History in English
It is likely that there has been a church on this site from at least 1100, maybe earlier, when Hawkhurst belonged to the Abbot of Wye, and then of Battle, given to him by William the Conqueror as part of his thank-offering after the Battle of Hastings. The first mention of the building is in a Charter of 1285 and the first Rector whose name we have is Richard de Clyne in 1291.
The oldest part of the church is the Chancel and North Chapel. Look at the rough stonework of the outside of the north wall where you can still see the line of the earlier low roof. The earlier church probably finished just west of the present Chancel arch. By the entrance to the North Chapel you can see the remains of a stone spiral staircase which, perhaps was part of an earlier tower at the, then, west end of the church. Note, too, the archway to the rood screen which stretched across the church and was taken away in 1574. Access to this was gained by a spiral staircase through the door in the north wall.
The Great East Window was built about 1350 and is of fine curvilinear design. It has been described as one of the finest pieces of architecture in the County. Most of the rest of the church dates from about 1450 when the Nave was lengthened and raised, the aisles, porches and tower were added and the church took on its present appearance.
The Reredos behind the High Altar is Jacobean and was installed early last century, though we cannot trace where the panelling came from. It looks as though it might have been a fireplace surround.
The South Porch is the finest with a stone vaulted ceiling. The room over the North Porch was used by the officials of Battle Abbey to receive their rent and used to be called The Treasury.
On 13th. August 1944, a German flying bomb fell in the churchyard and did considerable damage. The church was out of use until 1957. Part of the flying bomb can be seen at the back of the church on the south side.
The Font dates from c.1450. Note the face, The Green Man, looking towards the Tower. The font cover was made by Dykes Bower in 1960 with oak from the Fowlers Park estate in the village.
The Stations of the Cross are a modern gift to the church; they are copies of those from the Benedictine Foundation of Maria Laach in Germany.
The Tower is 23m. high with a fine peal of 8 bells. There is a window from the ringing chamber into the church to see when to ring the bell during Mass; we now use a bell rope extended to the balcony which forms the new choir vestry.
The carving of the Last Supper on the north wall is probably German and dates from 1630.
The modern Madonna by the chancel arch was made by Mary Cox. On the South Wall is a memorial to Sir John and Lady Herschel. They lived for many years in the parish, and Lady Herschel is buried in the churchyard, Sir John being buried in Westminster Abbey. He was a great astronomer, Master of the Mint, a composer of music, writer of plays, and an early experimenter with photography.
The glass in the windows is mostly modern, as the old glass was destroyed by the bomb. In the West Window there are a few fragments of earlier windows, gathered after the bombing, and some early glass has been placed in the Lady Chapel windows.
In the North Porch you will find a memorial stone to Thomas Glover, a previous incumbent, the nephew of Bishop Spratt, of “Jack Spratt could eat no fat” fame.
We do hope you enjoy your visit. The Blessed Sacrament is reserved in the Lady Chapel. Go there to enjoy the peace for a few moments and say a prayer for the people of this Parish and the work of the Church here.