman soldier, Longinus.

On the south wall, above the organ, are two windows showing St. Maurice and St. Theodore made by James Powell & Son of Whitefriars Glass Works, London.  These are dedicated to Maurice Theodore Lawrance, the son of the then rector, G. W. A. Lawrance.  He had enlisted in the Army and died in the first attack on Beaumont Hamel in France in 1916 aged 19.  The window cost £65 in 1919 and all the villagers subscribed towards it including the Duke of Devonshire who was the church patron at the time.

The monuments date from the 14th century to the present day.  On the north wall of the chancel are the sandstone tomb canopies of Sir John Heringod and his wife Isabella.  Sir John was born in 1250 and was the Lord of the Manor and represented Sussex in Parliament from 1302 to 1313.

On the south wall of the chancel is a splendid box tomb wall monument in a typical 17th century style in memory of William Thomas (died 1639) and Anne (died 1625) his wife.  William was a wealthy citizen of Lewes who bought the Manor of West Dean in 1611.  Their daughter, Susanna, whose alabaster monument is fixed to the north wall of the nave, married George Tirrey and died in childbirth.

In a niche on the south wall of the nave, is a bronze portrait head of Sir Oswald Birley the painter by Claire Sheridan.  The Birleys lived at Charleston Manor in West Dean and are both buried in the churchyard.

The bronze head of the Right Honourable 1st Viscount Waverley of West Dean stands on two plinths in the north west corner of the nave and dates from 1960.  Jacob Epstein cast the original bronze bust for the Imperial War Museum.  This eminent statesman was responsible for the design and production of the Anderson air-raid shelter.  He is buried in the churchyard.  His double sided banner, originally hung in the Henry V11 Chapel in Westminster Abbey, hangs above his bust which was unveiled by the Prime Minister, Harold MacMillan in April 1960.

On the second and fourth Sunday of each month, services are held in the church at 0930. The second Sunday is a Family Service which is followed by refreshments.  Our Holy Communion Service takes place on the fourth Sunday.  Each Thursday at 1730 there is a laity led short evening prayer service which is conducted by regular parishioners.   In addition we have an Easter Eve Service of Light, a Harvest Festival Service, and a Nine Lessons and Carols Service.  Each year we alternate with St. Michael the Archangel church in Litlington to hold the Remembrance Day Service.  Occasionally there are weddings and christenings in the church.

This small parish consists of 35 dwellings spread over a wide area – north to Charleston Manor and south to the sea at Cuckmere Haven which is a sanctuary for wild birds.  We are situated within the South Downs National Park, incorporated in the parish is part of the Seven Sisters Country Park.

The village attracts a large number of visitors each year, tourists, walkers, cyclists, horse riders and people walking the South Downs Way.

 

 

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