According to Scarpfoot Parish: Plumpton 1830-1880 Edited by Brian Short All Saints Church, Plumpton Green, though not built until 1893, had its origins earlier, around 1838. The church developed from a Methodist group that flourished in Plumpton at mid-century. In June 1829 the account book of the Methodist Lewes Circuit listed two full members and ten on trial, meeting at Plumpton; the first name being John Jenner who was to figure prominently in Methodism’s brief spell in the parish.
In 1838 John Walder of Plumpton Green is recorded as building a chapel on his land there (Accounts NMA 1/9/1; QDR/11/EW2). The tithe map assessment, drawn up in May 1839, shows John Walder as occupying eight pieces of land in the parish, in a block to the east of the Plumpton-Wivelsfield Road, north of Knowlands. These lands were owned by Henry Hider of Hurtspierpoint whose wife, Susan, was a Walder before her marriage. One of the pieces of land was a small plot, five perches in area, described in the assessment as ‘plot222….land for chapel….2 rods by 2 rods’ (Tithe map, 1842; Manor, Mar. 1845).
The Manor Court Book of May 1841 records the transfer from ‘Henry Hider to John Jenner, yeoman, Plumpton and John Virgo, gardener, Lewes, 2 rods by 2 rods a piece of land at Plumpton Green together with chapel standing, for the use of the people called Methodists in the connection established by the late Rev John Wesley’(Manor, May 1841).
On 9th June 1851 John Virgo, ‘with the consent of the yearly conference of the people called Methodists…sold for £35 sterling, all that piece of land situate at Plumpton Green, together with the building lately used as a chapel standing thereon, to the use of the said Rev Woodward of Plompton, clerk’ (Manor, Jan. 1852).
Throughout this period the church in Plumpton was closely bound up by the Woodward family who were patrons, curates, Rectors, Incumbents, and landowners in the Parish. The Woodward’s obtained the living (right to appoint a Rector) in 1770, after the death of the previous owner William Hampden. They retained this Right until 1931 when the last holder W.A. Woodward conveyed it to the Bishop of Chichester.
Woodward had purchased ten acres of Part Strolings from Henry and John Hider for £527/10.0d in 1847 and owned land to the north of the chapel. The land stayed in the Woodward family until the death of William Woodward in 1874, when it was left in his will to his wife Julia Sanxey Woodward, who immediately sold it for £550 to her eldest son John Peckham Skirrow Woodward. The land was resold by Rev JPS Woodward to his cousin Rush Martin Cripps of Novington Manor, East Chiltington, for £700. The only provision to the sale being a line in William Woodward’s Will forbidding the relinquishing of ‘the piece of land and building or chapel, and right of way thereto from the high road’.
Residents outgrow the Episcopal chapel
Five years earlier (1847) the railway line from Keymer to Lewes had opened. The brick trade, stimulated by the repeal of the Brick Tax in 1850 began to flourish. There were valuable deposits of suitable clay in Plumpton green. Brickmaking became a major local industry. The metalling of the main road released a strip of common land over which the old road had spread in wet weather as carts tried to find a way through. The manorial rights of this waste land or ‘green’ had been sold in 1842 to adjoining owners.
In 1863 a station and good yard were built and Plumpton Green was developing quickly as a socio economic hub.
The Methodist chapel at this time is marked as ‘Episcople Chapel’ on the 1873 OS map indicating that the Methodist chapel (or later known as the Reading Room) was now being used as a place of worship for the Anglican Community. It was known as the Mission Room. In 1879 it was given licence by the Bishop of Chichester to hold Communions and Baptisms.
The Mission Room was very small and residents weren’t pleased about having to travel the three miles down to the 12th Century St Michael’s church in South Plumpton for services. A campaign was started to provide a ‘Chapel of Ease’.
As a result of a Parochial Mission held by the Diocesan Missioner, the Rev John Wakefield to the parish in 1891, it was decided to build a church, provisionally known as ‘the new church on the green’.
The ‘ green’ was reference to the fact that part of the church was to be built on the ‘green manorial waste’.
The Bishop of Chichester agreed and a Parish Council Church Building Committee was formed.
