An Ancient Treasure
The village Charter granted in AD 926 by King Edgar, mentions a church in Chelsworth, and a Domesday Church is first recorded here in 1086. The church in Chelsworth has been dedicated to All Saint’s from the 12th Century at least.
Sitting well back from the road, the church must be approached through the driveway of The Grange. In almost every nook and cranny you can find something of special interest: something with a quirk about it.
Built in flint with stone dressings, it is now faced in cement, and the west tower is castellated, with diagonal buttresses. The tower had 4 bells in 1552 but in 1746 the three smallest were sold. The remaining bell was recast in 1763 and rehung in 1767.
The hidden south side is grander than the north, with a beautiful south porch now used as a vestry
Internally, the light and airy nave has 3 bays with piers of 4 attached shafts and moulded arches. The font is from the 14th century and above the chancel arch there is a restored doom wall painting.
The chief monument in the church is the recessed canopy tomb to Sir John de Philibert, Lord of the Manor until 1351 (died 1359).
All Saints Church
Built by the river Brett, dates from the 13th Century with the majority of its fabric dating from the Perpendicular Period (late 14th Century onwards).
The interior is a joy.
Light and airy unlike so many churches of this period, with a wonderful acoustic. The square shape of the nave and aisles makes it ideal for both sacred and secular purposes.
The Font - The 14th century font has identical cusped arches on the eight faces of its bowl. It is of the ‘Decorated Period’ (1280-1380) and predates the present church
The Tomb - Believed to have been in memory of Sir John de Philibert, Lord of the Manor (from 1334 to 1351).
Typical of the Decorated Period it is older than than the church and the aisle in which it stands.
It is thought to have been moved from elsewhere, or perhaps from an earlier Chelsworth church.
It has been cut into sections and on re-erection it was possibly found unsafe for the pilasters to stand unsupported, as was clearly intended. Much of the carving was sunk into the wall for support. The tomb space was then formed in the thickness of the wall, and the wall itself set back to form the unusual projection seen outside. The medieval ledger stone was inserted into the floor circa 1900.
Piscina - This is in the traditional position, on the south side of the altar. The tracery of this piscina, to the right of the tomb, breaks the splay of the adjacent window, and it may have been built into the wall at the same time as the tomb.
Piscina Image Bracket - The presence of the piscina in the south side of the aisle, with the image bracket above it, shows that the aisle was formerly used as a chapel
Chancel Arch - The 'DOOM'
This painting of the Last Judgement was discovered over the chancel arch during re-decoration in 1849. Experts rank it high among surviving church murals of the 15th century. It was crudely 'restored' following discovery. Part of another mural, found on the right of the western arch, has completely disappeared, but a contemporary drawing of it hangs in the church.
The two-manual organ, by Auguste Gern of Notting Hill, was installed in 1876, replacing a 'psalmodic barrel-organ' which stood in a gallery half-way up the western arch. The organ was restored in 1993 and again in 2019-20
Like the rest of the chancel furnishings, the pulpit dates from 1866, and takes the place of an earlier 'three -decker'.
Rood Loft Stairs
The entrance to these was re-opened in the present century. Their height shows that the rood-screen (of which no trace remains), must have been exceptionally lofty.
South Aisle Piscina
Discovered during re-decoration in 1953, it shows that this aisle was also once used as a chapel.
South Aisle Tiles/Chest
The encaustic tiles at the foot of the stairs, like the nearby chest, are attributed to the 14th Century.
The hatchments are those of the Pocklington family:
Robert Pocklington (died 1767)
his wife Sarah (died 1808)
Samuel Pocklington (1727 - 1781)
his wife Pleasance. (1730 -
Sir Robert Pocklington (1770 - 1840)
his wife Catherine Frances (1801 - 1856)
South Aisle Windows
The two heraldic windows, east and west, illustrate the coats of arms of successive Lords of the Manor. The main East Window was replaced in 1866 as the fabric of the earlier window was so poor.
The South Porch, enclosed and converted into a vestry in 1843, has a fine perpendicular doorway, flanked by figures of monks.
The Vestry - Glass
The source of the jumble of glass is unknown. It was discovered on the island west of the church. The small scale of the figures suggests that it is domestic glass.
The Vestry - Boss
Notice the curious curved heads on the roof-boss.
External Features - Tomb
The projection near the North Porch has already been explained. The row of ball-flower ornaments date it as of the 14th Century.
External Features - Chapel
Corbel-stones on the north wall of the chancel probably once supported the roof of an external chapel. Part of the tracery of an opening leading to it may be seen just east of the 'Priest's door' (blocked up in 1866).
The Box pews in the Chancel and Nave are still in place as is the Minstrel's Gallery.
The box pews were removed 1866.
The Parish Chest is seen in the left foreground.
The church story, with accounts and pictures of its Tomb and Doom, is told in booklets on sale inside the porch. But, we have older views - the church interior in the days of boxed pews, and the ancient font.
These drawings come from a small book produced by Sir Henry Austen, second husband of Catherine Blagrave, the widow of Sir Robert Pocklington. Her tomb lies to the west of the church.
In the present century, members of the Pocklington family are buried in the South-East corner of the churchyard.
The North View showing the old North Porch prior to its renovation.
The Orbell family graves are seen in the foreground and the Fowke vault is seen to the left.
View from the South, showing the South Porch just prior to its conversion to a vestry. The Pocklington family vault is seen to the left.
The Western Arch between 1866 and 1870.
The ‘Minstrels Gallery’ was removed some time between 1866 and 1869
The Western Arch after 1870
New August Gern (London), organ replacing the Minstrels Gallery. The Chelsworth Gern organ is an early example which retains the French influence of his master, Aristide Cavaillé Coll.