Ancient churches and graveyards

If you like history and visiting medieval towns and ancient churches, I would recommend you to come down to Sussex. A lot of towns in East and West Sussex are steeped in history and can be fascinating places to visit. Connecting past, present and future and … spirits.

St Helen’s Church and St Nicholas Church. Pictures by RBG.

I always enjoyed visiting ancient churches and graveyards and I’m lucky to live in the south east of England where you can find so many of them. Somehow I seem to feel more connected with the sites rather than the actual churches itself. These places of worship share their cultural heritage and collections with the community and visitors alike and many of them have a story to tell. If you’re lucky, you can get to talk to the locals to hear some interesting stories about the past of their church and once inside, you might find old Saxon fonts and carved medieval wooden screens.

Before and during the writing process of ‘The Black Lion’ I visited several churches, old manors and parks and you can almost sense the ancient and authentic feelings, spirits from the past heavily infused with mysticism. Whether you are a believer or not, you will surely be struck by their atmosphere and charm.

The secret gardens, Preston Park. Pictures by RBG

It was interesting to revisit Preston Park and its secret garden, Hangleton Manor and the Lewes War Memorial. I also visited churches I’ve not visited before like St Helen’s Church in Hangleton and the St Nicholas of Myra which opened their doors as part of Brighton & Hove Heritage Open Days in 2019.

St Andrew & St Cuthman’s Church and Chantry Green, Steyning. Pictures by RBG

A significant part of the story is set in Steyning, a town I’ve never visited before. I’ve meant to visit Steyning for quite some time and the book was a good excuse to finally make that journey to that beautiful and picturesque town. I wanted to describe the sites of interest in precise detail, and the only way to do that is by visiting them. I’m so glad I did as it helped finalising the descriptions for some of the locations which I used.

One interesting discovery was ‘The Chantry House’, which I mistook for ‘Chantry Green House’. I was looking for the green but the entrance didn’t remind me much of the pictures I had seen on the internet. There’s a tablet on the building, upon which is described: ‘William Butler-Yeats, 1859 – 1939, wrote many of his later poems in this house.’ Back home, I did some research and found out that WB Yeats used to stay in th house from 1937 with two sisters, Edith and Nora, who owned the elegant eighteenth century house. He wrote some of his last poems here as well as his play ‘Purgatory’. The well known artist Gluck (Hannah Gluckstein) also lived here with her partner, a successful journalist Edith Shackleton Heald. Gluckstein adopted the name ‘Gluck’ in 1918, and began to dress in traditionally masculine clothes. They lived together in Heald’s home of Chantry House in Sussex until her death in 1978. The world’s first exhibition to explore both the life and artwork of Gluck, opened at Brighton Museum back in 2017.

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