History of Burwash Church

Burwash Church - a brief history

The first record of a church in Burwash shows a stone church built in about 1090, consisting of chancel, nave and tower.  Of this Norman church only the tower remains. Later, owing presumably to the increase in the population of the village, a larger church became necessary.

To achieve this the nave was widened by knocking down the outer walls and adding aisles supported by pillars, on the south side in about 1190, on the north side in 1250. As part of the work in 1250 a larger chancel replaced the original. In the 14th century both aisles were widened, buttresses added to the south west corner of the tower and new windows put into the aisles. A porch was added to the west door and a vestry built in the north east corner.

At some point dormer windows were added to the roof but apart from this the church then remained unaltered for 500 years until the 19th century.

The church was partially rebuilt and extensively restored in 1856. This work included the lowering of the floor and this in turn necessitated the removal of a considerable depth of earth from the surrounding churchyard. Some of the flooring of the church was again renewed owing to the considerable rotting of the old planks, in the years 1989 to 1990.

Features of Note

The Tower

Only the tower remains of the original Norman church with evidence of its origin being discernible by the great width of the mortar in which the stones are bedded and which can be seen from the outside. The tower houses the eight bells

Iron Memorials

On the wall to the left of the Lady Chapel altar is a cast-iron sepulchral slab of especial interest. Before it was placed here it lay on the floor, marking the last resting place of John Collins, a member of the family of the ironmaster of that name who owned a forge at Socknersh, between Burwash and Brightling. Of 14th century origin it is said to be the oldest existing example of a Sussex cast-iron grave slab.

Memorial to John Kipling (Rudyard's son - killed in action.)

On the wall between the Sawyer window and the south door is an oval bronze plaque commemorating the death in action of the beloved only son of Rudyard Kipling, the celebrated writer of prose and verse who lived at Bateman's for many years. The plaque is the first commercial work of Charles Wheeler who was later to become President of The Royal Academy of Arts.

The Font

The octagonal font probably dates from the late 16th century, and has the Pelham Buckle carved on it-a reminder of the association of the Pelham family and Burwash. Edward III bestowed this crest on John de Pelham at the battle of Poitiers in 1356 after he had seized the French king, John, by the buckle of his sword belt - whereupon the king surrendered his sword.

Churchyard and Memorials

Searching the churchyard of St. Bartholomew's, Burwash

In 2005 Ms Claire Goodey completed a survey of St. Bartholomew's churchyard, noting down the inscriptions of all the headstones and monuments present. Obviously where no headstone exists there is no recorded entry in the comprehensive list that she produced and is available to download on another page. Each entry is given a unique reference and this matches the plan of the churchyard.

Whilst the Rector of Burwash can provide additional advice and support for relatives if the person being sought is beyond the preceding generation of parents, aunts, uncles then the church will require that a fee be paid which is currently £19 per hour or part thereof. For burials after 2005 the Rector will need to be approached in every case.

There’s a plan of St. Bartholomew's graveyard and alphabetical details of memorials on other pages.