Saturday, 23 October 2010

St. Peter, Monks Horton

     There was a church here at the time of the Domesday survey, when Horton (in the Hundred of Stowting) was in the possession of Hugo de Montfort.  Almost nothing is known of that church, but it probably stood on the site of today's building.  This neat little church is found in its walled churchyard, down a quiet country lane, surrounded by fields below the Downs.

     The nave and lower chancel is Early English - of flint and stone - with a west bell-gable.  There was, originally, a tower and belfry of timber containing four bells, but it was removed when the church was heavily restored in 1847, leaving only a 14th century chancel arch, the remains of the rood-loft stairs outside on the north wall, and a part-13th century font.  The original south doorway was built up, but a surviving Mass dial can be seen close-by.  It seems such a shame that so many of these ancient buildings were restored so heavily by the Victorian "improvers" - largely losing their original character, however, I suppose we must recognise that without their efforts many of the churches we so love and admire today would probably no longer exist, or at best, would be little more than ruins.

     My visit here, accompanied by my wife and daughter, Ria, coincided with the church Flower Festival.  The interior looked wonderful decked out with beautiful flower arrangements interpreting that evergreen hymn "All Things Bright and Beautiful."  Opposite the church in the old barn of Horton Court Farm, craft stalls were exhibiting and selling corn-dollies, jams, cakes and dried flowers etc., dispensing welcome refreshments, and demonstrating such crafts as wool-spinning.  I must pay tribute to these people who give so much of their time and talents, entirely unpaid, to raise funds in this way.  It is a testimony to the love and pride they have in their respective churches, which, I find heart-warming in this age where so many are indifferent to the existence of these ancient buildings.  It serves, also, to remind us of a time when they were the focal point of the community, and at the very centre of village life.  One cannot help reflecting that perhaps all of our lives might be a little richer were it still so today.

     The viewpoint of my photograph was not the result of any decision, artistic or otherwise, I literally had no choice.  The building was impossible to photograph from the north side, and almost completely obscured from the south by a huge Yew tree, said to be as old as the church itself.  I was not unhappy with the result, however, as I feel that it illustrates it to reasonable effect.

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