St Mary the Virgin Church, Friston
St Mary the Virgin Church, Friston

The rural church of St Mary the Virgin has graced the East Sussex village of Friston since the late Saxon period. There are remnants of Saxon stonework in the north wall of the Norman nave and the nave roof dates to the 15th century.

Historical Features

The south porch features a medieval holy water stoop and graffiti made by medieval pilgrims. A fragment of a grave slab is embedded in the north porch wall.

Set into the south wall of the nave is an 11th-century window. Also from the 11th century is a piscina set into the wall beside the pulpit. The font is much later; it dates to the Tudor period, while the pulpit was crafted during Queen Anne's reign.

The Selwyn brasses
The Selwyn brasses, 1539

Set into the south wall are memorial brasses to Sir Thomas (d 1539) and Lady Selwyn. The Selwyn family resided at Friston Place from the 15th century well into the Stuart period. The Selwyn brass is a palimpsest; the figures of Sir Thomas and his wife are etched into the back of a 15th-century brass of Sir John Popham.

The chancel dates to the 13th century and features a 14th-century aumbry in the north wall. The east window holds Victorian stained glass and depicts the Virgin Mary and St James the Great. In the south wall is a 14th-century piscina.

Sir Thomas Selwyn memorial, 1613
Sir Thomas Selwyn memorial, 1613

The Selwyn Memorial

Standing against the west wall of the north chapel is a superb alabaster and marble memorial to Sir Thomas Selwyn (d 1613) erected by his wife, Elizabeth. The memorial shows the kneeling figures of Sir Thomas and Lady Elizabeth facing each other across a prayer desk in traditional late-Tudor style. Three infants, presumably stillborn, are shown under the prayer desk while a further six are shown kneeling beneath. The Latin inscription behind the couple can be translated as:

'Sacred to the memory of Thomas Selwyn Esquire (descended from the ancient Selwyn family in this district) a man (while he lived) distinguished for piety, honesty, and liberality and ever ready to come to the aid of relatives and friends.

By Elizabeth his wife, a daughter of Henry Goring of Burton, Knight. He had three sons (who lost the light of this life in their tender years) and six daughters, Mary, joined in wedlock to Thomas Parker, Alice to John Woodward, Dorothy, Anne, Beatrice.

He lived for 67 years and rendered his soul to Christ at Friston on the sixteenth March, in the year of our salvation 1613. His remains hidden here await the great day for which all men look.

Elizabeth his sorrowing wife placed this stone of memory.'

Commonwealth war graves
Commonwealth war graves

On the opposite wall is a memorial to Edward Selwyn (d 1704) and other members of his family.

The churchyard is home to three Commonwealth War Graves. Three unknown members of the merchant navy during WWII are buried here, their epitaphs reading only, 'Known Unto God'.

The timber king-post roof
The timber king-post roof

Getting There

St Mary's Church is located at the junction of the A259 coastal road and Crowlink Lane. There is parking for a few cars on Crowlink Lane, outside the churchyard gate, and further parking on the north side of the A259 in the Friston housing estate.

We found parking easily, but getting out of Crowlink Lane and turning right onto the A259 was tricky due to the amount of traffic and limited visibility. It's fine if you're turning west onto the A259, but if you're turning east towards East Dean, visibility is poor.

The church was open when we visited and, as far as we can determine, it is usually open daily to visitors.

More Photos

About Friston, St Mary the Virgin Church
Address: Crowlink Lane, Friston, East Sussex, England, BN20 0AU
Attraction Type: Historic Church
Location: At the junction of Crowlink Lane and the A259. Limited parking on Crowlink Lane and more parking across the A259 in the Friston housing estate.
Website: Friston, St Mary the Virgin Church
Location map
OS: TV551981
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express


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