Heyshott – St James

The small C13 church has a C19 chancel and north aisle.

Heyshott, which lies in the wooded commons north of the Downs, was until 1882 a chapelry of Stedham (VCH 4 p63).  There is documentary evidence of a chapel here in the C12, but this likely to have been elsewhere, for in 1972 a potter’s kiln dated to the early C13 was found at the west end (MA 17 (1973) p185), which must surely predate any church on this site. The likely date for the present church is thus unlikely to be before the late C13.

The church has a flint nave, a plain, pointed south doorway and three-bay north arcade with round piers and double-chamfered arches.  The west respond, has no abacus, so that the arch dies into it.  The presence of this form of arch supports a late C13 dating, probably for the whole structure.  The original aisle had three plain lancets and though it was only half as wide as the present one (VCH ibid), this retains the previous arrangement.  The chancel, also rebuilt, was probably also late C13, though the Sharpe Collection drawing (1804) shows that the south side was accurately copied.

In the late C14 most windows were replaced.  The two-light south and west ones in the nave have sexfoils in the heads, contained within straight verticals, marking the beginning of the Perpendicular; though restored, they are original.  In the chancel, the large three-light south window, unchanged in form, is as before and unexpected in so modest a church. Though it has been suggested (BE(W) p433) that this was originally the east window, the Sharpe collection drawing (1804) shows it in the same position as today.  The previous east window was not recorded, but the present three-light one is C19 of generally C14 form.  The nave roof is C15, with downward-braced crownposts.

There is little sign of further change before the C19.  The boarded and shingled belfry, despite the presence of what seem to be corbels, is flush with the main west wall beneath.  Parts may be earlier or even original, but the visible beams supporting it inside are C19.  The church was mostly rebuilt in 1855 by an unknown architect, at a cost of £800 (PP125).  The chancel is on old foundations, but the new aisle is gabled as it is wider than its predecessor.  During the work the floor level was raised, concealing the bases of the arcade.  The chancel arch was rebuilt in C13 style (the appearance of the previous one is not known) and the south porch was replaced.

Fittings and monument

Font: Round C13 bowl with capitals for shafts carved into the base, like that at Cuckfield.  It rests directly on a later square base, so presumably a stem has been lost.
Font cover: Openwork and C17.
1. (North aisle centre lancet) Late C15 yellow and silver angels, removed in 1855 and returned by the daughter of the C19 radical statesman Richard Cobden (1804-65), who was born in the village, in 1912.
2. (East and south chancel windows) J Powell and Sons, 1855. Quarries bearing leaves (Cash book).
3. (South nave, first window) W T Morris of Westminster, war memorial, 1921 (signed).
4. (North aisle, east window) W T Morris of Westminster 1928 (WSRO Fac 2618).
Monument:  A plaque to Cobden is above the pew where he sat, though he is actually buried at West Lavington.
Piscina: (Under nave south window) Plain square-headed, probably as old as the church and rare in this position, as a nave altar was usually set against the east wall.
Reredos: There was a C19 reredos by ‘Stirling Lee’ (Mee p203), said to have died while working on it, which has now gone.  It included a framed plaster relief of Christ with angels.  The most likely designer was the sculptor Thomas Stirling Lee, whose work is not otherwise found in Sussex and. if so, its loss is greatly to be regretted as he was not a prolific artist.  A less probable alternative would be his brother John Stirling Lee, who is a possible author of work at Seaford, East Sussex (for both men see under J S Lee).
Royal Arms: (Over south doorway) Painted C18 rustic panel, of the type in use before 1802.


Measured plan by W D Peckham in VCH 4 p62