the history of our churches

All Saints Herstmonceux

St. Mary Magdalene Wartling

All Saints Herstmonceux stands on a gentle slope that looks South and West across the Pevensey levels. It is almost two miles south of the present village, near the castle, and marks the site of a mediaeval village. The date when this was moved is not certain, however in 1441 Roger Fenys (or Fiennes), the builder of the castle, received permission to make a park of the 600 surrounding acres and that may have been the occasion. The oldest parts are the 12th century west tower (perhaps the only Sussex church tower which forms part of the west end of the nave) and the west wall of the nave.  It consists of a 13th/14th century nave, chancel, and north and south aisles with a 15th century north chapel. A church here was mentioned in 1086 in the Doomsday Book, but nothing datable to that time remains. The tower stands at the North West corner, and, unusually for the date, is built of sandstone ashlar, with massive clasping buttresses. The tomb in the opening between chapel and chancel is that of Roger Fiennes (d1449) for whom the chapel was built. The bricks of which it is constructed are not otherwise found in Sussex churches at this date but closely resemble those used in the castle, which was then near completion. After the Reformation the windows were replaced by domestic type ones at the west end of the nave and south aisle. More work was needed on the church however, when, on 3 July 1944, a German bomb demolished three windows and damaged ten more, the roof and the shingles.
A Wartling Church is mentioned in the Doomsday Book, but there was a undoubtdly a Saxon Chapel long before that. The Church now sits on the site of a chapel which had links to St Mary in the Castle of Hastings. The present Church of St. Mary Magdelene dates to the 13th century. There have been building works over many centuries, these being traceable back as far as the 14th century at the west end of the Church, with the belfry now with a shingled broached spire.   There was once a Minstrels Gallery gallery over the rear pews, but this was removed around 1870, when it then contained an organ.  The north aisle was also added in the 14th century. The Church also retains the box pews, which were designed to keep the occupants' insulated as much as possible from the drafts that were a problem. At the East End of the aisle there is a War Memorial commemorating the staff who were stationed at RAF Wartling, where a WW2 and Cold War Radar Station was situated. The South Aisle is quite probably 15th century although difficult to date exactly, adue to alterations over the years, but there is a carving of a Pelham buckle and a Catherine wheel on the outside wall, this, possibly in memory of Catherine the daughter of Sir John Pelham, who died in 1459, the Chapel being dedicated to St. Catherine. The most photographed item in the Church is the Heron Lectern and next, perhaps, the painting of the Royal Arms of George the Second high up on the Chancel Arch, which is dated 1731. The Church also contains a toilet, suitable for disabled use, and a car park, which is  accessible by the road at the side of the Lamb Inn.