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St Martin's Church, Westmeston

Story, St Martin's

Grade II* Listed Building 20/8/1965

The Parish of Westmeston is a long narrow strip, about a mile wide, running parallel between Ditchling and Streat. It has an area of 2,095 acres. The Parish is on the eastern side of Ditchling Beacon and runs south to High Park Corner and north to Wiversfield. At the foot of the Downs the B2116 road runs through the Parish from Ditchling to Lewes. The centre of the village is the Church and a few cottages situated on a sharp bend and at its junction with Underhill Lane.

The Advowson of the Rectory of Westmeston appears in the possession of Simon de Pierpoint in 1329 and 1331. It descended with the manor until the beginning of the 19th Century and was held in 1805 by Thomas Lane. Before 1809 it had been acquired by William Campion of Danny and then descended in that family.

The living was united with Streat in 1909, presentation being made alternately by the patrons. In 1934 a detached portion, including Novington, was transferred to East Chiltington, a parish which for many centuries had been a chapelry of Westmeston.

St Martin’s Church is built in the Norman and Early English styles, and was founded soon after 1100.  At first it consisted of the Nave and Chancel only and the Nave still has the original 12th Century walls.

East Window and Altar.JPG

The Chancel was probably reconstructed in the 13th Century. The South Arcade and Aisle date from c1330. The south wall of the South Chapel was added in c1500. The east and north walls were rebuilt in the 19th Century.

The outer walls are flint which were plastered in sandstone dressing. During the 20th Century this has been removed in stages and the final dressing on the south wall removed in 2018.

The Bell Turret, with shingled sides and pyramid cap, is probably late 14th Century and was reshingled in 2003.

Right angled buttresses were added at the North-West angle of the Nave in the late 14th Century with a similar buttress in two stages bonded into the Nave and Aisle on the west.

The North Porch has a 16th or 17th Century brick base on which the 14th Century timbering was imposed; but the north doorway to the Nave has a Norman head and mouldings.

In the South Aisle is a 14th Century south doorway with a flat chamfered rear arch which is blocked. This was exposed from the outside when the final sandstone dressing was removed during renovation works to the west and south walls in 2018. The Vestry was to the west of this doorway. Later relocated to the south east of the Church.

The roof is tiled on the north and is mainly Horsham stone on the south. The Nave tiles continue over the South Aisle in a long slope in defiance against our southerly gales.

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The font is 12th Century and chalice shaped. It is unusual as it is made of chalk clunch and lead lined and is the only one in use in the country. The Pulpit is Jacobean dating from the 17th Century.

In 1848 the Chancel was restored and the present stained glass East Window put in by the Rev. C.H. Campion. He was Rector for 40 years (1848 – 1888). In 1862 the remainder of the Church was restored by W Salter. This work included a new Chancel Arch, abolition of the West Gallery, and reseating throughout the Church and restoration to the fine old oak North Porch.

Mural Paintings


In 1862 a series of Norman paintings with life-size figures was discovered, covering the north and east walls of the Nave. The subjects included the Scourging, the Crucifixion, the Taking Down from the Cross, the Adoration of the Magi, and the Legend of St Vincent’s Martyrdom by Datian, Diocletain’s Proconsul in Spain.

It is thought that the great Cluniac Priory of Lewes may have furnished artists to decorate this and neighbouring churches. There is no trace of these paintings in the church today.

From the West Door you will see that the Chancel is 'skewed' relative to the axis of the Nave. This is a common feature of English churches and is thought to be an attempt to line the later building to face Jerusalem rather than due east as was the custom of the earlier nave builders.

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There are 3 bells running from North to South, two dated 1636 by Bryan Eldridge of Chertsey and in memory of W.H Campion Rector and H.C Lane Churchwarden. The third dated 1712 by Samuel King of London in memory of H Botting Churchwarden. These were recast in 1881. The bells were swung rung until early in the 20th Century. They are now hand rung on the Carillion method.


When Rev Kingston came to the Parish in November 1935, he saw the urgent need for a new organ. Early in 1937 he opened a fund for the provision of an instrument and by the time of the dedication he had received sums of amounting to £221. The cost of the new organ would be £300. Rev Kingston was hopeful that the outstanding £79 would be forthcoming within the next few days and the organ would be dedicated free of debt, which it was. The purchase of the electrically blown organ was something of a triumph for the Rev H.J. Kingston.

