Friday, 26 November 2010

St Andrew, Didling

This humble little “shepherd’s church” is famous for its setting in the lap of the Downs, with a glorious sweeping view north across rolling Sussex farmland.
The church itself is a simple one-room building that has been little altered since it was built in the 13th century. The end walls were reconstructed in brick in about 1800 and a small bell cote added, but they reused the old stone lancet windows so inside it is as if nothing changed.
The font is the oldest thing in the church, dating from the 12th century. It is a simple tub, slightly irregular and crudely finished, but with all the natural power of unpolished stone that was lost by so many fonts that were recut and ruined by well-meaning Victorian vandals.
The ancient oak pews with their curlicue ends, made by a local carpenter, may date back to the time the church was built. The tops are impregnated with centuries-worth of wax dripping from the candles set on them for evening services.
The small panelled pulpit and the communion rail are carved with stylised patterns betraying their Jacobean date.
It is a miracle that St Andrew escaped restoration in the 19th century and ‘reordering’ in our own times. Even today it has no electricity. The latest addition to the church, a new chair and desk for the minister, is a simple copy of the pews. The wood is bright and gold today but will, in future centuries, blacken to blend in with the old work.