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The Parish Church of St. Augustine

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Scaynes Hill, until the late 19th Century, was just a collection of farms on the outer edge of Lindfield Parish. Several of the farmhouses - Costells, Massetts, Butterbox - are medieval, but most of the cottages are 19th Century.

 

Scaynes Hill became a parish only in 1930; until then, it was part of Lindfield and St. Augustine's was a chapel of ease. But at first it was not even that: it was the school. By the 1850's the need for a school in the area was apparent, and in 1858 what is now the nave of the church was built, serving as a school during the week and as a church on Sundays.

 

Then in 1879 the school moved out - the side aisle, chancel and tower were added in 1880 - and went to the old chapel (now called 'Old School House') which is the building with a short steeple 100 yards beyond the church, and here the school remained until 1981.

In 1908, the chancel screen and pulpit were put in, carved by a local landowner, A.H.Rydon. The flowers in the quatrefoils are noteworthy. The organ and the marble paving in the sanctuary were put in at the same time.

 

One of the carved quatrefoils in the Chancel Screen is shown at the right.

Until 1913 the columns between the nave and the side aisle were wooden, and the tall windows in the south wall were much narrower (there can't have been much light for the school children). In that year, the wooden posts were replaced with stone arcading, the tall south windows were widened, and the splendid decorated tying rods were put in, along with the stained glass window in the tower.

 

Wiring for electric light was also provided - the power was evidently to come from a private generator. All this at a cost of 400.

 

The present altar and the panelling behind it replaced the Victorian altar and rerdos in 1950, when the present altar rails were also put in.

The bronze dove above the font coverThe panelling at the west end and around the font was put in during 1919 and is also the work of Mr.Rydon (whose son, a pilot, survived the war). The rather dim panelling at the end of the side aisle is a memorial put up to him in 1930. A large, though ugly, vestry was added to the north side of the church in 1958. It now houses a useful kitchen as well.

 

The fine crucifix in the front garden is the memorial to the men of the village who died in the first world war. (Could it be the work of Eric Gill who lived in the nearby village of Ditchling?).

 

The garden at the back of the church was made in 1987 as a memorial to the Rev'd William Gibb, vicar of Scaynes Hill from 1971 to 1985, who died in office. Now the ashes of the dead parishioners can be decently interred in their own village churchyard.

 

The fountain was given by the Buswell family in memory of Ron Buswell, and the Madonna and Child, originally made in wood by Don Foster, was then cast in bronze in 2003. This symbol of the Incarnation commemorates all that unnoticed voluntary work which sustains the life of St.Augustine's.

The Sussex shepherd's crook which forms the inner church door's handleIn 1990 the parish celebrated its diamond jubilee. The Church has no east window - the wall behind the altar is blank - and so the Church Council commissioned Polly Hope to design a great tapestry which, over the next 8 years, the parishioners and their friends stitched on an 8 foot mahogany frame in the vestry.

 

The tapestry illustrates one of the themes of St.John's Gospel: I came that you might have life and have it more abundantly. This is a theme reflected in the signs or miracles on which John builds his gospel, and which in the tapestry surround the central figure of Christ. There are approximately three million stitches in the tapestry and we hope it inspires and delights all those who gaze upon it.

 

For the full story of the tapestry and photographs click here

 

The paintings in the north aisle in memory of Bill Boden were given by his family and friends. They illustrate great women saints in the life of our patron saint, Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury, who landed in Kent in AD 597, with forty fellow monks, after a long journey from Rome. The scenes were painted by Julia Rushbury, a Lewes artist, who has added something of a great beauty to the church.

 

The two stained glass windows in the side aisle given by Joan Bartlett in memory of her three sisters were made by Rosalind Grimshaw of Bristol. They celebrate two women saints from different centuries and of different characters. The left hand window is of Julian of Norwich, a 14th Century mystic who through the divine revelations granted her came to emphasise the feminine, cherishing nature of God, and her writings reflecting this are quoted in the window. Josephine Butler, the saint in the right hand window, was a 19th Century woman who fought to have the Contagious Diseases Act of 1864 revoked; it decreed that any woman found after dark in the streets of a port or a garrison town could be taken by the police and investigated for venereal disease. It took 20 years of campaigning before this humiliation of women was abandoned. She also worked to help women driven into prostitution by poverty.

 

At the base of each window are tiny portraits of the four Bartlett sisters.

 

No one would want to call St.Augustine's Church architecturally distinguished, but its simplicity and intimacy, its atmosphere of prayer, and the affection felt for it by the people of Scaynes Hill and the care they give it make it a true house of God. Here faith and hope and love are celebrated. Please remember us, our worship and our work in your prayers and go in peace.

Drawings by John Higgins and Ron Buswell