East Chiltington church, of unknown dedication, was a chapel of ease to Westmeston from at least 1291. The chapel, now a parish church, is built of sandstone rubble and the roofs are tiled. The nave dates to the early 12th century. A west tower was added c. 1200. The chancel was rebuilt later. The church was restored in 1889–90.
The chancel (16 ft. 2 in. × 15 ft. 10 in.) presents few original features. The east wall with its diagonal buttresses is modern, but a 15th-century cross is re-used. The north wall is probably a 14th-century rebuild and has a chamfered plinth. The south wall is contemporary, with a modern two-light window. The chancel arch was rebuilt 1889–90.
The nave (36 ft. 6 in. × 18 ft.) has a north wall, c. 3 ft. thick. At its east angle is a 12th- or 13th-century buttress in two stages with restored top chamfer and some brick repairs. The west buttress is built with the west wall, possibly rebuilt with the tower. A lean-to coal-store blocks the outside of a 12th-century doorway with elliptical rear-arch and plain jambs. Opposite, in the middle of the south wall, is a contemporary doorway, also with similar rear-arch but loftier, and with a slight chamfer in the head; the outer arch is later and equilateral. West of it is an original window; it has a loop 6 in. wide with chamfered semicircular head, a semicircular rear-arch, and hollow-chamfered jambs. A modern two-light window probably replaces a similar loop east of the doorway. The east buttress is built with the east wall of the nave, and is of two chamfered stages without a plinth; the west buttress is similar. The old wall-plate is visible externally.
The west tower (9 ft. 8 in. × 11 ft. 2 in.) is of early13th-century date and of two stages undivided externally; it is finished with a pyramidal cap. It is also built in sandstone rubble, but less well coursed. There are no buttresses or external entrance. The tower arch is of two chamfered obtuse-pointed orders, of which the outer is probably of 14th-century date, the inner with its corbels modern. There is a modern screen dividing it from the nave. The north wall has a contemporary chamfered lancet with a segmental-pointed rear-arch. There is a similar lancet in the south wall, restored externally. In the west wall is a modern window of three lancet lights. The top stage has, to north, a loop with semicircular rebated head, and a restored loop in the south and west walls; on the east are two rough slits.
The nave and chancel roofs are partly of 17thcentury date. The chancel has a tie-beam and later queen-post struts. The nave has three 17th-century chamfered ties with similar struts; the middle tie is marked on the east face—N C I C 1669. The tower ceiling is modern. The floors are of modern tiles and wood, there is a step at the chancel arch and another at the altar rail.
The altar fittings include re-used and restored panelling. There are 18th-century Commandment tables, over the chancel arch; in the vestry is a late medieval crucifix, re-set, dug up in what, since 1908, has been the churchyard. There are mason’s marks on the internal jambs of the doorways to the nave. The pulpit is dated 1719. There is one bell, 1769.
The plate includes a cup (1662 hallmark), paten (1739), and another with no date mark, a flagon and two glass cruets with silver mounts, and a pewter alms-dish (1737 inscription).
The registers date from 1651.
There is a yew south of the church; it has lost its head, and has been filled with two tons of concrete to preserve the rest.
East Chiltington was a chapel of ease to Westmeston from at least 1291 and so remained until 1909, when it was annexed to Plumpton.
The small church has an aisleless C12 nave, a tower of c1200 and a C14 chancel. Restoration in the C19 was thorough.
Until 1909 what is today the parish of East Chiltington, was an outlyer of Westmeston (VCH 7 p98). It is a scattered settlement and lacks the long, narrow boundaries of other parishes on the greensand, which were intended to ensure that each had access to the springs emerging from the Downs. Today it is linked with the adjacent parish of Plumpton.
The boundaries of the outlyer were probably fixed by the early C12, which is the date of the nave. There seem never to have been north windows, only a plain round-headed doorway (now leading to a small lean-to structure). West of the south porch is a round-headed window and though the south doorway has been altered, its round-headed rere-arch remains. The comparatively large size of the window and its position fairly low in the wall are further indicators of a C12 date.
