Benefice of Arlington Berwick Selmeston with Alciston and Wilmington

St Mary & St Peter Wilmington

The church of St Mary and St Peter Wilmington dates from the 12th century and has always been associated with the Benedictine Priory close by - indeed the two were linked for a long time.  The remains of the priory buildings are now part of a private house.

Outside, the great Yew tree by the porch is said to be 1,600 years old.  The church itself has a Norman chancel; the monks would have used the latter (the parishioners restricted to the nave), which still preserves its Norman lancets and low ledges for seating the monks; originally, the floor would have been lower, thus making the seating more practical.

The north transept chapel was added early in the 13th century, with the two-bay south aisle following slightly later.  This was later partially blocked, but reopened during Victorian restoration.  The chancel arch is also a 19th century replacement in the 13th century style.

The nave was rebuilt with the fine roof, with king-posts and tie-beams in the 14th century and most of the windows were renewed in the Decorated style.  The north porch was added in the 15th century, as well as the Perpendicular east window.

The best furnishing is undoubtedly the Jacobean pulpit, dating from 1610, complete with a back panel and sounding board, topped off with a fine open-work obelisk.  A puzzling, weathered carving set in the south chancel wall, brought in from outside in 1948, is thought to be 12th or 13th century and female - possibly a Madonna holding a diminutive Christ.

Also of intertest are the fluted frieze and steep pediment from an Elizabethan monument in the south aisle, said to have been to a member of the Culpeper family.

On Sunday 21st July 2002 the church suffered a severe fire which destroyed the north transept (vestry), the 'Bee and Butterfly' window and the Victorian organ.  Extensive heat, smoke and water damage occurred in the rest of the church.

Since then a major restoration has taken place and the church was rededicated by the Right Reverend John Hind, Bishop of Chichester, on the 4th January 2004.  In the north chapel a new 'Bee and Butterfly' window was installed to replace that destroyed by the fire.  The window incorporates pieces from the original and depicts St Peter surrounded by butterflies and bees, above - appropriately enough - a Phoenix.

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