NOSTALGIA: Fascinating look at Bishopstone’s ancient church

St Andrew's Church, with its Saxon origins, is one of the oldest in England
St Andrew's Church, with its Saxon origins, is one of the oldest in England
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When you stand on The Egg (the village green) at Bishopstone and look towards the ancient soaring square church tower with its medieval ‘grotesques’ carved around the top, writes Kevin Gordon, you are standing in the centre of an Anglo-Saxon Minster which itself had a tower, albeit wooden.

With its Saxon origins, St Andrew’s Church is one of the oldest in England.

It was the home of the tomb of the seventh century Saint Lewinna, the only Sussex female saint and the first named woman in the county. It is a building full of interest with Victorian memorials and ancient features.

My favourite is the 17th century grave slab for the wife of Henry Dallingdear and ‘daftar’ (daughter) of Robert Hanson – the poor woman wasn’t important enough to have her name on her own gravestone.

One beautifully carved gravestone (the grave marker for St Lewinna?) is possibly more than 1,000 years old so is one of the oldest religious artefacts in the county. The round churchyard has been used for burials for centuries and as well as the graves of the Catt and Willet families, who were involved in farming and the nearby Tide Mills, there are also some more recent graves of interest including the grave of Don Norman, a member of the RAF Goldfish Club – one of the lucky wartime pilots who survived having ditched in the sea.

The village church and churchyard have so much of interest that a book has been needed for many years, I was therefore very pleased to read “All is Hush’d” by Rodney Castleden and Ann Murray.

This new book gives an insightful history of the village and church and much more. With no shop or pub, Bishopstone is seldom visited today, but it is clear that it was once an important centre of the clergy and this is clearly explained in the book.

There is a comprehensive list of the monuments and gravestones in and outside the church. Every church and village should have a book like this.

This book will not only appeal to local residents but also those interested in church history generally and, with its complete list of monumental inscriptions, to genealogists too.

The book is richly illustrated with photographs, maps, drawings and plans and comes highly recommended. Every local resident should have this book, but I suspect that it will encourage a few ‘outsiders’ to visit too.

‘All is Hush’d’ is available from Seaford Museum, lulu.com and direct from Rodney Castleden at Rookery Cottage, Blatchington Hill, Seaford.

Put a note through his letterbox with your address and a cheque for £12.95 and one will delivered free of charge.

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