The squat, unbuttressed west tower has a tiled pyramid and prominent putlog holes. It is early C13, for though the side-lancets are renewed (the west triplet is C19) the north one of the small round-headed bell-openings is old. The outer order of the tower arch is mainly old, but the inner one on deeply moulded corbels is restored.
It is likely that the church had a chancel in the C12, as otherwise one would have been built in the C13 in preference to a tower, but the present one is C14. The Sharpe Collection drawing (1802) shows a two-light square-headed south window with trefoiled heads, which have been changed to cinquefoils on its C19 replacement. The reticulated three-light east window is like its predecessor, best shown by Quartermain ((E) p56). Also C14 is the hollow-chamfered south doorway. In 1854 there was no chancel arch (SAC 87 (1948) p184) and it is not known if there had ever been one.
There were few late mediaeval changes. Two uncusped lights, now gone, east of the south porch in Quartermain’s and the Sharpe drawings might have been C16, but are more probably C17, perhaps contemporary with the roof over nave and chancel, which is dated 1669 on the middle tiebeam; each tie supports outward curving queenposts. On the Sharpe drawing is a south porch, with three apparently oval side-openings, which could also be C17.
In 1854 R C Carpenter drew up plans for a restoration, including a south aisle (Eccl Feb 1854 p69), but he died a year later with no work done. The presence of glass of 1875 in the east window (see below) suggests that some unrecorded work was undertaken at or before that date, at least to the chancel, but only in 1889-90 did S H Norman undertake a restoration using Carpenter’s plans (ESRO Par 293/4/1), assisted by a local builder, W Cottingham. The new aisle was omitted, a large west triplet was inserted in the tower and the roofs were boarded. There was a new half-timbered porch and the main change inside was a chancel arch in C13 style. Most windows were renewed, and the east wall of the chancel may have been completely rebuilt. The south east nave window was replaced by a conventionally C14 one, still square headed, but with cusping and pierced spandrels. This is a change from Carpenter’s plan and the retention of many C17 and C18 fittings (see below) may be another. Lack of funds (the total cost is said to have been £650 (KD 1899), in which case the parish certainly received value for money in terms of what was actually done) may have been a deciding factor.
The Parish of East Chiltington
Lying five miles north-west of the County Town of Lewes, East Chiltington was formed as a separate ecclesiastical parish only in 1866 – it had previously formed part of the parish of Westmeston, though always maintained its own records.
East Chiltington is a small hamlet, six miles long and two miles at its widest point, running from the top of the South Downs, bordering on Falmer at Buckland Bank, to the edge of the Wealden clay in Great Home Wood. The southern half of the parish falls within the South Downs National Park; the Clayton to Offham Escarpment being a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and Blackcap Hill, which also falls within the parish, is part of the National Trust Blackcap nature reserve.
The Domesday Book’s two entries for East Chiltington record, in total, a medium-sized settlement of 20 households, five smallholders, enough ploughland for six teams of eight oxen each, two acres of meadow, woodland sufficient for 12 pigs (the form in which tax on woodland was often paid), and half of a mill.
At the time of the Conquest and before, there were two manors of ‘Childeltune’ or ‘Childentune’. The smaller, assessed at two hides, was held for Edward the Confessor by Godric the Priest and by 1086 had passed to Godfrey de Pierpoint, who held of Earl Warenne at the reduced value of 1½ hides, the remainder having been transferred to the Rape of Pevensey, the lordship of Robert, Count of Mortain. This small manor most probably became that of East Chiltington or Chiltington Ferring. The larger of the manors, Chiltington or Stantons, was held from 1086 by William de Warenne and remained independent until 1548 when it was passed to Nicholas Chaloner, who had previously inherited Chiltington Ferring.
Also in the parish lay the manor of Wootton, which Ceadwalla, the king of Wessex, granted to the archbishop of Canterbury in 687. In the 15th century the manor was leased to Lewes Priory, but in 1716 began an unbroken series of leases to the Pelham family, who ran Wootton as part of their Stanmer estate.
References: british-history.ac.uk; sussexparishchurches.org.uk; sssinaturalengland.org.uk; national trust.org.uk; Historic Churches Trust; The Keep; Church of England