May 15th, 2019

St Andrew, Southease

"Little lost Down churches praise
The God who made the hills..."

Southease is about as lost as it gets. It's off the main road- to the South of Lewes- on a loop of very narrow road that goes nowhere else- and yet it gets more visitors than any rural church I've ever been in.

Because it's on the South Downs Way.

And most of the visitors are very visibly hikers and cyclists. They sit on the benches by the gate and eat their sandwiches. They take pictures- and we all do our best not to get in one another's line of sight.

The building is Saxon and Norman and a bit of this and a bit of that. It has ghostly smudges of 12th century wall paintings- which I puzzled over and failed to interpret except that I think the least faded image represents St Luke's winged bull. It is wonderfully rustic. And it has a round tower- one of only two in Sussex- the other belonging to St Michael's Church on Lewes High Street. Simon Knott, who writes about East Anglia where there are lots of round towers, says they're easier to build than square ones. I'll take his word for it because I've never tried. Where they survive it's a sign of rural poverty- because patrons and rectors with a little money to flash liked to replace their round towers with square ones because square was grander and smarter.

I like the roof. I like the patterns it makes. Some of the timbers look new and some look very old. I stood in the chancel and pointed the camera upwards and this is what I got.

In Praise Of Simon Knott

In my last post I tipped my hat to Simon Knott- the creator of a number of monumental websites dealing with the churches of East Anglia. He knows his history, his architecture and ecclesiology (it adds spice that he's a believing Roman Catholic) and is very good on the accidentals of church-visiting- like weather and atmosphere (which can change from visit to visit) and encounters with churchwardens and other random folk. (He was once threatened with a libel action for publishing a frank account of his dealings with a hostile rector). His energy is astonishing; on a good day he says he can take in 15 churches if he's driving and 12 if he's on his bike. He has done the whole of Suffolk and Norfolk and is coming to terms with Essex and Cambridgeshire. He posts lots of pictures.

He makes me feel like a dilettante.

Someone should do what he has done for the churches of South East England. There are existing sites, but they tend to be heavy on the sofits and light on the anecdotes. It won't be me (alas) because I've left it too late...