It had been a long felt need to have a new organ at St Martin’s and on 26th June 1937 the Archdeacon of Lewes, the Ven. F.H.D. Smythe, dedicated the new organ. For more than 50 years music had been provided by the harmonium which was situated on the north side of the Chancel and hand pumped by a member of the Choir. After the dedication service a recital was given by Mr G.H.L Whicomb, organist at St Ann’s Brighton, the Church from which Rev Kingston came to Streat and Westmeston.

The instrument was designed especially for the Church by Morgan and Smith Ltd, of Brighton, and installed in such a way that the window lighting in the Vestry would be preserved. It has two manuals-Great and Swell-and a Pedal Organ with the manual pipework housed in two chambers. The stops on the Great comprise diapason 8', stopped diapason 8' and principal 4'. On the Swell there are lieblich gedackt 8', lieblich flute 4', gamba 8' and voix celeste 8'. The Pedal bourdon 16' is placed separately against the vestry wall.The stops on the Great are voiced to enable the instrument to lead a full congregation but sound characterfully when used individually or in various combinations. The Swell, in its swell box, is softer but also sounds well throughout the building". 

Stained Glass Windows

East window – J.B Capronnier of Brussels in 1948. Presented by Captain Horne in memory of his parents and other relatives buried in the churchyard.

North East window of Chancel – Clayton and Bell. In memory of Cecil Lydia, wife of C.H Campion and daughter of James Sclater of Newick Place, 1874.

North West window of Chancel – Clayton & Bell. In memory of C.H Campion 1889.

North wall of the Nave – designed by Reginald Hallward. In memory of Lieut F.A.F. Bains, killed in action near Ypes 25th May 1915 aged 19.  Presented by his parents.

West window – C.E Kempe 1890 depicting St Martin of Tours. The following inscription is on the window:
‘Here St Martin in the midst of a very hard winter meets at the gate of the City of Amiens a poor man almost naked and shaking for cold. Regarding him with great pity the Saint drew his sword and dividing his clock gave half to the beggar’


There is a War Memorial (1914–1918 and 1939–1945) on the south side of the Nave by the Lectern.

The New Millennium

To celebrate the new Millennium 2000 a wooden cross was designed and carved of local white ash by a local carpenter William Tingley. The cross is placed on the Alter when services are not held.

Access for Disabled People, St Martin's

It is the fervent wish of St Martin’s Westmeston and the Beacon Parish to make everyone feel welcome both in the church and in the activities of the church.

Every possible effort has been made to meet the requirements of disabled people so that they may share in all aspects of church life. With regret, however, there are some areas where this is not yet possible. This is due in large part to the church being an ancient Grade 1 listed building which is not easily adaptable. We hope, in due course, to raise funds to meet those requirements which are currently not available.


We hope these notes will help anyone with a disability to enjoy being part of the life of St Martin’s, Westmeston.



Wheelchair access is possible by parking in the car park on the South side of the B2116, opposite the church, and approaching via the Disabled Access gates by the Bus Stop. There is a small cutaway path on the South side, leading to the gates.


The gate opens inwards.


There is a redbrick path from there which leads to the porch of the door into the church.


Access to the chancel is reached by a couple of steps and so we regret that this is not easily possible.

At Holy Communion Services the Vicar is happy to bring communion to anyone who cannot gain access to the chancel.


For seating within the church, sidesmen will guide you to the best place for a wheelchair.

Those with moderate walking or sitting difficulties may find the pews difficult to sit in. There are chairs available which can easily be put in place.


At present there is no toilet, nor running water in the church. The nearest public toilet for the disabled is in Ditchling Village Hall car park or in the Village Hall, if open.


There are no disabled parking spaces reserved, but if you would like to advise the Churchwardens in advance, we can reserve you a location in the car park.



The sidesmen will help you to find an area of the Church where the lighting is the most suitable for you.



The church is fitted with an induction-loop system which is in use at all services.

Anyone experiencing problems with the loop system during a service should speak to the sidesmen.



Anyone with a learning disability is most welcome in the church.

They should make use of any of the above listed facilities which may be helpful.

If there is any other problem in accessing information, they or their companion should speak to the sidesmen or the Vicar or Churchwardens.



Some church activities or meetings are held in other venues, including private homes. Disabled people are most welcome on such occasions, but we cannot guarantee that all private homes will have the necessary facilities.


Most of such activities are ‘advertised’ well in advance, either in the e-Beacon, on the website or in the weekly service sheet, usually with a contact telephone number. We would strong advise anyone requiring special facilities to contact the number to establish whether or not these are available.



If anyone has any suggestions for improving our existing facilities for disabled people please contact the Parish Office at or contact one of the church wardens.

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