Rev Woodward donates land for a church, burial ground and Rectory
The site was on land given by Rev JPS Woodward formalised in the 1893 deed of conveyance: ‘I the Reverend John Peckham Skirrow Woodward of Plumpton ….do hereby under the authority of an Act passed in the 36th and 37th years of Her Majesty Queen Victoria instituted an Act to afford further facilities for the conveyance of land for sites for places of religious worship and for burial places….All that piece of freehold land situated in the parish of Plumpton and aforesaid bounded on the West by the Road leading from Plumpton Railway Station to Wivelsfield in the North by land now in the occupation of D. Thwaites and on the East and South by land being part of my farm called Strolings and which piece of land is in depth from North to South 102 feet…. And on the East to West 216 feet together with the Chapel now erected thereon for the use of myself the said John Peckham Skirrow Woodward and the Rev William Mabbott Woodward of Beckenham.’
Included was a house for the curate on the land and a burial ground. (The Rectory was to remain down at Plumpton, for the time being, at the Laines where Camilla Parker Bowles was to later grow up).
Brighton architect Samuel Denman, who also designed Lewes Town Hall, was appointed. A church building fund was set up and subscribers sought. An appeal for donations saw sizeable amounts from The Diocese of Chichester, the Rgt Hon Walter John and Lady Pelham, Earl and Countess of Chichester, Lord and Lady of the Manor and members of the Woodward family. The Incorporated Church Building Society granted £75 as the plaque from the entrance to All Saints reads: ‘Incorporated Church Building Society grants £75 A.D. 1892 toward building this church upon condition that all the seats are for the free use of Parishioners according to Law’.
In 1892 the designs in ‘Early English style’ were finalised and the project put out to tender. The Parish Council Church Building Committee chose the cheapest of the seven tenders, accepting that of Mr W Martin, Ringmer for £1,576.
After building the foundations Mr Martin became too ill to continue and at a meeting of the Building Committee local Plumpton builder W Wells & Co Ltd stepped in to continue the job.
Local company William Wells builds new church
The Wells building company had started operation in 1881 with most building work done by William and his brother. They bought land in Plumpton Green on which they developed a row of houses on Station Road and then went on to build most of the period houses in Plumpton Green and the surrounding areas. In the 1888 period the Wells family lived at Strollings though it was owned by the Woodwards.
On May 1 1893 there was a ceremony to lay the Dedication Stone with a special train service put on from Lewes. Local newspapers report that Mr Denman presented Mrs Robert Sutton, wife of the Archdeacon of Lewes and daughter of the Bishop of Chichester with an ivory handled silver trowel which was kept at All Saints alongside the masons mallet some years later until it was stolen. The Dedication stone remains to be seen in the West wall of the church.
On 31st October 1893 on the eve of All Saints Day the church was consecrated by the Bishop of Chichester Rgt Rev Richard Dunford and dedicated to All Saints. The burial ground was consecrated. The church was packed with residents and clergy from all over the County with the Bishop taking the communion service and Rev J P S Woodard morning service. The day ended with refreshments at the local school presumably because the nearby reading room was too small.
Specification and design of All Saints
Samuel Denman’s specification and drawings for the church included :-Concrete foundations and concrete floor slab, damp proof course in two courses of slate, brickwork in English Bond, brickwork and flintowrk laid 3 in 1 and 4 to 1 sane/cement, main walls 2 feet thick with 2 inch cavity and vertical ventilation flues formed in clay flue liners, tower walls 2 feet 9 inches thick also having 2 inch cavity. Stone masonry in Monks Park, Bath stone, thresholds and paving in York Stone, laid in lime mortar 3 to 1 Isfield sand and Glydne grey stone lime. Port Madoc slate louvers to arched openings in tower, structural timber in yellow Scandinavian or Russian deal, and English oak, roof lined internally with deal boarding, roof in red Sussex plain clay tiles with red terra cota ridges, on roofing felt, oak shingles to tower spire. Leaded lights to windows by James & Co. MacFarlane’s cast iron rainwater gutters and pipes, leadwork flashings in 4lbs lead, nave floor below pews in Longley’s patent pitch pine block flooring laid in patent bitumen composition. Floor tiling in red and charcoal quarry tiles by Messrs Crewswells. Lightening conductors by Messrs Lewis & Co.
