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Visiting the Medieval parish church at Pevensey, East Sussex, England: restored by George Gilbert Scott, Jr.

Updated on December 11, 2012
Flag of England
Flag of England | Source
St Nicholas's Church, Pevensey
St Nicholas's Church, Pevensey | Source
Tower of St Nicholas Church Pevensey
Tower of St Nicholas Church Pevensey | Source
Map location of Wealden District, East Sussex
Map location of Wealden District, East Sussex | Source

Formerly overlooking the sea

"Don't you mean Sir Giles Gilbert Scott?"

No, I mean that this Medieval church building was restored by George Gilbert Scott, Jr. (1). One should bear in mind, of course, that it was in the habit of Victorian 'restorers' to make sometimes quite drastic changes to an ancient building which might even be conformed to a notion of what the restorer thought the original ought to have looked like.

However, at the parish church of St Nicholas at Pevensey, in England's East Sussex, the architect George Gilbert Scott, Jr. seems not to have done anything too bold or unwise.

Anyway, prior to the Reformation, this stone parish church was particularly devoted to the cult of St. Nicholas — the name has stuck — which was supposed to be associated with protection for those at sea. Indeed, the sea formerly reached Pevensey in Medieval times, whereas it subsequently receded to about 1 kilometre away (2). (In looking at the main photo, above, one does not need much imagination to think of vessels sailing up close to the church, in what now is a green field.)

The current, basic building dates from the 13th century. Among the features of the Early English Gothic church building are a short tower, with a conspicuous spire, and a nave with striking arches. Tombs in the interior of the building date back as far as the 13th century. The edifice is executed in stonework from Caen, Normandy.

As one enters the herbaceous churchyard at this quiet location, there is a pervading sense that things have hardly changed here for centuries. If the truth is known, the vicinity is probably a lot quieter now that during Pevensey's heyday in Medieval times.

The parish church of St. Nicholas is located in Pevensey's aptly named Church Lane.

December 10, 2012


(1) There was in fact somewhat of a dynasty of architects Scott. The restorer of this church building was George Gilbert Scott, Jr. (1839-1897), also known for other church restorations and work on a number of Cambridge Colleges. He might even have gone onto greater things had mental ill health not plagued his life and cyrrhosis of the liver not taken his life while he was aged yet in his fifties.

(2) By the sea today is the village of Pevensey Bay, now a distinct entity from Pevensey itself.

Also worth seeing

In Pevensey itself, its Castle dates partly from Roman and partly from Norman times; the Old Courthouse and the Old Minthouse each have several centuries of history.

Westham (distance: approx. 0.5 kilometres); its parish church is said to dates from 1086.


How to get there: United Airlines flies to London Heathrow Airport, where car rental is available. (Distance from London Heathrow to Pevensey : approx. 146 kilometres.) For access by road, take M25/M23/A23/A27. There are rail links to Pevensey and Westham railroad station from London Victoria station. Some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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