St Nicholas Church, Pevensey

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Things to do


Date of travel

October, 2021

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St Nicholas is a very large “church”: indicating that Pevensey was a town of importance when it was built. It is almost too big to photograph. It is dedicated to St Nicholas who is the patron saint of seafarers, reflecting importance of Pevensey as a port at that time.

The church was built in the early C13th, at the time Pevensey was granted its Royal Charter by King John and replaced a smaller church in the inner ward of the castle. It is a good example of Early English architecture. The tower is unusual as it was built against the north wall of the church rather than at the west end, indicating there may have been plans to extend the nave. The chancel with its three lancet windows, dates from the early C13th and is long compared to the nave, which was added later. The massive roof timbers are the original.

During the C17th a solid wall was built across the chancel arch and the chancel was used for various purposes, including a cowshed and coal-store. According to local tradition it also housed smuggled goods.

There was a major restoration in late C19th by George Gilbert Scott Junior, when the chancel was opened up again. The north chancel chapel was rebuilt and now contains the organ with a small vestry behind it. The south chancel chapel was rebuilt and is now the Lady Chapel. The stained glass is C19th/early C20th. The topmost stage of the tower, which had been demolished about 1800, was rebuilt in 1893 with a shingled spire above it. The bells were recast and rehung.

Further work in 2007-8 has restored and repointed much of the exterior, preventing water ingress. The north and south aisles were reroofed and the church clock regilded. A new heating system was installed.

Inside it is a large church with arcades separating the nave and lower side aisles.The font near the west door is described as C15th, although although some sources suggest it is earlier. The wooden cover is C19th.

At the back of north wall is a monument to “John Wheatley”: (died 1616) lying on his side, with two lions on the floor. He was a wealthy parishioner said to have contributed £40 (a fair sum in those days) towards the cost of repairing a ship to fight the Spanish Armada in 1588.

Access to the bell chamber is by a lovely Victorian cast-iron spiral staircase in the north transept.

The Lady Chapel is at the end of the south aisle and there is an old grave slab in the floor.

The chancel is simply furnished with a patterned tiled floor and three lancet windows containing C19th glass.

The church is on Church Lane, just behind the High Street. There is some on street parking. Failing that there is a large car park by the entrance to the castle. The church is open from 9am till dusk. The nearest post code is BN24 5LD and the grid reference is TQ647048.

There are information boards in the church about the Norman invasion, and the Royal Charter.



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