Visiting

The church is open every day from 9am and in winter closes at about 3pm. We welcome you to visit, and for quiet prayer and contemplation.

Come to enjoy its rich history. Named after Archbishop Thomas Becket, murdered in Canterbury cathedral in 1170 by four knights, Lewes is on the pilgrim route along the south coast. St Thomas’ looks and feels more like a medieval church than most of the others in Lewes.

You can’t miss the splendid Victorian stained glass, and here are some other highlights:

  • Chancel probably on the footprint of an 11th or 12th-century Norman chapel.
  • Little lancet window (north aisle, west end), Early English style, around 1180-1250. Now blocked, with a painting of St Thomas creeping into his church. The window is probably the earliest fabric.
  • Evidence of the screen that separated the clergy in the chancel from the people in the nave – look for the little doorway high up in the north aisle (east end) that gave access to the top of the screen. The doorway is blocked by a painting of ‘vagabond’ warrior bishop St Wilfrid, 634-710, a patron saint of Sussex.
  • ‘Squint’ (south side of the chancel arch), a large and very fine aperture, probably 14th-century, allowing a view of the main altar from the south aisle altar.
  • Pulpit, 1877, bears four pretty paintings in oils: John the Baptist, in his hair coat and with tall staff with cross piece; Christ; Moses; and Elijah.
  • Very special – the royal arms of Queen Elizabeth I, dated 1598, the oldest in Sussex:

The Royal Arms of Queen Elizabeth I

  • Exquisite little World War I memorial (above south aisle altar), Sussex marble, to the 47 parish men who gave their lives in the 1914-18 Great War, erected 1920.
  • Large oil painting (north aisle), probably Flemish 17th-century, ‘very superior’. Depicts Christ’s ascension when he returned to God the Father after his resurrection. A loving gift to the church in 1779 by a London painter and picture dealer, Benjamin Vandergucht (1752 – 1794) when he married Miss Egles, niece of churchwarden Mr Robert Plumer.

Guided tours - a rare chance to climb the tower and see the ancient clock and belfry

Belfry at St Thomas à Becket, Lewes

Our exciting fortnightly guided tours this summer start on Saturday 18 May, price £5. All dates and booking details will be published soon in March, on this page and on our What’s On page.

Tours include:

  • Introduction to church interior.
  • Climb up the spiral stair to the (reputedly) second-oldest turret clock in Sussex. James Looker, a blacksmith of Ditchling, made it in 1670 for £5 10s. He had to keep it going for 3 years – and it’s still going strong.

  • Go on up to the belfry: the lovely and very special oak bellframe dates from around 1400. Not many belfries survive like this, and hardly any that are easily reached by stairs.
  • You’ll see our wonderful four bells – the oldest arrived in 1554 – and hear the big tenor bell strike twelve. Not to be missed!

How to Book

Saturday morning tours in 2024 will start on Saturday 18th May and continue approximately fortnightly until Sat 14th Sept, all at 11.30am. All dates will be published on this page in March, then please book by phone or in person at the Lewes Tourist Information Centre, 187 High Street, Lewes BN7 2DE, tel 01273 483448