About St Margaret's Church Ditchling


The Church of St Margaret of Antioch is the centrepiece of the ancient and historic village of Ditchling on the borders of East and West Sussex. The present building dates from the late 12th century, sited on the sandy knoll overlooking the village. It is built on top of the earlier Saxon church referred to in the Domesday Book. Remains of the Saxon church are to be found in the lower walls of the nave.

The south aisle, displaying fine foliated capitals to its columns, is the earliest part of the present church, built by the Cluniac monks from Lewes in the 12th century. The chancel was built in the 1260s. The tower dates from the late 13th century and has a ring of eight bells.

A major restoration was carried out in 1863 when three windows were pierced in the north wall of the nave, while an outside staircase that had given access to a choir gallery at the west end of the nave was removed from the north wall. As this gallery was being removed, traces of medieval wall paintings were found: these were considered too badly damaged to be restored and were covered over.

The carved oak door and screen of the south porch were installed in 1929. A number of column terminals are unusually in chalk. Those of the east window bear the busts of a king and queen, quite probably Queen Eleanor and Henry III, and linked in some way to the Battle of Lewes in 1264. The window itself was designed in 1947 by Charles Knight, a leading member of Ditchling's artistic community.

The Abergavenny Chapel off the South aisle was built in the 14th century. It has a wall monument to Henry Poole who owned Wings Place and died in 1580. The carved oak screen was designed by John Denman and carved by Joseph Cribb in memory of the artist Louis Ginnett. The font and the lettering of the 10 Commandments tablet were by Joseph Cribb. The west door covering is spun from wool of Sussex flocks by the 'Tree Spinners' and woven by Hilary Bourne, one of two sisters who founded Ditchling museum. The artists, calligraphers and weavers noted here were all members of Ditchling?s famous artistic community.

The Churchyard contains a number of significant graves, gravestones and carvings by nationally known artists, particularly those associated with arts and crafts, a movement for which Ditchling is nationally known.