Buxted – St Mary

Though 20 miles from Brighton, St Mary’s is in every way a Wagner church.  In 1873 A D Wagner leased a house in the village to rest from his work and when not in use, he made it available to the community of Anglican sisters he had founded (Maughan p85).  Later, Wagner built a house for himself and more spacious quarters for the sisters, before in 1883 deciding to build a more conveniently placed church for the general use of the village, which had been moved nearly two miles from the mediaeval church in what is now Buxted Park.  The design is by E E Scott, but by this date his partner, F T Cawthorn (ibid), probably took the lead.

The church was consecrated in 1886.  It is very much in the idiom of the practice at this date, built of pebbly flint with Perpendicular detail.  Like the same architects’ demolished Brighton and Hove, St Saviour, it is built over a schoolroom and it is entered up stairs to a doorway in the tower, south of the nave.  Another trademark is the tiled spire behind battlements.  A curious feature is the pre-occupation with the figure 7 – seven north windows, 63 (9×7) ft long and 21(3×7) ft wide.  This was inspired by the Biblical cubit of 7ft.

The interior disappoints, especially now it is painted white.  As is apparent in a few places under the paint, the walls originally had stencilled decoration, with wall paintings in the south chapel (see below).  This is entered from behind the tower through a plain arcade.  Unusually, there is no separate chancel, not even an east window.


Altar: (Formerly) The removal of a reredos designed by G F Bodley has deprived the interior of a much needed focus.
Font: Octagonal, with quatrefoils on the bowl.
1. (South chapel east window) C E Kempe, 1896.
2. (South chapel south windows) Kempe and Co, 1909.
3. (North nave) Kempe and Co, 1910 and 1921
Painting: (Formerly) Figures of saints in the chapel between the windows, doubtfully attributed to Kempe.

My thanks to Nick Wiseman for the colour photograph of the interior of St Mary’s and those of the Kempe and Kempe and Co glass.