Parish of Buxted and Hadlow Down

  • Buxted
  • East Sussex


History

The church of St Mary's was erected and endowed by the late Revd. Father A. D. Wagner in the modern village of Buxted in the late 1800's and was consecrated in 1887. The small church is of unusual flint construction, more in line with the Wagner churches of Brighton in the Sussex style rather than the sandstone churches nearby. It is the only church which Father Wagner built in the Sussex countryside. The commission to design the church was given by Father Wagner to Edmund Evan Scott (d. 1896) originally in practice in London but later in practice as an architect from Regency Square in Brighton. He and his partner F. T. Cawthorn were used by Father Wagner to design a number of his churches.

The church was built to serve the new village of Buxted as it developed to the east of the railway when the old village of Buxted around the 13th Century Parish Church of St Margaret the Queen in Buxted Park had fallen into decay.

St Mary's was designed to promote the Catholic faith and worship and the Lady Chapel, known as the Walsingham Chapel, was deliberately built to the measurements to coincide with the medieval Holy House at Walsingham which is of the same measurements as that of the Holy Home at Nazareth. The ancient shrine of Walsingham was destroyed in the 16th Century, so the Chapel at St Mary's became the first restored Holy House and precursor of the revival of devotion to our Lady of Walsingham in England.

The tower and walls of the church are in Sussex flint, with turret and roof of tiles. The main entrance to the church is set at the base of the tower approached by a flight of steps from the gravel drive and the car park. The tower with castellated walls and tiled spire contain the bell chamber, organ loft and entrance porch within the main door. There is one bell in the bell chamber.

The Altar is mounted on three steps at the east end of the Nave with the Crucifix hanging from the ceiling over. It is understood the choir stalls and communion rail were removed to provide a more spacious Sanctuary. St Mary's has an octagonal stone font which sits under the west window. It is understood that this originally stood at the entrance to the Walsingham Chapel, close to the entrance door. The church building now comprises of the east Sanctuary and Nave, the South Walsingham Chapel, North Vestry and Tower.

In an Addenda dated November 1964, Pevsner's guide to the buildings of Sussex describes St Mary's in the following terms :-

                       "Buxted - St Mary. By Edmund Scott and F T Cawthorn

                        Built at the expense of Father Wagner of Brighton. A simple

                        church in the traditional Sussex style, flint with stone dressings,

                        Late Gothic in style. Tower with pyramid roof. Aisleless nave.

                        Lavish furnishings"

Though the reference to containing lavish furnishings may have once been true, many of the furnishings particularly at the east end have since been removed and dispersed and the church now has a minimal interior.


 

Key Features

The first thing you notice on entering St. Mary's Church car park is that the church (and also the church hall) is faced in flint, a building material found in very few other buildings in the vicinity. The reason for this is that the church was designed and commissioned in the 1880s by Father Wagner, a resident of Brighton, where flint was a common building material at the time.

St Mary's was designed to promote the Catholic faith and worship.  The principal features of the church reflect this strong Anglo-Catholic background.

The most interesting feature of the church is the Lady Chapel, known as The Walsingham Chapel. This was built specifically to replicate the ancient shrine of Walsingham destroyed in the 16th century and its dimensions not only match those of the Walsingham shrine, but also the Holy House at Nazareth upon which Walsingham was based.

The octagonal stone font under the west window originally stood at the entrance to the Walsingham Chapel.

In the grounds of the church is St. Mary's Church Hall, which is an invaluable asset of the parish and is in constant use by both church and secular organisations.