The Downland Churches
Holy Trinity Poynings
St Andrews, Edburton
St John the Evangelist, Newtimber
The Transfiguration, Pyecombe
Clergy contact details:
Revd Dr Caroline Currer, Priest-in-Charge
Tel 01273 857456
Revd Graham Jeffery (mainly Edburton) 02392 631220
Revd Canon Alan Spray 01444 232149
The Rectory, The Street, Poynings, BN45 7AQ
The Domesday survey of 1087 refers to a church at this location, and there is little doubt it superseded a Saxon place of worship. The Norman building stood for 300 years until the reign of Edward III. The tiles at the base of the altar are from the original Norman church.
In 1389, Michael of Poynings, Lord of the Manor, died at the age of 51 and his remains with those of his wife were buried in a tomb close to what is now the south transept. In his will he left 200 marcs for the erection of a new church.
Michael’s eldest son, Thomas, supervised the building of the replacement church which is of Perpendicular style, with much of the earlier building being incorporated into the new. The unusual width of the south transept, sometimes called St Mary’s Chapel, reflects the desire to include the founder’s grave within its dimensions. The chapel also contains an old tie beam bearing the name of Francis Killingbeck, a former rector who died in 1625. It is probable that he was responsible for repairs to the roof.
The form of the church is near perfect equi-cruciform, or Greek Cross in design and resembles that at Alfriston. Its position on a mound exaggerates the overall height. The building is ninety feet long and seventy feet wide across the transepts. Four enormous columns support the tower which contains three bells, which are in occasional use.
The tower is 58 feet high, and is accessed by what is probably the oldest surviving wooden ladder in Sussex from the north transept. The roof underwent major repairs in 1993 and is largely covered in Horsham stone.
When Rev. Samuel Holland became rector in 1806 the church was in a poor state of repair. Under his tenure substantial repair work was carried out, including the installation of the chancel screen at the entrance to the south transept, until his son T A Holland became rector in 1846. He also moved the pulpit from the south side of the northwest column.
The north transept now houses the vestry and the organ, although was formerly the Montague Chapel. In the east window there is a fragment of painted glass dating from 1421, picturing the annunciation. There are also a few pieces in the north window.
The five light east window of the chancel is a facsimile of the one at Alfriston and of Tarring, West Sussex. The altar rails date from 1640 following the Archbishop of Canterbury’s edict that holy tables should be ‘fenced’. The finely carved angels are the work of Sussex sculptor William Court and were given in memory of Anthony Stanislaus, an airman killed in World War II.
There is a fine triple sedilia in the chancel, a piscina from the Norman church , and a priest’s door which may also have been used by the Lord of the Manor.
The west door was blocked at one time to allow entry to a west gallery, now removed. On the south wall there are traces of a medieval mural over which the ten commandments have been painted.
The font is a good example of the transition from decorated to perpendicular style.
The porch was built over the grave of Michael of Poynings’ grandson, Richard, who died in 1420 and the Poynings coat of arms is in the gable.
Next door is the old Georgian Rectory which is now a private house. It has three bays and a Tuscan porch to its front door.
2009 – The Rev Peter Morgan has had to give up our Downland Benefice due to his wife Jean’s ill health. We are sad to lose them but will still be in contact as Peter has several marriage services to conduct during the Summer months. We were able to give them a cheque for £724.00 as a farewell gift and wish them good health and happiness in their new home in Ardingly.
Rectory telephone number: 01273 857456
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