Sunday, 19 May 2013

St Mary, Fittleworth

The nave of Fittleworth church looks rather odd as you walk down the path. The first thing you see is a line of rather domestic-looking dormer windows in the roof, and then you notice that the stone of the nave does not match that of the chancel and tower.
A series of pictures inside the church explains all. The old nave was pulled down in 1871 and rebuilt - one picture shows the 13th century chancel and tower standing alone like, as the caption puts it, 'like bookends with nothing in between.'
Nobody knows why the nave was demolished. Another of the pictures shows the old one, a delightful and unusual timber structure like a barn, probably dating from the 16th century. It was filled with box pews and galleries. It is possible that it had become structurally unsound, of course, but another possibility is that the parish priest, who had been recently promoted from vicar to rector, simply wanted a swankier building in stone. 
Whatever the reason, the architect Henry Woodyer was brought in to do the work. He faced a number of difficulties including the short tower, which meant the nave's roofline would have to be so low the side windows were going to be very small - hence the dormer windows to let more light in.
Inside, the new stone nave arcades are a bit too grand for this modest church, supporting the theory that the new rector wanted a church that reflected his new status better.