Saturday, 31 December 2011

St Mary, Chithurst

Of the family of churches on the banks of the River Rother, Chithurst church is the poor one. As a result, it appears today much as it was built at the time of the Conquest.
Its position is a curious mixture of remoteness and proximity. Chithurst itself is only a small huddle of houses and there are five other churches within three miles, so few people have cared for this humble building over the millenium that it has stood on its curious mound next to the bridge over the river.
The church is a typical layout with a nave and chancel separated by a narrow arch, pressed down at the top as though collapsing under the weight of the roof.
The main alterations were made in the 13th century to bring in more light, including an east window with two lights and a cusped lancet in the north wall.
In the south wall of the nave, a large pointed window with tracery was punched into the centre, but in Victorian times it was moved to the east and a matching copy inserted to the west. Intriguingly, the mason who made the copy could not resist sexing it up a little with fancier mouldings.
The only other alterations were the addition of a charming half-timbered porch and a little bellcote. Buttresses were added and then all but one removed. A circular window, recycled from Iping church, was inserted into the west wall and then taken out again for structural reasons. The ceilings were plastered and then unplastered. Chithurst church seems to actively resist alteration.