[Former] All Saints Church - Friars Walk, Lewes, UK
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Master Mariner
N 50° 52.334 E 000° 00.794
31U E 289863 N 5639867
The former All Saints Church, now an arts and community centre, is located on the north west side of Friars Walk in Lewes. There has been a church on this site from at least 1148 AD with the current building dating from the 14th/15th centuries.
Waymark Code: WMRQFC
Location: South East England, United Kingdom
Date Posted: 07/24/2016
Published By:Groundspeak Premium Member lumbricus
Views: 2

This website gives a history of the church:

Folk Legends die hard, and the most persistent is that three early, now ‘lost’ parish es of Lewes (St Peter the Less, Holy Trinity and Holy Sepulchre) were merged and renamed All Saints. This is wrong, for all four can be shown to have had  separate  contemporary existences.   

The  church  of  All  Saints is named in a document of 1148 AD.  So its history reaches back in Lewes for 850 years.  The parish of All Saints is named in c.1250.

Undoubtedly  in  the  fourteenth  century  mergers  did  take  place,  but  All  Saints  had  by  then  been  in  existence  for  at  least  two  hundred  years.    In   most  early  documents  it is  known  as  All  Hallows,  and  it  has  had  a  chequered  career.    Rebuilt  in  the  15th  century  after  the  merger,  all  except  the  tower  was  demolished  and  re-built in 1805-7, and then the whole substantially extended in 1883 in yet another style.  Finally, there has been the conversion to its modern use as a Community Arts and Youth Centre.


In  1323  a  diocesan  court  was  held  at  All  Saints,  yet  by  1337  it  was,  with  other  Lewes  churches,  ‘diminished, impoverished and unserved’.  This was in a report by the Patron, the Bishop of Chichester, but was aimed mainly at the Priory of St Pancras, patron of three other churches.  The Priory tended to take all the revenue it could from them and put nothing back.  The proposals in the report, as such, were not carried through, but over the  next  hundred  years,  All  Saints  absorbed  Holy  Trinity  and  Holy  Sepulchre,  and  also  the  parish  of  St Nicholas.  For many years the Bishop regarded All Saints as his diocesan church in Lewes, a proud distinction in a town that has also been relatively overchurched.  The parochial re-arrangement that took place during the 14th century meant that the parishes of the smaller churches were absorbed to make up the enlarged parish.  The bishop’s patronage passed into lay hands during the 17th to 19th centuries, but was back in his hands after that, and remains so now.


After the merger, a new and better church was built, and of this there are several illustrations.  

The present tower is seen as it was built, and the rest of the building is well proportioned to the tower.  The window at the top of the tower looking east is still there but now looks into the roof space of the 1805-1807 nave, showing that it is the nave that is out of proportion to the tower, not the other way round.
On the south side of the old nave was a two storied porch, with a door facing south.  It has been said that the upper room of the porch was used as a school, but while this is likely there is no evidence.  The path would then have led directly from the street, up the bank to the porch door. 

The present path from the end of Church Twitten could only have been arranged in or after 1735 when the Pelham  family  gave  the  land  of  an  old  house  for  its  grounds  to  be  thrown  into  the  churchyard.    The  old  Chancel flanked on its north side by a chapel, had a fine contemporary ‘decorated’ east window and a Priest’s door in the south wall.

This gave the Priest access to the chancel without having to enter the nave by the porch.  The whole length of the old building, tower nave and chancel was less that the present main hall, and no wider than the space between the wrought iron pillars supporting the balconies.


Until  recently  the  tower  contained  three  bells,  one  made  between  1390  and  1418  by  Stephen  Norton  or  an  un-named successor to his business is one of the earliest bells in Sussex.  It is earlier than the tower and may have  belonged  to  the  original  church,  perhaps  its  only  one.    The  other  two  must  have been  obtained  progressively after the tower was built.  After all Saints was redundant, the three bells were given to Poynings Church, near Brighton.


At the turn of the 18th/19th centuries, Lewes experienced rapid commercial growth, particularly in All Saints parish, sometimes called the ‘parish of the shopocracy’.  The Church was by then said to be in ‘so infirm astate as no longer to admit of divine service being performed in it with safety’.

