Church is one of High Points of 1066 Country but needs support
If you didn't know it was there, blink and you would miss St Andrew's Church with its majestic tower, historical graveyard and interesting architectural features.
If you didn’t know it was there, blink and you would miss St Andrew’s Church with its majestic tower, historical graveyard and interesting architectural features.
Yet this hidden gem is well worth a visit and conveniently located at the highest point of Fairlight in Coastguard Lane, where Fairlight Road and Battery Hill meet – just a 10-minute drive from Rye or Hastings, and on the 101 bus route.
Visitors of all ages and nationalities regularly drop in to visit the open Church - ranging from coach parties of international students, daytrippers and holidaymakers, to local walkers, schoolchildren and residents.
The stunning Church Tower is open on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays from 2-5pm when a bellringing experience is available between 2-3pm, and visitors can turn their hand to playing a tune using the bellringing ‘carillon’. Group tours can be arranged at other times by prior arrangement for adults, children over 8 years and students.
St Andrew’s Church and Tower have a fascinating history. The original Fairlight Church dates from around 1180 but in 1845 was in a poor state of repair and so the current St Andrew’s Church, with its many architectural delights, was built in its place.
Carved from local stone, supplied by local land-owner William Drew Lucas-Shadwell, the Church’s Nave has three arches supported by interesting octagonal columns, and its striking roof has an unusually steep pitch. Also popular with tourists, is the beautiful East Window, adorned with stained glass lancets depicting the life of Jesus. It is well worth viewing the exquisite contemporary triptych (a painting on three panels) called the ‘Genesis Trytych’ created in oils by local eminent artist Richard Baines.
The main doorway is outlined with a classical foliate head. Visitors can also view the remains of the beautifully painted imposing organ pipes (no longer in use) above the small balcony.
The Church furniture includes the Holy Table and Reredos which were donated in 1927.
For those interested in local lineage, the Church registers which are kept at the East Sussex Record Office, date from 1651 and record all baptisms, marriages and burials since that date.
The Church regularly stages events – look out for the Wealden Consort who will be performing in June along with a string quartet of young talented students from Buckswood School. In July there will be an informal concert of popular music called ‘A Musical Delight’ from a talented team of musicians and this will include a cream tea. There are also regular Alpha Courses for those who are interested in finding out more about Christianity as well as regular Sunday services at 10.30am. For more details, visit: www.fairlightandpett.com.
St Andrew’s is a small and friendly Church, and Rector, Richard Barron says, “We welcome everyone from all walks of life, whether Christian or not.
“We want as many people as possible to have the chance to share our lovely old Church. Our fantastic Fairlight coastal location with tremendous views is the perfect stop-off for tourists and photographers. We rely heavily on the generous donations from visitors and our congregation to keep our heritage building and Churchyard maintained and to cover our administration costs.”
St Andrew’s also relies on the church stewards who work in a voluntary capacity, taking visitors on the short guided tour where they share the heritage of the beautiful Church, fascinating graveyard, and dramatic Tower. They need more volunteers in order to keep the church open and available, and are looking to the local community for help.
The Church welcomes applicants over the age of 18, including people who are currently without work, returning to work, working part-time, retired or studying. If you are interested in helping out, please call or email the church administrator on 01424 812799 or [email protected]
Stepping into the Past:
The Churchyard holds the graves of many famous and interesting historical figures, and local St Andrew’s stewards are always happy to help people try to locate them. Of particular interest, is the imposing Lych Gate which commemorates members of the Lucas Shadwell Family. Some notable people buried in the Churchyard include:
William 8th Earl Waldegrave – a direct descendant of William the Conqueror
Thomas Attwood Walmisley, Professor of Music, Cambridge University
Parents and sister of Cecil Rhodes who founded Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe
Major-General Sir Charles Menzies, founder of Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia
Thomas Farncombe, Lord Mayor of London in 1849
Richard d’Oyly Carte of the famous Opera company and founder of the Savoy.
Muriel Delano Martineau, first cousin to US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Towering Above the Rest:
St Andrew’s ‘Fairlight Tower’ stands 616 feet (188 metres) above sea-level at the top of the tower and is understood to be one of the highest points in East Sussex. The Church Tower was an important landmark for both the British and the Germans during World War II which allegedly saved it from being bombed.
A donation of £2 is requested per adult visiting the tower to help cover the maintenance costs. Children must be supervised at all times by a responsible adult. Group tours of ten or more need to book in advance and children must be over 8yrs old.
The bellringing room is midway up the circular flight of 110 stone steps, and here visitors can view the carillon, where a series of levers operate eight of the bells at a higher level of the Tower. An original bell from the 14th century inscribed “Sit Nomen Domini Benedictum” meaning ‘Blessed be the name of the Lord’ is still in use today and can be seen in the belfry above. At the top of the Tower the 360 degree views are arguably better than from the Brighton i360. On a clear day you can see the coast to Dover and its white cliffs, Dungeness Power Station, across the English Channel, round to Beachy Head and inland over Fairlight Hall, Guestling, and the Downs towards Tonbridge. On very clear days you can also see France.
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