St John The Baptist Church

Information about the church and grounds, past and present

Tracing the church's history back to Saxon times

Sedlescombe Parish Church has been a place of continuous worship since the early 13th Century. It is believed that the present church is the third building to stand on the site, and was previously a timber Saxon Church.

The North Aisle was added in the 16th Century as was the Bell Tower and a Jacobean Mezzanine to the rear of the Nave. The Church was re-edified in 1667, at which time the three(?) large Spanish Chestnut Trees were planted in front of the building and still stand proudly there today.  

The Churchyard is achingly beautiful and over the centuries many of the Villagers of Sedlescombe have found their resting place here. There is a memorial book to remember the Souls of the Faithful Departed, whose names are included in our Church Family prayers on their anniversary day.

The Grade II-listed church has a fascinating history, and we hope you find the information on this page interesting and infomative.

The Church and grounds through the ages

Origins, the Domesday Book and to 13th Century

Domesday Book reference to Sedlescombe parish churchSedlescombe Parish Church has been a place of continuous worship since the early 13th Century. It is believed that the present church is the third building to stand on the site; the original building was a timber Saxon Church. A small church is mentioned in the Domesday Book (9, 122), see image right, however the present church appears to originate back to around the C14.

It is likely, however, that the shorter nave, in its form until the C19, kept its early dimensions if not some walling. This is supported by Sir Stephen Glynne, before 1840 and probably in the 1820s, who saw a low, plain Norman chancel arch as well as lancets in the chancel. Such a pattern of a nave that was C11 or C12 with a chancel rebuilt or extended in the C13, is frequently found in Sussex.

14th and 15th Centuries

In the later C14 a broad, gabled north aisle was added, which is now the western part of a longer one. The two western bays of the north arcade are characteristic of the period, with octagonal piers and double-chamfered heads. The old part of the aisle has two-light square-headed north windows with pierced spandrels (one renewed) and the west wall was originally blank.

The west tower was built in the 15th Century, with its diagonal buttresses and octagonal stair.

The western part of the nave roof has C15 moulded timbers and the Sharpe Collection drawing (1797) shows the chancel was altered in the C15, with a three-light east window (reset in the present one) and south windows adapted from two-light square-headed ones.

16th to 18th Centuries

Domesday Book reference to Sedlescombe parish churchThe Sharpe Collection drawing also show a C17 or C18 south porch and dormers in the roof for one or more galleries. Timbers from the west one were reused in the roofs of the C19 eastward extensions of the nave and north aisle, including a large beam with egg and dart moulding, dated 1632. This is likely to be connected with the gallery of that year, of which there are other fragments in benches at the west end. There was also a four-centred opening in the gable of the north aisle which was clearly for a gallery and was probably of this date.
In 1836 there was an application to the Incorporated Church Building Society (ICBS) for a new south aisle. The plans were signed by a W Inskipp, described as a surveyor. It is doubtful whether this was ever built, though the ICBS made a grant.

Tenders for the restoration were sought in 1866 and was completed the next year. The chancel was demolished and the nave extended over the site, with two new bays of the arcade, which copied the C14 ones and a re-used east respond. The present south aisle is all of a piece with the rest of the work at this time, so if one had been added in 1836, it was now thoroughly rebuilt or remodelled. The arcade resembles the north one and the windows to the south are pointed. The new chancel arch has a heavy head on semi-circular marble shafts on angel-corbels. The chancel's north and south windows have stained glass made by CE Kempe in 1890.

Recent history

In more recent times, the church has continued to be well maintained and preserved in relatively good order. In 2012 (CHECK), the church benefitted from the installation of under floor heating in the main body of the church, an extensive piece of work which involved carefully removing hundreds of floor tiles while excavation work took place.
(NEEDS WORK: Any references to WWI + II?)

The PCC is currently working on plans to install a car park in order to improve accessability to the church and its ground.

Sources: B. Lucey: Twenty Centuries in Sedlescombe.

The Belltower and bells

The west tower has a ring of six bells. Robert Mot of Houndsditch and Whitechapel cast the tenor bell in 1592. Joseph Carter of Whitechapel cast the fifth bell in 1606 and the second, third and fourth bells in 1607. Mears & Stainbank of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry cast the treble bell in 1929.

The bells are rung every second and fourth Sunday before weekly service, by a skillful and dedicated group of bellringers.

Information on the six bells

Bell Weight Nominal Note Diameter Dated Founder Hanging
1 4–1–7 1309.0 E 26.50″ 1929 Mears & Stainbank FC
2 4¼ cwt 1172.0 D 28.13″ 1607† Joseph Carter FC
3 5¼ cwt 1050.0 C 30.75″ 1607† Joseph Carter FC
4 6¼ cwt 984.0 B 32.50" 1607† Joseph Carter; FC
5 7 cwt 885.0 A 33.75" 1606† Joseph Carter FC
6 10 cwt 784.5 G 37.75″ 1592† Robert Mot FC

The table and contents are © Dove's guide for Church Bell Ringers. Our thanks to them for permission to reproduce some of the information above.

The bells are rung before Sunday services evey fortnight (??) by a team of bellringers. For more informatiuon on the bellringers, or to find out how to get involved in bellringing, please take a look at our bellringing informaton section.

Archives of St John the Baptist church

19th Century plans of St John the Baptist church from the ICBS website

Above image is a link to the ICBS-held plan for St John the Baptist church. If you have trouble viewing the above, click here to view in a separate tab.


A donation of any amount to St John the Baptist church means so much. It helps us to fund vital maintenance and repair work on this 16th century church, keeping this historic building and its grounds safe and accessible for future generations.

Church grounds

The grounds of St John the Baptist church are beautiful and rich in history.
Views of the surrounding coutryside can be enjoyed, and public footpaths offer walks around the neighbouring fields and woodlands.
The churchyard graves include the final resting place of six casualties from the First and Second World War, recognised by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.


Explore the grounds with its beautiful views over surrounding countryside, or navigate your way along one of the nearby footpaths.

16th C Spanish Chestnut

Three(?) majestic Spansih Chestnuts trees were planted to commemorate XX in 16xx can be found along the front of the church.


Bursting with nature, the grounds are beautiful all year round.


People with connections to Sedlescombe have, for centuries, found their final resting place here.

A team of volunteers keep our ancient rural parish churchyard beautifully maintained. If you would like to help, please contact Mrs Sandra Davies on 07794 914942.