The Church of the Transfiguration
Jill Munday tel 01273 566276, Sandra Milner tel 01273 843272
To find out more about the Pyecombe Church Extension Project click here: Pyecombe extension
Description and History
This lovely church is over 800 years old. Built on the site of an earlier Saxon Church, it is located on historic Roman as well as pre-historic tracks, and now lies on the South Downs Way.
The Church was under construction at the time of the murder of Thomas a’Becket in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170 – an event that led to huge numbers of people making a pilgrimage to his shrine in Canterbury. The traditional Pilgrims Way ran from Winchester to Canterbury, but people made their way from all over the South of England, and Pyecombe was probably a favoured stopping place, where hospitality would have been offered.
From this early period, we have the simple central Norman arch (1170), as well as the Norman lead font, made in the same year, which is one of only 3 in Sussex – another being in our sister church at Edburton. Evidence of whitewash is said to date from the civil war in 1645 when residents wanted to prevent the lead being used for bullets.
The floor tiles around the altar are from the 13th century, made by craftsmen from the powerful Lewes Priory. The toweris also 13th century, and topped with a tiled wooden roof known as a ‘Sussex Cap’. Rare elsewhere, these are common in Sussex. The single bell in the tower is dedicated to St Catherine and from the 15th century. The South doorway is now blocked.
In 1603, a particularly bad outbreak of plague created a village in two halves since villagers resettles half a mile further west in what is now known as ‘Pyecombe Street’.
It was about this time that the original dedication or name of the Church was lost – the current name – which is most unusual for an Anglican Church - is from the 20th century.
The Pulpit would have originally had 3 tiers. The current pulpit and rector’s stall opposite were made in 1898 from this pulpit, and bear the date 1636.
At the end of the 19th century (1898), the whole church was encased in pebble dash, covering the original flintwork. Theforge opposite the church was where the famous Pyecombe shepherds crooks were made until the 1970s. The centrally pivoted churchyard gate is known as a ‘Tapsel gate’ – a type found only in Sussex, close to Lewes. The organ was acquired in 1852, and moved from the tower in 1995.
These features are the details of a small church with a proud history and sense of beauty. The arch draws the eye to the altar and the stained glass window above it. Villagers are justly proud of their lovely church which is the centre for village life, and a place of devotion, open to all who pass it, now as through the past 800 years.
Information taken by permission from the ‘Story of Pyecombe and its Church’, which is available in the Church and in which additional details can be found.