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  • 5.0 star rating
    26/5/2009
    First to Review

    Berwick is a surprising little village: in many ways it is no prettier, charming or attractive than dozens of other villages on the edge of the Sussex Downs. But its church draws big crowds every year, with a constant stream of visitors wending their way down the single little lane to St Michael's.

    What they find is a conventional building, dating from the 12th or 13th century, set in an attractive churchyard. The exterior is standard Sussex: flint walls, tiled roof and a shingled broach spire, all nearly hidden by an ancient yew.

    Inside, a south aisle arch suggests a 13th or early 14th century century date, there's a 14th century Decorated Gothic Easter Sepulchre in the chancel, and a primitive Saxon font at the west end.

    But, if I'm honest, you won't notice any of those, because what grabs the attention are the modern wall paintings and the astonishing north aisle arcade. The latter dates from a restoration in 1856, and its strange style - a Gothic arch on twin columns - was hated by Pevsner: 'illiterate and clumsy' he states in the Buildings of England. The church guide calls it 'innovative'. It's certainly different. Perhaps more successful is the idea of filling the large Victorian windows with clear glass: this lets light flood in, and the Sussex countryside provides a stunning vista.

    And then there are the paintings: these date from 1942-3, in the midst of war, a bold idea of the then Bishop of Chichester, to commission art in the time of war. The idea was to revive the mediaeval tradition of wall paintings found so often in other Sussex churches.

    Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell and Quentin Bell (part of the 'Bloomsbury Group') were the artists, and the subjects were traditional biblical scenes, given modern and local twists: Christ is crucified while a soldier in World War II uniform looks on; the Nativity is acted out in a Sussex barn.

    The colours are bright and fascinating, but whether you like them or not is a matter of taste. I'm not entirely convinced - the plethora of colour on the architectural details is a bit too much for me, but I can see how others will admire them.

    There is only one way to decide, of course: go and have a look for yourself.

    • Qype User lalali…
    • Hailsham, East Sussex
    • 4 friends
    • 99 reviews
    5.0 star rating
    2/10/2008

    This Church is absolutely gorgeous. It was decorated by members of the the Bloomsbury group, mainly Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell. Its a really nice place to visit especially if you are also visiting Charlston (where the Bloomsbury group lived/worked).

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