All About Wadhurst
Wadhurst Churches and Chapels
The Parish Church of Wadhurst, dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul, has a tower of early Norman architecture. The north chapel and north and south aisles are 14th century and the vaulted porch with a room over it was built in the 15th century. The church's 130 foot spire was originally of beech and oak shingle, both woods once common in the forests of Sussex and Kent.
In 1968 the spire was re-shingled with new cedar shingles by steeplejacks who had completed similar work at Chichester and Salisbury cathedrals.
An interesting feature of the church is the fine collection of cast iron grave slabs, or ledgers, 32 of them commemorating various members of families of iron masters of the district. There are said to be more of these in Wadhurst church than in any other church in Sussex. The dates range from 1617-1799 a period when the iron industry was flourishing in Wadhurst and district.
There are eight bells in the tower, the heaviest weighing about 12 cwt. and the smallest about 4 cwt. Wadhurst has a most enthusiastic company of bell-ringers and the bells can be heard on Wednesday practice nights in addition to the ringing before Sunday services and sometimes on Saturdays for weddings.
The church of St. John the Baptist at Tidebrook was built in 1856, together with a vicarage. In 1858 Tidebrook became a separate ecclesiastical parish, partly in Wadhurst and partly in Mayfield. It had its own vicar until 1951, when Tidebrook was united with Wadhurst.
The Methodist Church in the Lower High Street was built in 1874. It is much used, not only by the Methodist community, but also for many Church of England activities and for joint Anglican-Methodist services.
It was in 1792 (the year after John Wesley died) that we have the first record of a Methodist Society meeting in Wadhurst. It had a total membership of 13. It evidently grew quickly & in 1824 an entry in the official Record of ‘dissenting meeting houses licenced in Sussex’ records ‘a schoolroom situated in the town & parish of Wadhurst’. The first Methodist building is believed to have been on a site near the present Youth Centre.
It was in 1874 that the present building was erected, the estimated cost being £500 but the actual cost amounted to £801 (nothing changes!) Additions & alterations continued until 1920 when alterations were made to the ‘Sunday School entrance’ & in 1957 the original door was bricked up. Otherwise the external appearance has remained much the same since the 1880s. Internally it’s a different story: extensive alterations were begun in 1986 when the central wooden pulpit was removed & replaced by the present curtained area & raised dais, most of the work being carried out by members of the congregation notably Charlie Corke & Geoffrey Partis who also made the existing pulpit & lecturns. The pipe organ which stood in the left hand corner was sold to a Roman Catholic church in Bexhill. Further alterations were made in 1994 when the pews were removed & sold in order to pay for the new chairs, the floor carpeted, the minister’s vestry became a kitchen & part of the ‘schoolroom’ was partitioned to create a new vestry—all this work being done in order to accommodate the Cameo Club. In the course of redecorating Albert Morse scraped all the dark Victorian varnish off the pine dado.
In the last few years extensive repairs & renewals have been made including work on the roof, repointing the walls, relaying the paths & redecorating the interior. We are grateful to those who established Methodism in Wadhurst, who built & paid for the building & who have lovingly maintained & adapted it over the years.
The Roman Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart in Mayfield Lane was built in 1928 but its roots go down another hundred years, for in 1828 Antonio Rosmini-Serbati founded at Domodossola in Italy a religious society known as Rosminians. Shortly before 1880 the Society bought land on the Faircrouch estate and built a huge red-brick house and chapel, known as The Mount. They remained there for nearly a hundred years and, when they left, the buildings were bought on behalf of the Rudolph Steiner movement for use as a school for children with special needs. Before the Rosminians came there were probably no members of the Church of Rome in Wadhurst but at the present time there are more than 300 and the parish includes Frant, Ticehurst and Flimwell.
At Monks Lane, Cousley Wood stands the Cousley Wood Free Church, formerly called the Monks Lane Mission. It was founded in 1902 as the Pell Green Mission by Joseph Osborn Capell and services are still held regularly on Sunday afternoons. [Note: this church closed some years ago and is now a private house]
In the second half of the 19th century there was a church known as the Iron Church in the grounds of Wyck House, near Woods Green. The Reverend Bernard MacMahon, who lodged at Wyck House, was its minister, and schoolmaster Charles Bocking used to play the harmonium. By 1898 it had fallen into disuse and was dismantled and re-erected in Faircrouch Lane. By the end of the second world war, however, it had again fallen into disuse and after standing empty for several years was finally demolished in 1956.
At the beginning of the 19th century the Strict and Particular Baptist Chapel at Shovers Green was built for an expanding congregation at Burwash. The building, originally of timber, was considerably altered in 1876, the timberwork being replaced by brick. It was finally sold in the 1970's and is now a private dwelling.
Another Strict Baptist chapel - The Rehoboth Chapel - was built at Pell Green in 1824 and a third Baptist Chapel once stood on the corner of the street across from Lloyds Bank. This building is now a fruit and vegetable shop but retains a round window at the back.
The Turners Green Gospel Hall was built for the Plymouth Brethren in 1941 and was used until 1970 when a fire rendered the corrugated iron building unusable. A replacement building was not in use for more than a decade before it was forced to close and was sold.
A hall was built for the Salvation Army at Sparrows Green at the end of the 19th century and was in use until the late 70's when the Wadhurst Corps was dissolved and the premises sold. Later on the Corps was reformed and met [until Dec 2002] at St. George's Hall, a building that belongs to the Parish Church but is in constant use by a variety of organisations.
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