The nave, western chancel and chancel arch are early C12. Aisles and tower are late C12, though much of the former is now C14. The chancel was extended in the C13.
Peasmarsh lies on the crest of the ridge between the river Tillingham and the Rother, with the church away from the village at its southern end, near Peasmarsh Place. The nave and western chancel are both of c1100 and between them is a chancel arch of ironstone, with a distorted round head and moulded abaci with bands of arrowheads. On the west side of each respond is a relief of a couchant lion in reddish stone; like others on the outside of the chancel (see below), these at first sight appear integral, but they have been dated on stylistic grounds to 1080-90 (www.crsbi.ac.uk retrieved on 15/4/2013), so they are more likely to have been set here at a later date. There are visible links to three figures set in the exterior of the chancel (see below under 'Figures'), but the origin of all is unknown. The nave has an original west window set high and now blocked, which opens into the tower.
The tower was added in the late C12, as were the aisles. The tower arch has chamfered responds with stops beneath the abaci and on the bases and the tower outside has clasping buttresses. Some openings have been altered - the lancet bell-openings look original, but the west lancet is C19 and so probably is the south one, as there is the outline of a smaller one above. Like others in Sussex, the tower is lower than the nave roof, with a modest broach spire. The gabled south aisle is appreciably wider than the north one, but the recent discovery of a small pointed window east of the porch confirms the dimensions are unchanged, as do the roll-moulded jambs of the doorway, though its round head is renewed and until the window was found, it was thought to be reset. The narrower lean-to north aisle has a west lancet. Both three-bay arcades have heads like the tower arch, together with square piers and bases with simpler stops. The easternmost arches have nook-shafts, some missing.
The chancel was lengthened in the C13 with tall side-lancets and a plain pointed south doorway. The south east angle-buttress is original; the north east corner was rebuilt in the C14 with a diagonal buttress, at the time when the three-light traceried east window was inserted. Though this is renewed, it is is similar to that on the Sharpe Collection drawing of 1804. Also C14 is a trefoiled south west lowside, with the iron hinge for a shutter inside, and there was a new east window in the north aisle (now opening into the vestry), consisting of two trefoiled lights. The rebuilt buttress suggests structural problems, in evidence as recently as 1977 (vidi), and so may the remodelling of the south aisle soon after. Its east wall has been thickened, probably to support the chancel arch, which may already have been distorting. This would also explain why there is only a small trefoil-headed lancet here, which contrasts with the other two-light traceried windows. Only the west one is original, for the south ones, with rather ill-proportioned quatrefoils in the heads, are C19, though probably based on originals.
In the late C15 the north aisle was heightened and two-light square-headed windows were inserted, either side of a moulded four-centred doorway (now blocked). Probably at this time also, all the roofs were replaced. In nave and aisles the timbers are plain, but in the chancel they are moulded. No date is recorded, but a payment of 3s 4d in 1475-76 (1 p87) to repair the church at Peasmarsh may be connected.
The Sharpe drawing shows a plain square-headed window in the south aisle, which is no longer there. It is too indistinct to be sure if it was C15 like the north ones, though possibly altered, or post-Reformation. Sir Stephen Glynne, probably in 1826 (SNQ 16 (Nov 1967) p342),noted a plain south porch. This was replaced in the C19 and the suggestion of the VCH (9 p159) that it incorporated reset C12 side-openings is unlikely.
Restoration was done in stages, of which the earlier are poorly recorded. Nothing is known of what was done in 1850 and 1864 (Harrison p159), though by 1875 £610 had been spent (PP 125); the work in 1864 is said to have cost £400 (KD 1899). The first reliable date is 1893 (WSRO Ep II/27/205), when the pews and other fittings were replaced. According to the related ICBS application, the architect was C Smith and the work also included repairs to the walls and roofs - much of the obviously C19 work is likely to date from then. This includes the vestry, the porch and the various renewed windows and openings. In 1926 under C M O Scott nearly £3000 was spent (BAL/MSS ScCMO/1/1). The C14 lowside in the chancel was opened up and the spire repaired; otherwise most expenditure went on further new fittings (see below).
In 1962-63 further repairs were carried out under J D Wylson and R C Cox (ICBS), who completed them after Wylson's death. Subsidence after a major drought was the cause of yet more repairs in 1977, carried out by Lefevre, Wood and Royle (ibid).
Fittings and monuments
Aumbry: (South east chancel) Pointed and probably C13.
1. (South west chancel, outside) (See also above) These are related to the lions on the chancel arch and thus probably of c1080-90. They have been identified as a further lion and a bird with something in its beak, but none is in the reddish stone of those on the chancel arch. A stag, found in 1926, is in the C14 north east buttress.
2. (South aisle by piscina) C14 carved head, probably a detached stop.
Font: Plain and octagonal. It does not look older than the C19, but Horsfield describes a similar one, so this may be the same, heavily retooled.
1. (East window) C C Powell, 1936 (DSGW 1939). It replaced one by W Warrington (Warrington list). Several side lancets in the chancel retain glass in Warrington's style, notably a north lancet containing a figure set in decorative glass, commemorating a death in 1836 and very much of the period.
2. (West lancet of tower) F Preedy, 1867 (www.stainedglassrecords.org retrieved on 18/3/2013). The colours are lighter than was usual at this date.
3. (North chancel, third lancet) J Powell and Sons, 1888 (Order book).
1. (North chancel) Robert Mascell (d1815) in variegated marble, signed by J Bacon junior. It consists of a draped urn above the inscription.
2. (South chancel) Elizabeth Delves (d1819) by J Bacon junior (Roscoe p51). It comprises an oval inscription with a dove and foliage.
3. (North chancel) Rev John Lettice (d1832) by J Smith (signed).
Niche: (Easternmost pier of south arcade) C15. Very small with a cinquefoiled head in a square opening.
1. (South aisle) C14 with a segmental head.
2. (South chancel) C13, pointed with a shelf. It is linked with the sedilia (see below).
Pulpit: C M O Scott, 1926 (BAL/MSS) ibid). Oak with traceried panels.
Reredos: (Set above chancel arch) Large painted panel, said to be of plaster (Mitchell/Shell Guide p150) with the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed and the Ten Commandments. Almost certainly from a C17 or C18 reredos.
Screen: (Formerly) C M O Scott, 1926 (ibid).
Sedilia: (South chancel) C13, double with stepped seats and pointed heads, chamfered with stops at the bases and linked to the adjacent piscina (see above).
Squint: (South of chancel arch) Shapeless, but pre-Reformation.
1. M Gardiner and C Whittick: Accounts and Records of the Manor of Mote in Iden, (SRS 92), 2011
2. G M Livett: Three East Sussex Churches: II Peasmarsh, SAC 47 (1904) pp35-46.
Measured drawing by W H Godfrey in VCH 9 p158
- Category: East Sussex P - R
- Published: 27 January 2008