Earnley – Dedication unknown
Small, with a C13 nave and a C14 chancel.
In the Middle Ages Earnley was one of the poorest livings in the diocese, leading to amalgamation in 1526 with the equally poor rectory of Almodington in the northern part of the parish. Nothing is known of what was there by way of a church. In 1535 the united benefice was valued at £7 5s 11d (VCH 4 p203), but it evidently prospered thereafter since the 1859 Clergy List gives its value as £440, well above the diocesan average of £309 (information from Martin Jones). Manor and cottages surround the modest church in its roughly triangular churchyard. The oldest part is the nave and though its detail is renewed, the south lancets shown by Quartermain ((W) p97) are like the present renewed ones and indicate a C13 date. The presence of jambs beneath the south west one shows it was originally a doorway and a north doorway of the same date remains.
The C14 chancel is slightly wider than the nave and the two are not bonded; nor is there a chancel arch. Other detail includes an ogee-headed lancet both sides, though the triangular head of the north one may be altered. The east window, largely old, has two trefoiled lights under a quatrefoil, of which only the bottom lobe is pointed. A square opening high up to the north (now blocked) may have been for ventilation. Quartermain shows a cusped east nave lancet, which shows that some work was also done there at around the same time.
Until 1580 the chancel was thatched (VCH 4 p203). Assuming that as well as its removal there was other work on the roofs then, this may be a clue to the date of the present nave one. Whatever its date, two courses of brick and rubble were added at the same time to the walls above the wallplates, which are visible outside, with segments cut out above each lancet. These must have been at least altered in the C19. Inside, the roof is plastered except for tiebeams, which do not help to date it. The west window, with Y-tracery in a round-headed opening, could also be of this period.
The tiled belfry dates from the restoration in 1873-74 by L W Ridge (ICBS). It replaced one shown on the Sharpe Collection drawing (1805) which was presumably contemporary with the nave roof. Dallaway’s statement (I p26) that there was a low embattled tower is clearly an error. Ridge renewed almost all the stonework in the nave, in some cases altering it, and added a north porch (dated 1873), but retained the nave roof and adapted his new lancets to fit. He did not supply a chancel arch, just a pointed wooded divide. In the chancel he heightened the floor (so the piscina is very close to the present floor level) and replaced the roof. The interior remained plain and a redecoration and extension of the sanctuary by the Tyler-Dixon Partnership in 1971 (WSRO Par 72/4/3), after war damage in which the roof suffered most, has accentuated this.
Altar chest: In the gothic style and only supplied in 1930 (BE(W) p345), but seldom on view.
Aumbry: (Chancel north wall) Square and probably C14, with a carved C17 door.
Font: C15 plain octagonal with a later stem. Adelaide Tracy (I p82) in 1852 shows it built into the wall below a window. Such an arrangement is unlikely to be original.
1. (Nave south east lancet) Memorial window to Y Hudson (d1985), an artist who lived in the parish, based on her drawings and made by P Soderberg (www.publicsculpturesofsussex.co.uk). It depicts the story of Jonah (notice by window).
2. (Head of east window) Quatrefoil-shaped dove of peace, by M Howse with architectural work by R Meynell, 2004 (www.melhowse.co.uk retrieved on 11/2/2013).
Piscina: (South chancel wall) C14 ogee-headed (see above). It does not resemble the trefoil-headed one with a shelf, which is shown in an insert to the otherwise uninformative engraving in the Gentleman’s Magazine (1804 Part II opp p1101).
Tiles: (Either side of the nave). Designed by Y Hudson (BE(W) ibid) The Presentation in the Temple and the Visitation are shown.
1 F W Steer: Guide to the Parish Church of Earnley (Sussex Churches no 48), 1973
Measured plan by W D Peckham in VCH 4 p203