Friday, 29 July 2016

All Hallows, Tillington

The tower is the glory of All Hallows' church at Tillington. Set on the top of a hill overlooking the Rother valley it is visible for miles around, but it was especially visible from the terrace of Petworth House, the seat of the Earls of Egremont.
So in 1807 the Earl decided to rebuild the medieval tower taller and prettier as a point-de-vue, rising behind Capability Brown's famous landscape.
The striking feature of the new tower is the delicate spire supported on four flying buttresses, a design known as a Scots crown because the most famous example is on St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh.
Sadly, Brown's trees soon grew so tall they obscured the tower from the Earl's house, but not before the view was captured by JMW Turner showing the spire standing out in front of his dramatic sunsets.
This gave rise to a local legend that Turner, who trained as an architect, actually designed the tower but sadly he did not visit Petworth until after it was built. The actual designer is unknown.
The tower was just part of a major rebuilding of the church. The original 12th century structure consisted of a chancel, nave and south aisle. The south arcade has columns carved from the local sandstone, a material that does not favour fine detail so the Norman mason went for big, vigorous palm leaf shapes instead of the more usual stiff leaf pattern.
When the Victorians altered churches they often rebuilt existing features to match the new work, but when the Earl decided to add a new north aisle he sensibly copied the old work to create a visually consistent whole.
The odd feature of the interior is the south transept. The original tower had been built on top of it, but the new tower needed new foundations so it sits within the transept leaving just a few feet round the edge. A buttress even protrudes into the chancel. Very peculiar.