St. Margaret’s Church
North Lane, West Hoathly, West Sussex
The church is dedicated to St. Margaret of Antioch, virgin and martyr, who was honoured in the Eastern church from an early date, and from the 7th century in the West. She is believed to have been martyred during the persecutions of the 4th century but nothing is known for certain about her life. Many legends describe her perseverance and suffering in the cause of the Christian faith, which in some respects illustrate a role for women in withstanding injustice. The ordeals she suffered are of the most fabulous description, including being swallowed by Satan in the form of a dragon. Through her prayers she was released only later to be beheaded. This is why her emblem is traditionally in the form of a cross piercing the mouth of a dragon or beast. Her feast day is 17th July.
The Dedication of St. Margaret
The original dedication of our Parish Church was lost sight of for many years but was rediscovered in 1927 when a 13th century document came to light. The deed granted land to Sir Amfrey, the Rector of the “Church of St. Margaret of Hotheghe.”
The foundations of this church were laid over 900 years ago, when a Norman baron ordered it to be built here in 1090, a few years after the Doomsday Book was compiled. He gave the church to Lewes Priory, which was in charge of both church and people living here for over 400 years. The first building was a small rectangular one, perhaps with an apse. Directly opposite the entrance is the North Wall, which is part of the Norman Church. The sturdy round pillars were made when the building was enlarged a hundred years later. Nearly 200 years later the chancel was extended. Then the chapel was built on the South side, and made into a full aisle at the end of the 14th century. The tower appeared in the 15th century. Extensive restoration work took place in about 1870.
St. Margaret’s church is rich in historic features, amongst which is the Font. It stands near the entrance, symbolising the admission of the newly baptised Christian to the congregation. Believed to be made in 1180, unusually enough, of paludina limestone, sometimes called Sussex marble or winklestone. The consolidated snail shells, which are visible, became petrified when the Weald was under marsh and water. When polished the stone is decorative: the memorial in the chancel is a good example. The columns supporting the font were restored using Purbeck marble.
The Old Wooden Chest. For many years this was the parish chest. It is an early form, hollowed out from an oak log, and could date from the reign of Henry II in the 12th century, or from King John in the 13th century. In 1287 the Synod of Exeter ordered each church to have a chest for books and vestments, "cistam ad libros et vestimenta." The chest also held alms for the poor and for the Crusades. Three locks became obligatory in the 16th century, separate keys being held by the vicar and two churchwardens, so the chest could only be opened when all three were present. This one has lost its lid but the keyholes are still there. The usual place for the chest was against the North wall of the sanctuary, where it might be used as a seat for the acolytes. Today, disguised, it serves as a table for refreshments.
|These have been mounted in the North East corner, but were previously in the tower. Although some early clocks were installed in cathedrals in medieval times, it seems likely that it was local well-to-do families making money from the iron industry who provided this clock in the 17th century. It has a pendulum, a part developed only in 1657. It also has square decorative finials which are a feature after 1600, so perhaps a date following the restoration of Charles II in 1660 would be appropriate. Before this period, the time was reckoned by Mass Dials, which are inscribed on the wall by the window close to the door.|
There are six bells which date from about 1550 to 1937. The latest one commemorates George V, and has an inscription:
“Here am I set on high
By the folk of West Hoathly.
A fuller account of the the bells, the organ and the stained glass will be given in separate leaflets, available in the church.