Hamsey Churchyard – an update


A new management plan was introduced towards the end of 2020 with a view to encouraging the rich plant life while maintaining the integrity of the graveyard. During the year, weather conditions meant more growth than usual. Some of the planned work was not carried out. At the Open Day (Hamsey in Bloom) in July, the churchyard was a riot of colour but many graves became difficult to get to or even to find. Although the scheme was publicised, there was nothing in the churchyard itself to explain the plan. 

As the Rev Anne Dunlop, parish priest, said: “We have learned a lot from this first year.”

Constructive comments from various visitors and friends of Hamsey church suggested changes, especially in the management of the East graveyard where the modern graves are found. The Parochial Church Council accept responsibility for the churchyard. They are determined to get the management scheme right; to see it is properly implemented; and to make sure people are kept informed. 

A revised management plan will be considered by the PCC at its next meeting and more information will be available shortly. The Friends have recommended that the revised plan should include the following:


The churchyard is a place where loved ones are laid to rest and is also a valuable sanctuary for endangered wild flowers and other wildlife. So our aims will be:

  1. To maintain a burial ground attractive to relatives, parishioners and other visitors
  2. To encourage and maintain the diverse species found in the churchyard, providing food and shelter for pollinating insects, birds and other wildlife.

Nick Lear

Chairman of the Friends of Hamsey Church

4th October 2021






The Church


The Grade I Listed Norman Church of Hamsey is one of Sussex’s most interesting small churches. Mentioned in the Domesday Book, it is perched on a small hill in the Ouse Valley and enjoys a spectacular and prominent position. When a larger church was needed, the Victorians built St Peter’s at Offham but left Hamsey standing and unmodernised, which means, almost uniquely, it retains its medieval character. The nave and chancel are 12th century; the tower, 14th century; there is a 15th century limestone font, 16th century pews and fragments of wall paintings from the early 1600s. Without electricity or gas, Hamsey has a quiet elegance and serenity that is appreciated by many visitors and worshippers, with services held in the summer and at Christmas.

A key aim of the Friends of Hamsey is the restoration of this unique church.  An inspection of the church highlighted a growing damp problem due to a number of causes, which are being addressed in a phased manner, as funds allow.


Phase 1 – Completed – The Nave Roof

The most urgent need was to re-slate the Horsham Stone and clay tile nave roof.  Not only were many of the tiles cracked and damaged, pieces of stone and lime mortar bedding were falling off the roof slopes.  This was addressed in 2017.  As far as possible the original stone and tiles were used, and the south (road facing) side was re-laid entirely in original tiles, with new handmade ones used on the north face.  The roofing work revealed serious failures in the roof structure itself, which were also rectified.  

Phase 1 costs were some £63,000.  Half of this was covered by a grant from the government LPOW Roof Repair Fund and the rest from donations and funds raised by the Friends.


Phase 2 – In Hand – Replacement of External Render and Reglazing of Windows

These works cover the replacement of the failed render on the south nave, chancel and porch walls, the repair of stonework on the east wall and the reglazing of several leaking windows. Work started on the render and stonework towards the end of August and is ongoing. The replacement render will be sufficient to protect and stabilise the walls whilst leaving flints partially exposed.
The removal of render has exposed various stone features in the walls. This includes quoin stones which appear to have been reused when the 12th century chancel was extended eastwards in the 14th century, and a 12th century window on the south side of the nave to the east of the porch which is very similar to the 12th century window on the north side of the chancel. This window features inscribed curves on the top arch stone and is obviously of considerable archaeological interest. Other stones have also been revealed and we intend to leave these exposed in the re rendering work.
The south face of the porch around the main entrance door is constructed at lower levels of knapped and squared flints which were obviously meant to be seen. This area will be repointed to expose the faces of the flint.

Phase 2 costs are estimated at £43,000 (excluding VAT which will be recoverable).  £15,000 of this will come from donations and funds raised by the Friends (£5,000 of this has already been spent on investigations, etc) and the rest from a generous grant from a local family trust.


Phase 3 – Fund Raising – Tower Repointing and Stonework Repairs, Internal Redecorating

The tower suffers both from failed pointing and also from previous replacement pointing  made in non-breathable cement mortar, rather than the correct lime mortar, as used in the original construction.  This must be replaced and some of the stonework repaired.  With the damp issues hopefully largely addressed it will then be possible to go ahead with internal redecorating.  This itself will need to be tightly controlled so as not to disturb fragments of wall paintings.

Phase 3 costs (excluding VAT) are expected to be some £50,000 and these funds must be secured before we can go ahead with the work.



Following our WW1 Commemoration in June 2019 which raised £1000 we have received some very generous donations and the Fund Raising Account now stands at nearly £22,000. Much more will be needed for the future works, but the funds we are raising will hopefully put us in a good position to obtain grants to cover a substantial portion of the cost.


Church openings 2019


We would like to thank all the volunteers who have enabled the church to be open for visitors this year. It has been very encouraging to see the number of visitors to the church since the regular openings. From January to November there were 262 entries in the visitors book with people coming from as far away as USA and New Zealand! Thank you all for your generous donations. Please come back and bring your friends and do remember to sign the visitors book, even if it is not your first visit!

Booklets and postcards are available for sale and there is a folder containing information on the graveyards and monuments within the church.

Hamsey Church is popular for weddings and baptisms.

To arrange a wedding or baptism please contact the churchwarden via the following link:




Below are events held in 2020



Local artist Keith Pettit held an exhibition at Hamsey church as part of the Lewes Art Wave festival. The exhibition was held over 3 weekends from 5th to the 20th September, 11am to 5 pm.

He is very generously giving a percentage of his proceeds to the Friends which is so kind of him.



Below are events held in 2019


We would like to thank all who came and supported the Open Day at Hamsey Church on 6th July. We are pleased to announce that the sum of £550 was raised and added to the Restoration Fund. 


Below are events held in 2018

We would like to thank all who came and supported the WW1 Commemoration at Hamsey Church on 9th June. We are pleased to announce that the sum of £1,103 was raised and added to the Restoration Fund.


June 8th - Judge Michael Kennedy’s group sang compline.  The group were at the church from 7.00pm for a rehearsal to which anyone was invited and then the Office of Compline commenced at 8.00pm and lasted for about 30 minutes.  After that, the group enjoyed strawberries and a glass of wine. Compline was traditionally the final service of the day and takes the form of beautiful chants sung in Latin. This was a haunting sound in the church on a perfect June evening.


June 10th  at 6.00pm, the first of two summer concerts by the Musicians of All Saints Lewes took place. For further details check out www.mas-lewes.co.uk


June 17th, 6.00pm The Second Concert by the Musicians of All Saints Lewes.



Below are events held in 2017

Friends of Hamsey © 2016