Cuckfield's church has one of the most delightful settings of any village church I know. Situated on the south side of this delightfully well-kept Sussex village, it's churchyard and the adjoining cemetery are full of mature trees and surrounded by delightful cottages and lanes of old village houses. A footpath runs from Haywards Heath right past the churchyard, and makes for a delightful summer afternoon walk.
The church itself has low stone walls and a steeply pitched tiled roof, the squat tower topped a spire covered in wooden shingles, visible for miles around. The main north porch is a delightfully rustic structure, which would not look out of place in 'Lord of the Rings'. The entrance to the churchyard from Church Street has the largest gateway I know - almost like a pavilion. But despite its ancient foundation, the real interest to-day lies in some fine Vistorian additions.
Records refer to a church here as early as 1092, but the present building dates from a rebuilding begun about 1250. The original church occupied what is now the nave, the walls following the line of the present arcade. The south aisle was added about 1250, and the base of the tower begun. The north aisle, with its hexagonal columns, was added in the 14th century, together with the present chancel and side chapels, and in the 15th century the roof was rebuilt in its present sweeping form, rising from the aisle walls direct to the ridge. The Sergison chapel on the north side was added in the 16th century, and the two porches were rebuilt by the Victorians.
From 1855 onwards, the church underwent a major restoration, under the direction of the famous church architect, George Frederick Bodley. Much of the work - including the painted ceiling and some of the stained glass - was undertaken by his even more famous pupil, C E Kempe, who also worshipped here. The ceiling in particular is an astonishing piece of decoration for a parish church, and would humble many a cathedral. As if to finish the roll call of Victoriana, the south aisle also has windows by Clayton and Bell.
Other items of interest include a wide range of memorials from the 16th century onwards and a 13th century bowl-shaped font. The church is the centre of a very active parish life, details of which can be found on its website.
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