Lewes – St. Anne’s Church

St. Anne’s Church is the oldest church in Lewes and although it looks interesting from the exterior, it has a much more fascinating interior than I had anticipated.

The chancel of the church, with the aisle to the right being a later addition in the twelfth century. This visit was lifted by a lovely Canadian lady who showed me round and that included areas that I might not have otherwise have seen. She also explained the church is located on what was once a pilgrimage route, which explains its grandeur.

I’ve visited hundreds of churches over the years, but none better than this as an experience. The welcome was everything that a church should be, with an extensive guidebook available on the church’s history. There are also panels with the history of the building and the passion of the church volunteers is clear, it’s a delightful place. And the church is rightfully proud of its history.

The font dates to the twelfth century has a basket-weave pattern to the stone. It’s still in use today, that’s a lot of generations who have been baptised here.

Looking back towards the slightly more modern tower. I had a little look in here and noticed the scary looking ladders fixed to the wall which went up to the belfry.

The wooden pulpit is magnificent with its carvings, dating to 1620.

This is the oldest memorial brass remaining in the church and is dedicated to Dr. Thomas Twyne. He was a doctor in Lewes for thirty years and he died in 1613, with a rather interesting epitaph (English translation provided).

I’ve never seen one of these before, this is the area where an anchoress would have lived. This is someone who is devout and who effectively walls themselves up in an area by the side of the church. There’s no record of how long this cell was used for, perhaps just once or maybe for generations, although a burial has been found here. They have a reasonable amount of space, well for someone who has been walled up anyway, and it was for those who wanted to dedicate themselves to prayer.

There’s another opening, now in a wardrobe and so not accessible to the public, where the anchoress would have sat to dispense wisdom to those who wanted it. The kind lady at the church showed me in the wardrobe, it’s a fascinating piece of history which has been retained. Above is the what is now the other side of the wall.

The first three of these cast iron leaping board grave markers are dedicated to children from the Medhurst family who died at an early age. I think there are more markers than this noting the deaths of more children from the family (there were a total of eleven children who died, an incredibly loss for any parents), and the markers themselves are now listed as Grade II listed monuments.

The churchyard at the rear of the church.

If there is such a thing as a perfect English church, it’s this one.