History in brief

St Thomas à Becket Church is Grade II* Listed,  and looks and feels medieval. It has Norman origins and evolved over many centuries.

  • Lewes is on the pilgrim route along the South Downs.
  • There’s no visible trace of its Norman origin but the chancel is believed to be on the footprint of a Norman chapel.
  • The oldest feature is a blocked lancet window of Early English style (c.1180-1250), in the west wall of the north aisle, set in thicker walling and hidden outside by the buttress of the fine, sturdy 15th-century Perpendicular-style tower.
  • The lancet window shows that the church had at least one aisle, if narrow, in the 13th century. There’s no evidence of a corresponding window in the west wall of the south aisle.
  • Reconstruction of the nave and aisle arcades in the early 1300s produced an almost square plan apart from the chancel.
  • The symmetrical three-bay arcades, with fairly high pointed arches, are the best evidence of the rebuilding.
  • The south aisle can be dated by the 14th-century piscina in the south wall.
  • Delightful stained glass is a glorious gift of the Victorian work of c1879 and c1885, when almost all the windows were enlarged and replaced.

Book a guided tour: dates and how to buy tickets this summer are on our Visiting the Church page. The fortnightly tours include the church interior and climbing up the tower. You will see our belfry which dates from c1400 and the ancient clock (made in 1670) as it strikes twelve.

A new and comprehensive history of the church is in preparation and will be added to the website when completed.

Thomas becket arguing with King Henry II

Thomas Becket arguing with King Henry II, 12th century.
Glanvill Tractatus de Legibus et Consuetudinibus Angliae, 1187-9,
British Museum, Cottonian MS Claudius Dii.