Friday, 2 January 2009

St Mary, Yapton

There are few churches more endearing than Yapton, an effect created by 800 years of make-do and mend rather than rebuilding or restoration.
The basic structure is very much as it was when it was built sometime around the year 1200. The nave has three arches on either side supporting massive tie-beams with king posts in the middle holding up the ridge of the roof.
The roof itself sweeps down to cover the aisles as well as the nave. This has the advantage of being simple to build and very robust – there are no valleys for leaves and water to collect in. Many Sussex churches were originally built this way.
The disadvantage is that the aisles are very low and dark. The builders tried to bring some light in by punching two tiny circular windows in the south wall. Most churches of this design were revamped in late medieval times to create higher aisles, despite the added maintenance required by the complex roof. At Yapton, they inserted dormer windows instead, leaving the original structure for us to see.
Many parishes would have rebuilt the tower when it started to subside alarmingly, but at Yapton they simply shored it up with a massive buttress. And when that started to go, they just added another, even bigger buttress next to the original one. It all adds up to a place of infinite village charm.
There is only one intrusion from the big city here, a monument to Stephen Roe, a Yapton boy who went to London to make his fortune, eventually dying in Islington in 1766 and leaving £1200 in 1 per cent South Sea Annuities for the benefit of the poor in the place of his birth. But even this memorial to an urbanite is notable for its rustic ‘Gothick’ style and even more rustic verse.
His generosity is recorded in fulsome tones, but someone must have mistranscribed the last line. It should read “Their blessings on his head” surely?
Soft Pity now shall comfort Woe
And Ignorance learn, her self, to know

By Bounty taught and fed

Orphans and Widows more and more

And Children yet unborn, shall pour

Their blessings on him, dead.