Tuesday, 15 May 2012

St Mary Magdalene, Lyminster

As you approach Lyminster church from the north, it seems to be a familiar 13th century Sussex arrangement with a chancel and a nave with an aisle and a massive roof extending over both, reaching almost down to the ground.
Enter the church, however, and the first thing that strikes you is the height of the nave and chancel, linked by a an almost absurdly tall and relatively narrow chancel arch. The walls are only 2ft 7in thick.
The proportions are clearly Saxon, all that remains of a pre-Conquest Benedictine nunnery called Nonneminstre. It must have been an important church, as the 'minster' in the village's name indicates. 
Between 1170 and 1200, the north aisle was added and the nave heightened by 5ft, accentuating the proportions even further. The arcade has round columns and pointed arches. 
Unfortunately, the aisle was not strong enough to take the sideways pressure of the nave roof, and when a fire destroyed it in the early 15th century it was rebuilt with an unusual almost freestanding timber frame designed to prop up the arcade.
An upright timber sits neatly behind each column, with a beam and a crownpost supporting the roof.
The tower was started in the 13th century, and it is now the the main accent of the church as seen from the train as you speed towards Arundel.
Since the 12th century the church has been little altered, partly because little money was available – the two Victorian restorations cost less than £650 each.