Fletching – St Andrew and St Mary
The tower and nave are early C12 and the aisles and transepts C13, as was the chancel until it was largely rebuilt in the C19. The north transept became a mausoleum in the C18.
Fletching is the estate village of Sheffield Park; one of the lodges is near the church, which has been closely associated with the main landowners since the Middle Ages. The size of tower and nave show it was significant from an early date, though the present double dedication does not predate the Reformation, when the church was dedicated to St Mary only (2 p12).
The tower is built of large roughly shaped boulders with round-headed windows that look C12. So does the south bell-opening with two round-headed arches connected by a shaft with a turned capital, set in a shallow, larger arch. However, it may have been restored, for an engraving in The Gentleman’s Magazine (1805 pt II opp p601) shows a two-light pointed opening, apparently superimposed on the original. Some of the upper stage has been rebuilt in ashlar and the two other openings, though double and round-headed, are set in recessed squares; the east one is now only visible inside. The walls are thin for the C12 (P M Johnston suggested the tower was pre-Conquest (SAC 43 p155)) and the relatively small tower arch is tall and narrow. However, though renewed, the chevron ornament on the head follows the old work (Lower I p184) and the side facing into the tower retains some original chevrons (www.crsbi.ac.uk retrieved on 1/4/2013), so despite some old fashioned features, the whole tower is probably early C12.
The nave is also C12, as two round-headed south windows inside show, both cut into by the later arcade. Their sills are on different levels, which along with the long, narrow dimensions led Poole to suggest that the eastern part of the nave was built later in the century on the site of the original chancel (SAC 87 (1948) p52), an unlikely proposition, if only as the first chancel would not have been removed so soon.
In the C13 aisles were added and despite later alterations the west lancets and a plain north doorway remain. The rere-arches of the lancets lack scoinsons, indicating a date early in the C13. The arcades have round piers and double-chamfered arches; those of the north arcade have stops, and are thus slightly later. It was found during the restoration that the bases of the piers rest on the original C12 walling. They become progressively deeper towards the west, suggesting the nave was stepped. Beyond the eastern ends of both arcades a further arch, with semi-octagonal responds, opens into the transept each side. Taken with their windows, they show these are later C13. The south transept has a two-light south window with simple tracery (the equivalent to the north now opens into the C18 mausoleum beyond, so it can only be seen from inside) and both transepts have two long east lancets. Though not readily noticeable, the south transept is slightly higher and wider than the north one (Meads). The arches from the transepts into the aisles are no earlier than the late C13, for the two chamfered orders dying into the responds are a form seldom found much before 1300.
The aisles were built with transepts in mind, as the arcades stop before their arches, but the transepts belong with the chancel. This was largely rebuilt in the C19, but the north wall looks original with a lowside and two long lancets; their moulded rere-arches appear to be original, though the single C19 south one also has one. The Sharpe Collection drawing (1805) and Quartermain ((E) p89) show a pair of south ones near the east end, with a lowside. Also apparently original are the unusual dimensions, whereby the chancel is 4ft wider than the nave (Meads) and long, even by the standards of its time. The unusual three-light east window has an elegantly curved head, springing lower down than usual, with three cusped circles in the head, combined with intersections. It looks renewed, but on the evidence of both Quartermain and Adelaide Tracy (1857 or possibly earlier) (IV p4) with little change; indeed, when rebuilt, fragments were re-used (BN 39 p687). Also rebuilt in the C19 was the chancel arch. Its present form is related to that of the transept arches and its predecessor is said to have been similar (4 p239).
By 1300 the church had attained its present dimensions, but in the mid-C14 a clerestory of trefoiled lancets was built, the openings of which are not aligned with the arches beneath. The original roofline is visible on the east wall of the tower and the present nave roof, with braced crownposts, though altered in the C19, probably dates from this time. The tower was also altered, with diagonal buttresses and a moulded west doorway. The present shingled broach spire has been dated to 1340 (Elphick p224), a likely date for the C14 alterations. If so, this gives the latest date for the changes to the upper part of the tower, which are unlikely to be later than the spire. The only C15 work was to the aisles, which the north aisle shows were heightened then and which both have three-light windows with square heads, though renewed. A stone south porch was added with small side-openings and an arch with a square hoodmould.
