All Saints Church in Westdean is a small flint and sandstone building (21m by 5m), parts of which date back to Saxon times although most of the present structure is Norman (c.1200). The square tower at the west end is covered by a striking gable spire which John Betjeman, in his Guide to English Parish Churches, describes as ‘unique in Sussex’. It has also been likened to a monk’s cowl. The tower contains one bell made by William Hull in 1677.
Within the church are several fine monuments to past residents of Westdean. The oldest of these are fourteenth century sandstone tomb canopies on the north wall of the chancel dedicated to Sir John Heringod (1250-1325) and Lady Isabella Heringod. Sir John was Lord of Westdean manor and represented Sussex in Parliament from 1302-1313. When Edward 1 visited Westdean in the summer of 1305, he was most likely welcomed by Sir John at the head of his tenants.
A seventeenth century box wall-tomb on the south wall of the chancel commemorates William Thomas (d.1639) and his wife Anne (d.1625). Two alabaster kneeling figures, half to three-quarters life size, face one another over a bible stand, their hair and faces polychromed. William was a wealthy citizen in nearby Lewes who bought the manor of Westdean and, after being granted Arms, became Lord of the manor in 1611. The inscription on the tomb reads ‘Here is deposited the earthly remains of William Thomas, armiger, patron of this parish church. He has a wife Anne, daughter of the noble John Michelborne of Chichester. Out of her he had one son, William, five daughters, Anne, Mary, Susan, Frances and Elizabeth. He was a man renowned for faith and integrity, who, taken by fever, laid down his sickly body here in hope of resurrection, while giving back his soul to God on February 19 AD 1639, aged 60’. One of their daughters, Susanna Tirrey, who died in childbirth in 1637 is commemorated in an alabaster wall tablet on the north wall of the nave, restored in 1960/61. A fading eighteenth century floor slab at the east end of the nave commemorates the Harison family, related to the Thomas family who had six daughters, five of whom remained unmarried.
The church houses two bronze busts. In the north-west corner of the nave is a portrait-head of the Right Honourable Viscount Waverley, John Anderson, (1882-1958) who is also buried in the churchyard. The bust was commissioned during the Second World War for the Imperial War Museum but following his death the Port of London Authority presented it to Lady Waverley. It was placed in the church and unveiled by the then Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, on 19 April 1960. On the south wall of the nave is a bust of Oswald Birley (1880-1952), portrait artist to the Royal Family and Sir Winston Churchill, who lived at Charleston Manor. He and his wife, Rhoda Vava Mary Lecky Pike, are buried in the churchyard. Eleven members of the Allfrey family are remembered in a rectangular brass plaque on the south wall of the nave with recorded deaths spanning 1696 to 1828. The stained-glass east windows are Victorian and were erected in 1887 in memory of George Allfrey and his son, also, George Allfrey. The three windows depict Mary Magdalene and the Virgin Mary, the Crucifixion and St. John and the Roman soldier, Longinus.
The two brass plaques on the north wall of the nave are war memorials to Maurice Theodore Lawrance, who died in 1916 aged 18, and Charles Frederick Holter, who died in 1917 aged 21, son of the then Rector, George W. A. Lawrance. Maurice is also commemorated in two stained-glass windows on the south wall closest to where he once sat as a member of the church choir. Joseph Casey (d.1918) and Flying Officer Hugh Ian Lang (d.1941) are both buried in registered war graves in the churchyard.
The church has been Recorded by members of the Fine Art Society, Eastbourne. An illustrated book recording the contents and history of the church was presented to the Rector, the Rev. Frank Fox-Wilson in 2007. Church Recording promotes recognition and preservation of the rich artistic heritage of places of worship of all denominations.
For information on church services please visit cuckmerechurches.org.uk