By  Act  of  Parliament  of  1805  the  parish  was  authorised  to  pull  down  the  old  building,  although  financial prudence  decided  (happily)  to  retain  the  tower.    The  times  were such  that  the  Anglican  church  then  placed  great emphasis on preaching and teaching, and less on ritual.  As a result the simple, rather severe (dare one say dull?) brick-built nave had only a small proto-chancel, where the stage now is.  This was all that was built during 1805-1807, and was consecrated at the end of 1807.  It was to the design of Amon Wilds (the elder), a Lewes builder whose work was later dignified by calling him an Architect.  Wilds went on, with this partner C.A.  Busby  to  do  much  of  the  development  of  Kemp  Town,  Brighton.    All  Saints  is  his  earliest  known building still standing, but it is difficult not to agree with “Buildings of England, Sussex” which says it is ‘long but  not  specially  interesting.    The  arrangement  of  three  galleries  supported  on  cast-iron  columns  is  a  style  reflected in several later buildings.  The Organ and the Choir in that design were placed in the west gallery.


A revival of interest in Anglican ritual, arising from the Tractarian (or  ecclesiological)  movement  of  the  mid  19th  century  led  to  dissatisfaction  with  the  style  and  the  limiting layout  of  the  1805-7  church.    Plans  were  made  to  pull down  the  early  19th  Century  work,  and  build  a  new,  enlarged  Gothic  Revival  design.    Rightly  or  wrongly  the  parishioners  would  not  make  (or  perhaps  pay  for) such drastic change.  Thrift came to the fore, and only the sanctuary of Amon Wilds’ design was demolished to  accommodate  the  crossing  and  new chancel.    Drawings  of  the  entire  proposal  exist  and  one  artist’s impression can be seen in the building. The  1881  design,  by  Bassett  Smith  and  E  J  Munt,  provided  for  lateral  extensions  on  either  side  of  the  Georgian sanctuary for a north Organ Chamber, two vestries  on the south side, and a long chancel rising by steps to the high east Altar.  Behind the site of the altar (now behind the mirrors in the small hall) a mosaic reredos by Salviati of Milan is still present. The Organ, by William Hill & Son, Lewes organ builders, has been progressively evolved from the simple early 19th  century baroque type, through added voices.  It has moved from the chancel north chamber by volunteer workers under professional guidance, and re-established at the crossing behind the stage in 1985.

The building is Grade II* listed with the entry at the Historic England website advising:

Parish church, now community centre. Early C16 tower with nave of 1806 by Amon Wilds and chancel and transepts of 1883 by W. Basset Smith and E.J. Munt in an C13 lancet style with transepts of Decorated style. Tower and east end of flint with stone dressings, nave of red brick with stone quoins and brick window dressings. Plain tiled roofs with gable crosses on gables to east. West tower, nave without aisles and crossing with transepts, chancel and vestries. Very low three-stage tower with diagonal buttresses and projecting coped parapet. Simple double belfry openings with arched heads to lights and square-headed surrounds. Single square-headed openings on second stage. Wide moulded three-centred arch below on west face with double ribbed and studded doors. Six-bay nave with boxed eaves. Arched windows with radiating glazing bars on first floor, segment-headed windows below. East end with clasping buttresses. Curvilinear tracery in north and south windows of transepts. 3 bay chancel with lancets divided by stepped buttresses. East window of triple lancet type.

Interior: nave with original galleries on north, south and west sides on thin columns. Shallow stucco vault over. Most of the former fittings have been removed. Stained glass; 1880 and 1884 by Henry Holiday.

Monument: John Stansfield, d. 1626, coat-of-arms surmounting inscription flanked by kneelers of John and his wife. At the time of resurvey the church is being converted into a community centre. The chancel has been blocked off from the rest of the church.

Active Church: No

School on property: No

Date Built: 01/01/1538

Service Times: Not an active church

Website: [Web Link]

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JamesA60 visited [Former] All Saints Church - Friars Walk, Lewes, UK 03/22/2019 JamesA60 visited it