Eastergate – St George
A small two-cell church, originally C11. The chancel was altered in the C13 and the west end soon after 1534.
Eastergate is an untidy village on the coastal plain and the church is in one of the few attractive corners, approached through a farmyard past a fine early C17 granary on staddlestones, mushroom-shaped posts of stone, intended to keep rats at bay.
A church is mentioned in Domesday Book (11,93) and it is probably the present one, which consists of nave and chancel. The work is certainly C11, but the proportions are post-Conquest, though the walls are only 2ft 6in thick (Taylor and Taylor p717). The south wall of the short chancel contains herringbone masonry with some Roman brick (though this is not an infallible sign of C11 work) and it inclines to the north. A small north window has a head formed from a single stone and a steeply sloping external sill. Though there is no external splay, the glazing is recessed. This is a more reliable indicator of the date, though as the east end has been altered and most of the exterior is rendered, certainty is impossible.
Most later changes consisted of new windows. Two south lancets in the chancel with unusually low sills and the plain pointed north nave doorway are C13. In the nave are there are two C14 two-light south windows with sexfoils in the heads and one similar north one, together with a single cinquefoiled south lancet. Heraldic glass of c1360 (see below) in one may provide the date. The three-light east window has panelled tracery and, though much renewed, has enough old work to show it is C15, like the crownpost roof of the nave.
In 1534, Richard Brown in his will (details in SRS 42 p116) enjoined his son-in-law to extend the church to the west by 12ft and the square-headed west window, with three uncusped lights, and the west doorway, with a depressed head, are of this date. However, although Lower and, more recently, the VCH (5(1) p159) assumed the extension took place, the overall length and proportions suggest otherwise, though once again the render prevents certainty. In particular, the position of the south nave windows suggests the nave is no longer than when they were inserted in the C14 and the C15 nave roof is an entity with no sign of a join. Indeed, it incorporates supports for the belfry, which is corbelled out over the west wall, so though the present one is not old, its position appears to have been fixed since the C15.
The plain round-headed chancel arch was inserted between the C16 and the early C19; its breadth points to the C17 or C18. Though it is plastered and thus hard to date exactly, the chancel roof is mostly C17, so the arch may be also. Its breadth and form preclude any possibility of it being C11. Surprisingly, it was replaced at neither the restoration of the chancel in 1876-77 (ibid) nor of the nave in 1883 (CDK 1884 pt 2 143); the latter was by G M Hills (BE(W) p352). Work in the chancel included the restoration of the C13 and C15 windows and alterations to the roof. A new vestry was added, in turn replaced in 1925 (VCH ibid). The nave was treated similarly; work included replacing the belfry and spirelet. In neither case are names known. There was further work, when the church was re-ordered, in 2000 (church website).
Altar rails: Simple C18 work with slender balusters.
Font: Plain octagonal C15.
1. (South nave, centre window) Heraldic glass, dated to c1360, showing the arms of de Warenne quartering those of Fitzalan.
2. (East window) Christ, flanked by St George and St Michael, in memory of Lord Kitchener. Heaton, Butler and Bayne, 1916 (signed like those below).
3. (South nave, first and third windows) Heaton, Butler and Bayne, 1926 and 1916.
4. (West window) Heaton, Butler and Bayne, c1918. It consists of figures set in plain glass.
5. (North nave, first window) Heaton, Butler and Bayne, c1915.
1. Since the C19, the existence of early wall-paintings in the chancel has been known. Though nothing is now visible, Eve Baker believed (CCC file) these included both decorative and figurative painting, which P M Johnston described as depicting martyrs in flames. He related these to work at Witley, Surrey (SALP 2nd Series 29 (1917) p194) and dated them to around 1100. The decorative work was thought to be similar to that at Clayton. If so, this could imply a link to the ‘Lewes group’ so investigation of what might remain is urgently needed.
2. (Chancel north wall) The removal of a monument has revealed part of a C17 black letter inscription.
Stalls: Situated in the chancel arch, these are canopied and resemble open sentry boxes. They are probably not later than the early C19 and a rare survival.
My thanks to Richard Standing for the photograph of the mediaeval glass