Westdean, All Saints Church
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: Thomas Memorial, circa 1639
Westdean is a rural hamlet just outside Seaford, East Sussex. At the heart of the village stands one of the most attractive historic churches in the county, begun in the late Saxon period and dedicated to All Saints.
Much of the present church dates to the Norman period, with an 11th-century nave and a 13th-century chancel. The west tower was added in the 14th century, but it was built upon a much earlier base. The tower is topped by an unusual gabled spire. The tower arch was inserted in the Norman period and in the tower is a single bell, cast in 1677.
A round-headed window in the north wall of the nave speaks to the church's early origins but much of the church interior dates to the early part of the 13th century. The church was restored in the Victorian period when the pulpit was installed along with two bronze commandment boards.
Opposite the south doorway is an ancient font of unknown date, resting on a raised base. Next to the doorway is a medieval holy water stoup.
The east window boasts 19th-century glass and was installed in honour of George Allfrey and his son, also named George. The three lights of the window depict Mary Magdalene with the Virgin Mary, the Crucifixion, and St John with a Roman soldier.
On the south wall are two windows installed in memory of Maurice Lawrance, son of the serving rector, Reverend GWA Lawrance. The younger Lawrance died at Beaumont Hamel in 1916, at the age of just 19 years. Unlike most memorial windows, these were installed, not by the dead man's family, but by public subscription. One of the donors was the Duke of Devonshire, who then held the patronage.
The most intriguing memorials, though, are a pair of tomb canopies in the north wall of the chancel. These commemorate Sire John Heringod (d 1325) and his wife, Isabella, and date to the early 14th century. Sir John was very likely responsible for the Early English rebuilding of the church.
On the opposite wall of the chancel is an extravagant memorial to William Thomas (d 1639) and his wife, Anne (d 1625). William Thomas purchased the Manor of Westdean in 1611. On the north nave wall is an alabaster memorial to the couple's daughter, Susanna Tirrey, who died in childbirth.
The Waverley Memorial
All Saint's is unusual in that it has not one, but two bronze busts acting as memorials. In the north-west corner of the nave is a bust of the Right Honourable 1st Viscount Waverley of Westdean. The bust dates from 1960 and was cast by sculptor Jacob Epstein for the Imperial War Museum in memory of the statesman best remembered for designing and producing the Anderson air-raid shelter. Above the bust is Viscount Waverly's banner, which originally hung in the Henry VII Chapel at Westminster Abbey.
The second bronze bust on display commemorates Sir Oswald Birley, a prominent artist. Birley lived at Charlestone Manor at Westdean.
Immediately outside the churchyard is the Old Parsonage (also known as the Old Rectory). This house was built in the late 13th century, possibly to house workmen rebuilding the church, and was later used as the incumbent priest's residence.
Note: don't confuse Westdean in East Sussex with West Dean, a village in West Sussex! I've seen this confusion in several online articles about both places. Maps and road atlases seem to use the two forms interchangeably.
Westdean is located immediately north of the A259 coastal road. Look for a turning signposted to Westedean just before reaching the Seven Sisters Country Park parking area (if coming from the west) or after the country park visitor centre if coming from the east.
Be aware that parking within the village is extremely difficult. We ended up parking in a lay-by just outside the village and walking to the church. The church was open when we visited and, as far as we can determine, is usually open to visitors.
About Westdean, All Saints Church
Address: The Lane, Westdean, East Sussex, England, BN25 4AL
Attraction Type: Historic Church
Location: In the heart of Westdean village, off the A259 coastal road just east of Seaford. Very limited parking in the village.
Website: Westdean, All Saints Church
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest
Friston, St Mary's Church - 1.9 miles (Historic Church)
Alfriston Clergy House - 2 miles (Historic Building)
Alfriston, St Andrew's Church - 2.1 miles (Historic Church)
East Dean, St Simon and St Jude Church - 2.4 miles (Historic Church)
Long Burgh Barrow - 2.5 miles (Prehistoric Site)
Seaford Museum of Local History - 2.6 miles (Museum)
Polegate Windmill - 4.5 miles (Historic Building)
Charleston - 4.7 miles (Historic House)
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