Burwash – St Bartholomew

The tower is early C12.  The south arcade dates from c1200 and the north one from c1300.  The aisles and C13 chancel were rebuilt in the C19.

The village street with brick and tile-hung cottages is one of the prettiest in Sussex.  By the late Middle Ages, the parish was a main centre of the Wealden iron industry.  Bateman’s, where Rudyard Kipling lived, was a C17 ironmaster’s house in the parish.

The church existed by about 1100, the date of the tower.  This has small round-headed windows on two sides in the second stage and accurately renewed double bell-openings, divided by a shaft with a scallop-capital.  The size of the tower suggests a substantial but probably aisleless church.  The south arcade of about 1200 has three bays with pointed heads and pronounced chamfers on both orders.  One pier is round and the other octagonal.  The responds resemble the latter and the south west one, like the aisle itself, does not reach the west end, so that a small arch was inserted in the remaining length of wall in the C19.  Though the chancel was reconstructed in the C19, the three stepped east lancets are as shown on the Burrell Collection drawing (1784) and it is likely that the other ones, which are unusually tall, are also accurate in form; the south ones appear original and may have been re-used.  These were probably mid-C13 and the broad chancel arch with corbels on the responds and stops on the outer order still dates from this period.

The north arcade, which had four arches from the start, followed about 1300 and differs markedly, with taller arches, all octagonal piers and abaci that are less substantial.  Later C14 alterations are obscured by C19 rebuilding.  A south west angle-buttress and large stone porch were added to the tower.  Though largely rebuilt, its arch resembles the north arcade and is thus C14, as is the plain doorway inside.  The C19 niches and angels on the porch were based what was found (Eccl Dec 1855 p392).  The shingled broach spire is probably C14, like the low tower arch, which has two orders on the head dying into the responds without abaci.  On the evidence of the Burrell drawing and that in the Sharpe Collection (1804), the walls of the aisles with square-headed windows were of this period, so early C14.  However, the east window of the south aisle once incorporated the Pelham family’s badge of the buckle (2 p225) in the head and was late C14 at the earliest (see also the font below).

After the Reformation, galleries were added in the nave, as the dormers on the Sharpe drawing show.  In 1855 a thorough restoration, in many ways a reconstruction, was undertaken, initially by R C Carpenter (BN 14 p441), though his successor W Slater signed the application to the ICBS.  On the tower, he replaced an internal stair by a stair-turret, opened up the tower arch and rebuilt the west porch.  Both aisles were considerably widened and though intially intended to be gabled (Eccl ibid), in the event the previous lean-to roofs were repeated.  The side-windows remain square-headed, but comparison with the Sharpe and Burrell drawings shows four in the south aisle, not three and the end windows are now pointed.  The chancel was rebuilt, though as well as the south lancets, the doorway may have been re-used.  A cinquefoiled lowside looks all C19, but is said to be based on what was found (SAC 84 (1944-45) p145).  The chancel arch was repaired rather than replaced and all roofs were replaced.  These are panelled in both nave and chancel.  Though Slater restored the tower, there was further work in 1890 (Harrison p40).

Fittings and monuments

Brass: (South aisle wall by tombslab) Small and worn figure of a civilian, c1440.
Font: C15 with an octagonal bowl with concave sides (cf Dallington).  Each bears a shield, blank except two bearing the Pelham buckle.
1.  (South aisle east window and adjacent) Heaton, Butler and Bayne (attr), c1866-69  (www.stainedglassrecords.org retrieved on 4/2/2013).  They consist of multiple scenes.
2.  (East window) M Travers, 1928 (Warrener and Yelton p321).  A bold design with notably pale colouring.  It replaces medallions of glass, made by Ward to the design of J R Clayton, 1855 (BN 14 ibid).
3.  (South aisle, two-light window) J Bell and Son, Bristol, 1955 (DSGW 1958), designed by A W Robinson (Little etc p104).  It consists of figures set in plain glass, giving a view of the Wealden landscape outside.
4.  (South chancel, third window) P W Cole, 1957 (WSRO Fac).  Perhaps surprisingly for its date, its small scale scenes takes their cue from the adjacent C19 glass.
5.  (North aisle, second window) M Lawrence, 2001 (artist’s website).  Millennium window of two lights, its vivid colouring contrasting with the muted tones of the Bell and Son glass opposite.  Depicted are St Bartholomew and the Parable of the Talents.
1.  (Inside tower to south) Obedience Nevitt (d1619) a plain epitaph with a small rounded pediment, worth noting because her first name reveals Puritan sympathies, at least on the part of her parents.
2.  (North aisle, west wall) John Polhill (d1689) by T Cartwright (Roscoe p221).  It consists of a draped inscription.
3. (West end of north aisle) John Cason (d1675) Oval cartouche attributed to W Stanton (BE(E) p293).
4.  (South west corner of aisle) Rev John Courtail (d1806) by J Flaxman (ibid p452).  Figures of Faith and Hope flank the inscription.
5. (West wall of south aisle) William Constable (d1810) by L Parsons (Roscoe p952).  The inscription is topped by a draped urn.
(image) (image) 6. (South aisle western corner) Mrs Christian Mackenzie (c1822) by R Blore junior (ibid p120). An obelisk with draped arms beneath.
Piscina: (Reset in south aisle) Plain pointed and probably C13.
Reredos: 1911, designed by Sir C Nicholson (BN 100 p768), probably with his partner H C Corlette.  This has four riddel-posts in a row, each surmounted by a figure.  In the centre are two panels with carved and painted figures.
Squint: (Between aisle and chancel) C19 with a cinquefoiled head, said to be an accurate copy.
Screen and stalls: These are also by Sir C Nicholson with H C Corlette and date from 1913 (Bundock p120).  The screen in particular is low and the shallow carving is characteristic of the work of F Rosier; if so, he appears to have been working to what was basically the design of another.
Iron tomb-slabs: (South aisle) Jhone Coline.  The Lombardic lettering is C14 in style, so it has been seen as the first in Sussex.  However, the Sussex iron industry only became significant in the early C16 and Willatts suggests that the lettering is anachronistic (SAC 125 (1987) p103).  The phrase ORATE P[RO] ANNEMA [sic], [i e pray for the soul] does, however, show it is pre-Reformation and is thus the oldest slab to bear a name.  The person commemorated may be John Collins, who died in 1537 and owned an iron furnace a couple of miles away.  A misreading of ‘P ANNEMA’ led Dan and Una in Kipling’s Puck of Pook’s Hill to call this part of the church ‘Panama corner’.  Further slabs are dated 1617 and 1770.
War memorial: (Outside the churchyard) More ambitious than many, with an open lantern top, it includes the name of Kipling’s son John, killed in 1915, to whom there is also a bronze memorial in the form of a medallion by C Wheeler (BE(E) p294) in the church.


1.  W H Godfrey: Parish Church of St Bartholomew, Burwash, SNQ 11 (Nov 1947) pp167-68
2.  M A Lower: The Buckle: the Badge of the Family of Pelham, SAC 3 (1851) pp211-31
3.  C F Trower: Burwash, SAC 21 (1869) pp108-37


Measured plan by W H Godfrey in VCH 9 p198

My thanks to Nick Wiseman for the colour photographs, except of the tower and the Bell glass