St. Pancras, Arlington

Saxon window © Mark Collins

Dogtooth springing © Mark Collins

The window © Mark Collins

Food storage urn © Mark Collins

Oak screen © Mark Collins


Church History

St.Pancras was the son of a Roman nobleman who was executed at the age of 14, during the reign of Emperor Diocletian in 304 AD, for refusing to renounce his Christian beliefs. There is a theory that a previous building on the site of this church may have been one of the number of churches dedicated to the Saint by St.Augustine when he arrived in this country in the 6th century. There is no evidence to support this, but there is a Priory dedicated to the same Saint in nearby Lewes.

This imposing flint built church can be dated back to Saxon times, although during restoration work in the 19th century evidence was found of a burnt out wooden building, possibly from earlier times.

Proof of Saxon origins exists in the ‘long and short’ work stones at the quoins of the flintwork and the small window to the right of the Porch. In Saxon days there was just the Nave and Chancel, a side Chapel being added, to the north of the Chancel, in Norman times - dog tooth springing of the arch being evidence of this. Entrance to the chapel was from the Chancel, the floor under the arch being formed of a large coffin lid with an early English Cross raised on the surface; during later restoration this was raised to prevent further wear.

The Tower was built in the Transitional period (1199-1272) and there is also a feature from this period in the form of a leper window behind the Vicar’s Stall.

Then, during the Decorated Period, the population of Arlington must have increased - evidence that the village was once much larger than at present exists in the field to the west of the church and early maps show a large Rectory there. To accommodate the increased congregation a North Aisle was added, the Saxon Wall being removed and replaced with the present colonnade of three arches. The Chancel was also rebuilt during this period and the large East Window added with carved stone heads representing King Edward 111 and Queen Phillipa at the top of the frame.

In 1889, when Revd.Thomas Bunston became Vicar, the church was described by the Bishop of Chichester as being “in a state of ruin, dirt and decay, worse than any other Parish Church in Sussex and bare of almost every decent requisite of worship.” Bunston set about a programme of restoration, raising funds by all kinds of functions and by appealing to the landed gentry, in particular the Duke of Devonshire and Lord Gage.

The roof was retiled, the spire reshingled and the stucco which covered the exterior walls removed, this revealing the Saxon window. The flintwork and stonework were restored and repointed. The old box pews were removed and the floor of the Nave, which was at the same level as the Chancel, was lowered. It was during these excavations that the evidence of two fires was found, including pieces of clay with hollows formed by the wood of the wattles which supported it, pointing to the walls having previously consisted of wattle and daub at some earlier stage.

Also, whilst the foundations of the Tower were being reinforced, a fine pottery urn was discovered by the archway. Originally thought to be a Roman funerary urn, this was later proclaimed by the British Museum to be a Medieval jar used for food storage; it is now preserved in a glass case in the Chapel.

The floors of the church were tiled, the coffin lids forming the floor of the Chapel having been taken up and fixed to the walls.

A gallery at the rear of the church was removed and the old Belfry floor renewed. This had been supported by four tree trunks, which were then sawn into scantlings in a saw pit dug in the Churchyard. The timber was sent to the School of Carving in Mayfield where it was used to create the beautiful oak carved Screen to the Chancel. The carving of the plain Elizabethan Pulpit was done at the same time.

The three bells were extensively restored; inscriptions on them indicate that the Treble dates from 1610, the Second from 1606 and the Tenor from 1677.

The Porch was rebuilt using all the existing stones and retaining the remains of the old Piscina.

When Bunston arrived the Chapel was being used as a school room for the village and he decided to raise further funds to build the School House immediately south of the Churchyard. The Chapel was restored to its present state.

The whole church was redecorated after the lath and plaster ceilings were removed to display the fine old oak timbers. Care was taken to preserve the few remains of murals on the walls. The roses and crosses are 14th century and the ‘Elizabethan’ texts, 18th century.

The earliest records of the church are the Churchwardens’ accounts of 1455 to1479; these are believed to be the oldest in the county and are now in the British Museum. The Church Registers go back to 1604.

To mark the start of the new Millennium, local parishioners raised funds to build a fine Lychgate designed by the late church Architect, Ralph Wood.


Contact | Home | Services | Events | History | Repairs | Links