Alciston Church Guide

The original name of Alciston was Aelfsige’s ton, i.e. the enclosed place of Aelsige. The Domesday Book speaks of a valuable estate at Alistone of some 50 hides and 28 ploughs.
By then it had become the property of the monks of Battle Abbey, part of whose grange is now incorporated into the present farm house, Alciston Court. Other monastic remains are a very fine tithe barn, a 14th century dovecot and some fishponds. Nearby is an old priest’s house.

After the Dissolution of the Monasteries the manor was given to Sir John Gage in return for a knight’s fee, i.e. the provision of armed horsemen for the king’s service. The church we now see, whose dedication is also unknown, is built of flint, the earliest visible feature being the one remaining Norman window. But excavations in 1984 found, under the East window, the remains of an Apse of finely cut chalk blocks, belonging to an earlier, pre-Conquest, church. This was destroyed when the present Chancel was built, which in turn was modified in the 12th century and shortened in the 15th.

The whole building was drastically ‘restored’ in 1853, and the porch reconstructed in 1951. The list of vicars dates from 1353 and the registers from 1575. There are two bells in the turret over the West end of the nave, one of which dates tram about 1380 and carries the inscription: Sancta Agatha Ora Pro Nobis. The other was cast a few years later.

Church Features

The South Chancel wall contains a blocked up Priest’s door, with five scratch dials on the jambs, and signs of a blocked arch whose purpose is unknown. The purpose of the scratch dials was to show the times of services. On the North side of the chancel, close to the east end wall, are the remains of an early English window, which proves that the whole chancel was at one time a good deal longer than it is today. The next two windows are also Early English and western one is the only remaining Norman window.

The porch door is largely 15th century, and near it on the East side is a stone containing a scratch dial and marks where arrows were sharpened. The font is probably 15th century, but has been much restored.

The nave roof has a stilted trussed roof with heavy tie-beams, moulded king-posts and wall plates, in three bays. The turret is upheld by two mural oak beams reaching from the floor to the tie-beam. The chancel has no arch and its roof was restored in 1898.

The altar table is 18th century: and within the sanctuary rails are a 17th century chair and two ledgers with the following inscriptions:

“W. Meres, 1623”, “Heare lyeth the Body of John Metes Sunn of Thomas Meres who dyed July the 12 day Anno 1641”.

The church’s plate includes a silver communion cup of 1661, a silver paten of 1606, and a pewter flagon and plate.

Frank Wootton Ink Drawings

Alciston Wootton Ink DrawingsFrank Wootton, who lived locally until his death in 1998, was a gifted artist. When the Second World War broke out he volunteered for the Royal Air Force, but was invited to accept a special duty commission as official war artist to the RAF and Royal Canadian Air Force. Between 1939 and 1945, he painted the conflict from the front lines of France to remote airstrips in Southeast Asia. His aerial scenes brilliantly recreated the threat of enemy fire, the split-second manoeuvres of fighter planes and the triumph of victory. After the war, Wootton's paintings gained international recognition. He also made a number of ink drawings of Alciston Church which may be seen by clicking here.

Alciston Church

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