Terwick – St Peter

A small heavily restored church, which is originally probably C12, though most detail is later.

The parish is one of the long, narrow ones associated with the valley of the Western Rother and appears always to have been sparsely populated without any central settlement.  The church stands a little way from the present route of the A272, separated by a field with lupins which is now in National Trust ownership and until after World War II formed part of the rector’s glebe.

Architecturally, the church is modest but not straightforward, as a consequence of extensive C19 alterations.  Thus, the herringbone work in the chancel that can be seen in the Burrell and Sharpe Collection drawings (1791 and 1804), of which nothing now remains, may suggest a C11 origin.  However, the proportions, the aisleless nave and chancel more probably point to the earlier C12, with a small, round-headed west window, its head formed from a single stone, and a round-headed west doorway with chamfered jambs, which is renewed externally.  The rere-arch of this is taller, but its broad proportions confirm its relatively late date.

The chancel appears from its present proportions never to have been lengthened, despite alterations in the C13.  Adelaide Tracy (I p37) (1848) shows two east lancets of this period, like those elsewhere in the area e g Elsted.  There was also a south lancet and the Burrell drawing shows a lowside, which by the time of the Sharpe one is shown as a square-headed doorway (now blocked).  The nave was also provided with lancets including two south ones, of which that to the east is partly original.  On the north side, one in the chancel and one in the nave show little old work.  The chancel lancets have segmental rere-arches whilst those in the nave have scoinsons, the latter suggesting they are somewhat later, towards the middle of the C13.

The nave was altered again in the C15.  Enough old stonework remains of a three-light north nave window with a depressed head to confirm its date and there is a two-light square-headed south one, renewed but of the same period.  The main timbers of the nave roof, though largely hidden by plaster, are probably also C15, like the boarded bell-turret and spirelet shown on the Sharpe drawing.  Assuming there was one, the form of the chancel arch at this time is unknown.  Any original one would probably have been a relatively narrow and round-headed C11 or C12 one like that which survives at Chithurst close-by, but it is not known how long this might have lasted or whether there was a later replacement before the first C19 one (see below).

Despite the amount of C19 work, there is little information about it, possibly because the church was then largely supported by members of the local gentry and in many such cases there was little formal written record of the work they commissioned.  Undated accounts for a restoration (WSRO Par 194/4/1) (stated in the WSRO catalogue to have been in 1847, a date also given by Harrison (p125)) show the south and west walls were rebuilt.  If this is taken literally, the C12 west window must be reset.  It has recently been established (information from Mairi Rennie) that though not mentioned in the accounts, a new chancel arch in the gothic style was inserted in the same year.  In 1848 Adelaide Tracy shows a stone belfry as it is now, so it too presumably dates from the previous year and its presence at this period is confirmed by an engraving of the church dating from 1854 (see illustrations).  However, Adelaide Tracy shows that in 1848 there were still two east lancets, instead of the present triplet.  This contains glass dated 1855 (see below) and it is shown on Nibbs’s etching of 1860 (in the 1874 volume), the latter in particular confirming that the replacement predates a further anonymous restoration in 1871 (Harrison, ibid).  The chancel roof is stated to have been re-plastered in 1847, so the present open one with arch-braces, which is all C19, could date either from whenever the triplet was inserted or from 1871.  However, the single biggest change in the latter year was the present chancel arch (information from Mairi Rennie).  This has responds in reasonably authentic C12 style, roll-moulded with square abaci, but although round-headed, it is far too wide for this date.  A few individual stones could indeed be original, but if so they must have been removed and reset after the arch of 1847 was replaced.  Probably at the same time the wall above the arch was replaced, since it is appreciably thinner than the remainder.  Photographs in the church dating from 1895 show the church more or less as today with the exception of the pulpit of 1916 and the west porch cum vestry, which was added in 1910 by P M Johnston (Clarke papers).


Aumbry: (Chancel north side) simple square-headed; possibly C13.
Communion rails: C17 with slender turned balusters and carved knobs.
Cross: (Outside west doorway) Head of a plain mediaeval cross.
Font: Plain C12 tub, chamfered at top and bottom, and standing on a cylindrical base.  In 1847 £6 6s 0d was expended for unspecified work in connection with this.
1. (East window) J Hardman and Co, 1855 (Order book – as Rogate).
2. (North nave, first and south nave, third windows) J Powell and Sons, 1848; decorative quarries with lamb and dove in blue (Cash book).
3. (North chancel window) H C Bosdet, 1888 (signed).


Measured plan by W D Peckham in VCH 4 p29

1. My thanks to Mairi Rennie for the 1854 engraving and the 1894-95 photographs, together with information derived from her researches into the history of the church about the successive C19 chancel arches and about the lupin field, the photograph of which is also by her.

2. My thanks also to Richard Standing for the two colour photographs with RS in the captions.