St Peter's Church, Rodmell
St Peter's Church, Rodmell

The 12th-century church of St Peter in the East Sussex village of Rodmell is one of the earliest examples of Norman architecture in Sussex. The church consists of a nave and south aisle, chancel, south chapel, west tower, and an attached baptistry.


A church at Rodmell was recorded in the Domesday Book, but nothing remains of this earlier building. Sometime between 1091 and 1095, the church was granted to Lewes Priory by William II of Warenne, the Second Earl of Surrey. The living later passed to the Bishop of Chichester, who served as patron of Rodmell since at least 1305.

The nave, chancel, and south chapel all date to the early years of the 12th century, while the tower and baptistry were added later in that century. The south chapel originally served as a private chapel for the residents of nearby Place House.

15th-century stained glass
15th-century stained glass

The chancel arch probably dates to a Victorian restoration, though it may be a replica of the original Norman arch. The stones used in that arch are believed to have been brought to Rodmell from Lewes Priory and were later discovered in the rectory garden.

The font is also Norman and dates to the late 12th century. It is of a square design, with a slightly tapered bowl. It is carved from Sussex marble and is lined with lead. Sussex marble is not marble, but a kind of fossil-rich limestone similar to Purbeck marble.

The font bowl is supported on a stubby central column surrounded by four slender shafts at the angles. Each face of the bowl is lightly carved with four shallow arches.

In the north-east window of the nave is a small stained glass panel depicting the Crucifixion. The glass is thought to date to the 15th century.

15th-century brass palimpsest
15th-century brass palimpsest

The Broke Palimpsest

Perhaps the most intriguing historical feature inside the church is a memorial brass fixed to the arch that divides the south aisle and the south chapel. This is a palimpsest; a brass that has been reused. The brass was first used to commemorate John Broke (d 1433) and his wife, Agatha. The back of the brass was later used to commemorate John de la Chambre, who died in 1673.

The earlier face of the brass is displayed, showing a Latin inscription which translates as, 'Near this, John Broke, and Agatha his wife, daughter of John de Rademeled and his wife died April 1434, who gave many gifts to this church; on whose soul may God have mercy. Amen.'

John de Rademeld was one of the Radmell family, whose ancient manor house of Rodmell Place stood nearby. According to a sign inside the church, Rodmell Place was later given by Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn.

The 12th-century font
The 12th-century font

According to tradition, Princess Elizabeth, later Elizabeth I, visited Rodmell Place several times and walked along the path now known as Princess Gap, which forms part of the old Roman road of Ermine Street.

Other memorials include a wall tablet to Charles Skottowe, who served as the rector of Rodmell until his death in 1767. On the wall is a war memorial listing the nine men of Rodmell who died in WWI. Below their names is the name of a single soldier who died in WWII.

In the east wall of the chancel is a lovely 14th-century piscina with a shelf and decorative head. Another, possibly older, piscina is set into the south wall of the south chapel.

The Normanesque chancel arch
The Normanesque chancel arch

Getting There

St Peter's Church is accessed by a footpath off The Street. The path is signposted, though it is easy to miss the sign. It is between Charnes Cottage and Monk's House, the National Trust house that was once owned by Virginia Woolf and her husband.

Parking is limited in Rodmell, but we found a spot in the National Trust car park. Normally, this wouldn't be appropriate to use for visiting the church, but Monk's House was closed when we visited, so we felt good about using the car park.

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

More Photos

About Rodmell, St Peter's Church
Address: The Street, Rodmell, East Sussex, England, BN7 3HW
Attraction Type: Historic Church
Location: Reached by a footpath east of The Street, in the heart of Rodmell.
Website: Rodmell, St Peter's Church
Location map
OS: TQ421062
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express


Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest

Monk's House - 0.1 miles (Historic Building) Heritage Rating

Southease, St Peter's Church - 0.6 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Anne of Cleves House - 2.2 miles (Historic Building) Heritage Rating

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Bull House - 2.4 miles (Historic Building) Heritage Rating

Lewes Castle and Barbican House Museum - 2.4 miles (Castle) Heritage Rating

Glynde Place - 2.9 miles (Historic House) Heritage Rating

Firle, St Peter's Church - 3.1 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

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