The architectural description is :- The church is of cruciform shape in the Early English style, and consists of chancel, sanctuary, south transept, nave and baptistery. It has a square tower with an octagonal top and shingle covered spire. There are circular apertures in the tower walls for the provision of a clock, but this was never installed. The external face of the walls are in red brick, also with b=Bath stone dressings. The chancel walls are finished in a cement surface. The roof of the nave and transept is of open timber style, and that of the chancel is panelled between timber beams. The windows are glazed with cathedral glass, in leaded lights. The eastern three light window of stained glass was a gift of the Woodward
family and added in 1920 on the death of Rev JPS Woodward. The chancel floor is paved with red and charcoal tiles. The pews which are varnished provide seating for 150 persons. The carved stone font was donated by the church of St John Sub Castro, Lewes where it was originally located. A boiler room is situated in a basement below the south transept (vestry) for the heating system.
The final cost of building came to £2,223 with furniture, organ, pulpit and planting of bushes extra.
Pevsner describes the church as ‘plain funny with its octagonal tower and the way the octagon is accomplished’.
Historical significance of All Saints and The Rectory
All Saints church’s historical significance has been registered by Sussex Historic Churches Trust which was founded to give grants for essential repairs and restoration of places of worship of architectural or historic interest throughout Sussex.
All Saints Church and The Rectory were built on land donated by the Woodward family which included a long line of Rectors, curates and church goers. They owned and donated Strollings next door and were very keen to protect future development of the land they had bequeathed the church. The three buildings with the war memorials and Rectory garden form one of Plumpton Green’s most important Heritage Assets.
Two TPOs trees line the entrance to the Rectory and one situated behind the Rectory houses local wildlife such as bats and owls. Ancient hedges line the Rectory garden which is home to many native species of wildlife. (See Biodiversity report)
Scarpfoot Parish: Plumpton 1830-1880 Edited by Brian Short A Journey Through Plumpton, Ken Beard’s Postcard Collection Plumpton House History Project 2012, David Millum Information from Richard Wells
The Parish of Plumpton Green
The narrow parish of Plumpton lies five miles north-west of the County town of Lewes in the hundred of Streat. It is bordered on the west by Streat and on the east by East Chiltington, enclosing the small village of Plumpton to the south and the larger settlement at Plumpton Green to the north. The southern half of the parish, bordering on Falmer lies within the South Downs National Park and the Clayton to Offham Escarpment to the south is a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
The village rises to 214m (702 feet) at the crest of Plumpton Plain, which is traversed by the South Downs Way, and the beauty of the view across the Downland gave rise to the old local saying: ‘He who gallops o’er Plumpton Plain, ne’er deserves to gallop again’. The parish is one of the Bevern Spring Stream group of villages comprising Ditchling, Streat, Westmeston, East Chiltington, Hamsey and St John Without – narrow settlements well situated along this tributary of the Ouse to exploit the rich resources of the area in chalk, clay, flint and woodland, although the forested nature of the area at first restricted the agricultural development of the land.
Plumpton appears in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Pluntane – ‘town or settlement where plum trees grew’ – and included a church and two mills. Before 1066 the manors of Plumpton and Plumpton Boscage had belonged to the church of Bosham held for Earl Godwin by Godwin the priest. After the Conquest it was given with the rest of the Rape of Lewes to the de Warenne family, but passed to the Bardolfs by marriage in about 1300. For a century from 1555 the manor house and the manorial lordship were in different hand, and in 1735 were divided into four shares, one owned by William Hay of Glyndebourne. This was but a prelude to the sale, in which the several owners all joined, to James Pelham in 1736, almost certainly the stimulus for Thomas Pointin’s magnificent map of the estate, one of the largest held at ESRO.
The Elizabethan manor house of Plumpton Place lies to the east of Plumpton Agricultural College, and is of mixed material, indicating at least four architectural periods, and boasts notable 20th-century alterations by Sir Edwin Lutyens.
In recent years, Plumpton has grown more widely known through the development of Plumpton College, established as the East Sussex County Agricultural College in 1919. Now independent, Plumpton offers further and higher education courses in a range of land-based disciplines, and is Britain’s Centre of Excellence for Wine education, training and research. Plumpton Racecourse, which lies on the course of the Roman Road that traverses the village from east to west, has also been meeting regularly since 11th February 1884. At the time of writing, Plumpton Green also boasts one of the last original Victorian sets of manned level crossing gates in the UK, which are Grade II listed along with the Signal Box.