The history of the present building at Framfield begins the early 13th century when a chapel (The Hempstead Chapel, now housing the organ and vestry) was added to an older (presumed Norman) church. The rest of what we see today (excepting the tower and clerestory roof) emerged between 1200 and 1250. The clerestory roof was added during the rebuilding of the roof following a fire which destroyed the old roof in 1509. The parishioners petitioned King Henry VIII for assistance with the rebuilding, the results are unrecorded!
The tower of this building suffered catastrophe in 1667, when just after service on a Sunday morning the tower collapsed, bringing with it the peal of six bells and the west wall. The tower was not to be rebuilt until 1891, when a local benefactor, Mr Robert Thornton, generously offered to rebuild it, on the old foundations. Sadly, when the walls were only a few feet above ground, Mr Thornton caught a chill while visiting the works and died the next day. His son, Major R L Thornton completed the rebuilding and his father's widow donated a new clock.
Below are two views of the nave, one looking east and one looking west. At the side of the chancel arch may be observed the original entrance to the former rood loft which is very rare (two other examples are Yuverland, Isle of Wight, and Meopham in Kent). The Framfield loft was apparently approached by a ladder on the chancel side, reaching to three stone steps (still in position) by which the rood loft level was reached. A close up of this entrance (from the chancel side) is shown in the small picture above.
The chancel is the same width as the nave, and on the same level as the Altar rail.
The window below is on the South wall, behind the font, was installed in memory of Arthur Haire (Vicar 1926-1948).
The two windows show below are in the north and south lancets of the chancel. The stained glass was a gift from the Churchwardens and Parishioners to mark the death of the Rev. E Mackenzie Steuart, who was a popular vicar.
The window below, depicting the Adoration of the Magi, was installed in the north aisle to commemorate the demise of Mrs Thornton, aged 91 and 11 months, the widow of the donor of the new tower. It is by Webb of St Albans.
These final two pictures show the organ (installed in the Hempstead Chapel) and the font which is situated in the south aisle. The organ was a gift from Mr & Mrs F H Baxendale of Framfield Place. I could find no information regarding the font in the church guide.
From the 1882 Kelly's directory:
"The church of St. Thomas A Becket is an ancient cruciform structure in the Early English and Decorated styles, supposed to have been built by Boniface, archbishop of Canterbury, in 1200, and consists, of chancel, nave, aisles, north porch and north and south chantries: the tower fell about 1667 and has never been rebuilt and the former peal of 6 bells is now represented by a single bell, hung in the north porch : little of the original building now remains, the aisles having been .mainly rebuilt during the Tudor period and the chancel entirely so in the year 1840: of interest, internally, are the colored Tudor bosses on the roof of the nave, the doorway and three stone steps on the north side of the chancel arch, formerly leading to the rood loft, the hagioscope in the south wall off the chalice, a small circular piece of stained glass, probably six centuries old, in the head of the window in the east wall of the north chantry, and a mural monument to Edward Gage in the South wall of the south chantry, while the loftiness of the chancel arch, the flowing geometrical tracery of the east window, in imitation of the west window of Tintern Abbey and the lightness and general proportions of the entire building, are, the chief points of admiration. The register dates from the year 1538. The living is a vicarage, tithes commuted at £505, exclusive of the tithes upon hops, gross yearly value £720, and about 10 acres of glebe, in the gift of W. Peel esq. and held by the, Rev. Henry Leach M.A. of Emmanuel College, Cambridge."
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