South Downs Churches

The South Downs

This first of three collections of historic churches in the south east of England includes forty-nine churches with Saxon and/or Norman origins along the South Downs.

The South Downs  are a range of rolling hills stretching from The Seven Sisters near Eastbourne in East Sussex westwards through East and West Sussex to the Itchen valley near Winchester in Hampshire. The chalk downland covers some 260 square miles and is one of the main chalk landscapes in the country. There are two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, East Hampshire ANOB and Sussex Downs ANOB, and no less than thirty-seven Sites of Special Scientific Interest .After years of campaigning The South Downs were officially designated a National Park on 1 April 2011. The South Downs National Park covers 1600 square kilometres and includes both of the above mentioned ANOBs and, as well as the Downs, areas of the Weald to the north of the chalk downland.

Early church builders along the South Downs naturally made use of flint, the most abundant local stone, for construction of their buildings. Precipitation of silica within the chalk mud during the cretaceous period formed the pieces of flint found in the chalk hills of the South Downs. Another material used in churches on the South Downs is clunch which is a hard, dense form of chalk. It is flint, however, that gives the Saxon and Norman churches along the Downs their characteristic aesthetic appeal.

A few of the many unusual, interesting, rare or beautiful items at the South Downs parish churches:

Tapsel gates with their unique centre pivot post are found at six of the churches, all within a ten mile radius of Lewes; the Bloomsbury murals at  St Michael and All Angels, Berwick;  7th century Saxon sundial and a stone Roman coffin with lead lining, both at Corhampton Saxon Church; the chancel arch at St John the Baptist, Clayton; 13th century encaustic floor tiles at The Church of the Transfiguration, Pyecombe; early carvings in the chancel and crossing at St Nicholas, Bramber; and much more…….

Find a South Downs Church

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