RESTORATION – YOU CAN HELP!

In 2016 St Andrew’s Church, Alfriston launched its Restoration, ongoing for several years. Fund-raising events slowly raise money, with generous offers of support from the local community. We are asking for your assistance, and below you will see what this Restoration is all about.

Why is St Andrew’s Church important?
Founded around 1360, St Andrew’s is a fine example of a 14th century parish church (Grade I listed). Built with all the loving care of the craftsmen of those days, it is unlike many other churches in that it was built all at one time and has no major later additions. Because of its size, it has become known as the “Cathedral of the South Downs”, overlooking the River Cuckmere, and surrounded by a flowered graveyard.

A number of mysteries surround the church. Firstly, for an original village of a few hundred souls, it is very large indeed, and who commissioned its construction is unknown. Perhaps, most intriguing is the mound that the church stands on, which rises from the village green (“The Tye”), and may be man-made.

Medieval Consecration Cross

The church is built in the form of a Greek Cross (with each arm of the cross roughly of equal length), and made of exceptionally fine flint work. Inside, the tower is supported by lofty arches, with unusual fluted piers. Originally the interior walls were covered in brightly coloured medieval murals (some remains of which can be seen in the Sanctuary, with some still hidden elsewhere), and the building has many more original features.

So, to address the question as to why the church is important, clearly the answer is history, both of the village and the South Downs. More than this, however, visitors frequently remark that the building has a beautiful appearance, and a reflective atmosphere. No doubt the physical beauty of its location enhances this, and why it is held up as a very special place.

Damaged Walls (South Transept)

Why Restoration?
Ancient buildings always need lots of love and care. However, at various times in the past bad decisions were made regarding building materials. This was no one’s particular fault, but was due to building practices at the time. St Andrew’s was “reinvigorated” in the Victorian period, laying up problems for later generations, and this was carried on into the 1960’s. Such things have happened to buildings up and down the country, sadly.

As a result of past actions the walls of St Andrew’s are in places rotting internally. This is because the lime-based internal plaster and external pointing (which would have been how the building was constructed) were replaced by cement-based materials. Many years ago, builders did not realize that by doing this the building could not “breathe”, with moisture being held inside the walls. Consequently, rain has been driven into the walls, and the wet cannot escape. The visual appearance looks scruffy in places, but this belies saturated walls and continuous damage.

Walking around the church you can see a number of places where the walls are very damp and paint and plaster are falling off. This is particularly noticeable in the South Transept (the right hand arm of the cross pattern, half-way up the church) and the West End (above the gallery), but extends to other areas, too.

Restored (Lime Plastered) Sedilia

If you look at the south wall of the Choir you will see how this church would, could and should look, for here lime plaster has already been applied, replacing poor materials from the past. Restoration seeks to continue this replacement throughout the church, thus saving it for posterity.

Restoration of St Andrew’s could be ignored, but this would be selfish short-termism, and just store up more problems for years to come. Today, most people value historical buildings, and feel the weight of responsibility, and this is why we are taking action now. In addition, this building is an important part of the beautiful village in which it sits, and is a wonderfully reflective and spiritual space for those who wish to visit, worship or use it in other ways.

How can I help?
Projects like this take a lot of organizing and work in order to be successful. However, key to this is letting others know the need and the reason. We are fund-raising and seeking grants, but what really matters is people taking a genuine interest and caring for a special building like this. So if you do care about the future of this church, you could:

  • inform others about the Restoration at St Andrew’s
  • tell others online, if you use social media
  • help at, or support our fund-raising events
  • give generously, if you are able
  • send up a prayer!
  • visit the church and use it

For further information please contact:
Benefice Administrator cuckmerechurches@gmail.com