Visiting

The church is open every day from 9am and in winter closes at about 3pm. We welcome you to visit, or to enjoy 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 Downs. 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.

Next guided tour Sat 1st June - a rare chance to climb the tower and see the ancient clock and belfry

Belfry at St Thomas à Becket, Lewes

Our exciting guided tours this summer continue Sat 1st June then fortnightly to 7th Sept, price £5. All are on Saturdays at 11.30, lasting about 45 minutes.

For all dates and how to book, see below.

Tours include:

  • Introduction to church interior.
  • Climb the 57 steps 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!

SAFETY Before you go up the tower, ask yourself “Am I fit and well to go up the stairs?”. Do not take anything up the tower. Leave bags at foot of the stair so both hands are free to grip the newel rope in one hand and handrail in the other. No smoking, vaping, naked lights, ignition materials or combustibles. Be aware of trip hazards and low doorways. Wear stout shoes (not big boots, the steps are small). Rubber-soled shoes are best;  no hobnailed boots that might damage stonework. No loose clothing unless tucked in, no long coats/dresses/scarves etc. Clothes will make contact with dusty walls. Handrail is bare steel: you may wish to use light gloves or disposables. Wear gloves if Covid-vulnerable.

How to Book

All tours are on Saturdays at 11.30am, lasting about 45 minutes. Dates: 1st, 15th and 29th June; 13th and 27th July; 10th and 24th August; 7th September.

Book, price £5 at the Lewes Tourist Information Centre in the council office in Cliffe pedestrian precinct, in person or by phone with credit or debit card, tel 01273 483448. Children welcome, under 16 free, min age 8, under 16s accompanied by an adult. Sorry no refunds, no public toilets, no dogs.