English Church Architecture.
LURGASHALL, St. Laurence (SU 938 273),
(Bedrock: Lower Cretaceous, Weald Clay Formation.)
A church in one of West Sussex's finest villages, with a curious wooden 'cloister'.
Lurgashall is one of the best of West Sussex’s many attractive villages, and the countryside around is some of the finest the Weald has to offer. The church stands in the northeast corner of the green beside the excellent public house, but the church guide, although short, is a mine of misinformation.
The plan of the building is a curious one for it consists of a chancel, nave and cross-gabled N. transept, with a S. tower adjoining the nave towards the east, and a singular half-timbered 'cloister' (for want of a better term), running from the tower alongside the remainder of the nave to the west. (See the photograph at the foot of the page.) The western half of this 'cloister' now appears to be used as a vestry (although there is also a little lean-to Victorian vestry against the chancel N. wall), while the eastern half serves as a porch, but the 'cloister' was apparently first employed as a meeting place, and afterwards as a school (Ian Nairn, The Buildings of England: West Sussex, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1965, p. 266). It is believed to have been constructed in the late sixteenth century, though it is a serious challenge to work out which timbers are now original. They probably include much of the roof, the curved wooden lintel above the doorway, many of the mullions between the long row of low, south-facing lights, and the turned columns on either side of the doorway between the sections used as a porch and a vestry. (See the photograph below left.)
The oldest part of the church appears to be early Norman, though that is only apparent now in small sections of masonry in the nave walls, set herring-bone wise (most notably inside, to the left of the transept arch), and in the blocked round-arched N. doorway (only visibly internally). Notwithstanding the church guide, the chancel is not late Norman but Early English work of c. 1220. There are two lancets in each of the N. and S. walls, which are original inside, and two more in the E. wall which Ian Nairn said are not (ibid.). (See the internal view looking east, below right.) The chancel arch is double-flat-chamfered with the inner chamfer rising from corbels. There is a small piscina recessed in the S. wall of the sanctuary but no sedilia. The S. tower, again in spite of the church guide which claims this too is late Norman, is actually late fourteenth century work at the earliest, as shown by the moulded capitals to the tower arch responds, though the arch itself is merely double-flat-chamfered again. The tower rises in two stages with the bell-stage slightly recessed. The square-headed bell-openings are each formed of two trefoil-cusped lights. The steeply pointed, shingled, broach spire must be recent work since it did not exist when Ian Nairn visited the building in 1965. The N. transept appears to be wholly Victorian.
Notable furnishings in the building include the very peculiar seventeenth century marble font (reputedly first used in 1662), of square section all the way down, with what may perhaps be described as horizontal crenellations. Aside from the 'cloister', the only old carpentry evident in the church, is the nave roof, of braced collar-beam construction like many in this part of Sussex, suggesting some at least were the work of the same itinerant firm of joiners. The church contains just one monument that requires mention, on the nave S. wall to the east of the tower arch, which is dedicated to William Yaldwin (d. 1728). It has an architectural surround supported on consoles, with skulls beneath and an urn in the open pediment. The 'emblems of mortality' (i.e., in this case, the skulls) are more usually associated with monuments of the Stuart period. In Hanoverian times they were in dubious taste.