This ancient church stands on a low hillock in a curve of the river Ouse, to the north of Lewes. It was the parish church from before the Norman conquest in 1066. This is a wonderful church, and deserves to be on the 'must see' list for all lovers of English churches. I have transcribed the list of rectors on display in the church here.
The basic structure is Norman, including the walls of the nave, the chancel arch, and the north and south walls of the chancel. Then, 200 hundred years later, the chancel was extended. The squat, but massive, tower was added. like the porch, in the15th century.
In Victorian times many churches were being rebuilt or 'modernised', and the people of Hamsey decided to build a new church at Offham, which had become the major centre of population in the parish, and in 1860 St Peter's Church, Offham was consecrated.
As a result, the church was demoted to the status of chapel-of-ease and was used as a mortuary chapel because Hamsey continued as the parish burial ground. The original intention to demolish the building was fortunately not carried out, and one of the building's main attractions today is that it escaped the Victorian restorations and has the feel of a mediaeval church.
Even today the building has no heating or electricity, and so is only used for services during the summer and a carol service in December, when it is filled with people carrying candles and wrapped in warm rugs!
Here is a picture taken looking east down the nave and through the chancel arch. On the north wall of the church there is a blocked archway, and it is thought that this was once the entrance to a transceptal chapel added in the early 13th century (visible on the left of the photo). The royal arms of George III hang over the chancel arch, and the funeral hatchments either side belong to the Bridger and Shiffner families. In this view the large opening, or squint, allowing a view from the nave into the chancel can also be seen to the right of the chancel arch.
The fragments of stained glass in the Norman window on the south side of the nave were inserted in 1947 in memory of Mary Sturgis. There are 24 fragments of 14th century glass, all of which were discovered during repair work in 1928.
This photo is taken looking west towards the base of the tower, with the font visible on the left. The additional chairs are set out ready for the carol service due to be held that afternoon. The roof dates from the early 14th century and is of trussed rafter type with king-post trusses, one in the chancel and three in the nave.
The 14th century east window is one of a number with this particular design of tracery in mid-sussex.
The octagonal font is from the 15th century and is carved from limestone. Despite suffering some damage over the years, it is a good example and is perpendicular style with cusped panels.
From the base of the tower it is possible to look past the old beams up into the belfry. In 1724 there were four bells, but by 1860 this had been reduced to two. One of these was re-hung in 1995 and is now used before each service. This bell is inscribed "WILLIAM * HULL * MADE * ME * ANNO * DOMNI * 1682 DC * TB * CW *". The other bell (a tenor) was moved to St Peter's Church, Offham, when that church was built.
Built into the wall between the nave and chancel are the remains of a 16th century aumbry, which would have held the holy vessels. Here is a picture taken from the chancel. Originally there would have been two doors this side.
Here is one final picture of this lovely building with its massive tower, taken from the west end of the graveyard. Notice the weather vane, which contains the initials H.S. and W.L. and the date, 1848. In that year, the two church wardens were Sir Henry Shiffner, Bt, and William Lambe.
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