Late C18 and C19 drawings show a continuous roof, said to have been altered in the C18 (4 p241), over the nave and south aisle, concealing the clerestory, with a dormer for a gallery near the tower. However, the most significant C18 change was the addition to the north transept of a mausoleum for the Sheffields. Its present features are C19 and there is no earlier drawing, but the inscriptions and memorials inside suggest the detail was Gothick. It is entered from the transept, with just sufficient space to read the florid Latin inscriptions, written mostly by the Rev Hugh James Rose (Horsfield I p380). One Dr Parr composed an especially convoluted one to Edward Gibbon (d 1794), the historian, who died at Sheffield Park (ibid).
In 1866 (B 24 (18 April 1866) p ii) the intention of restoring the tower was announced, but the first certain work was in 1880-81, the latest of several restorations in the area by J O Scott (B 40 p29). It cost £7000, a not inconsiderable sum. His work has largely already been discussed and though much amounted to rebuilding, he made few changes, as the chancel shows. Scott replaced the single roof that covered nave and aisles, revealing the clerestory (BN 39 p687) and re-using existing timbers and Horsham slabs. He also added a vestry north of the chancel.
Fittings and monuments
1. (South transept) To a member of the Dallyngrygge family and his wife c1380 and belonging to the B Series (see London workshops), it is related to others, mainly in East Anglia (see 1 pp439-40). The figures are under separate canopies; the knight, in carefully incised armour rests his feet upon a lion, the lady on a dog. They lie on a chest with cusped niches, which would have contained weepers. Of the stone canopy above, still extant in 1820 (2 p22),little survives.
2. (South transept) Peter Denot, mid-C15. Denot was a glover, who was involved in Jack Cade’s revolt and pardoned. In place of an effigy the brass shows a pair of gloves.
Door: C15 south door with much restored carved tracery.
Font: Bulging round bowl with carved foliage, set on triple shafts. Designed by J O Scott (BN ibid) and thus dating from the restoration.
Funerary helms: (Above both transept arches). These probably relate to the many hatchments of the Earls of Sheffield in the church and are unlikely to have been placed in the church before the C17, though sometimes the armour itself was older.
1. (East lancets of south transept) Fragments, mostly small, of old glass. Some of this looks mediaeval, probably C15 and was arranged by J Powell and Sons, 1880 (Order book)
2. Much by C E Kempe, 1883 (Chancel south); 1899 (East window) and 1893 (South transept).
3. (South aisle, west window) J Powell and Sons, 1879 (Order Book).
4. (All north and south clerestory) J Powell and Sons, 1881 (ibid).
5. (North and south chancel windows) Figures of saints, Kempe and Co, 1908, 1917 and 1920.
6. (North west chancel) L Lee, 1977 (signed). A single figure set in plain glass.
7. (North transept, second east window) A Younger, 1992 (signed).
8. (North transept, first east window) C Benyon, 2011, abstract in design incorporating cock. (NW).
1. (South transept) Small mutilated effigies of an unknown knight and his lady c1380, made from a single piece of stone. These are said to have been found in the foundations of the north side of the church during repairs around 1830 (2 ibid).
2. (South transept) Richard Leche (d1596) and his wife. Large, with recumbent alabaster effigies and a flat-topped pillared surround that has been altered, probably following a collapse in 1783 (Llewellyn p127).
1. (North transept) C14 cinquefoiled head, topped with a flattened finial possibly intended for an image.
2. (South chancel) C19 trefoil-headed. The form recalls late C13 work.
Pulpit: Early C17 with panels carved with arabesques.
Royal arms: (North aisle, west end) James I. They are small and carved, the whole being contained in a Garter.
Screen: Restored C15 with large openings, divided into six lights with panelled tracery, with a centre opening.
Sedilia: C19 triple canopied, with shafts, cusping and dogtooth.
Squint: (North respond of chancel arch) It probably survives from the late C13 arch, as it is too shapeless to be C19.
Stoups: (In south porch and inside by south doorway) Probably C15.
1. B S H Egan and R K Morris: A Restoration at Fletching, Sussex, TMBS 10,6 (1968) pp436-44
2. B W Howe: Fletching – a History …, 5th revised edition, 2008
3. F Spurrell: On the Architecture of Fletching Church, SAC 4 (1851) pp237-42
4. S D Wilde: Fletching Parish and Church, SAC 4 (1851) pp231-36
1. Undifferentiated plan by F Spurrell (1851) in 3. opp p231
2. Differentiated plan in Salter p32
My thanks to Nick Wiseman (NW) for alerting me to the recent glass by C Benyon and providing the photograph