St Leonard's Church, Seaford
|Dating back to about 1100, St Leonard's is the oldest and most prominent church in Seaford, and still forms the centre-piece of the town which grew up around it. As with many ancient churchyards, it is closed to new burials and the grass, paths and graves are in places several feet higher than they were when burials began. It follows that the stone tombs and memorials now visible represent only a small fraction of the total number of interments down the centuries, and relate to a relatively short period in Seaford's history. The churchyard is exposed to the salty winds which have battered this former small port, and they have eroded the original decoration and inscriptions in many instances, some to the point of complete obscurity.
|To identify the locations of individual memorials the churchyard was divided into sections.
The visible grave markers were mapped and given numbers. Some illegible stones are included to help navigation.
|Each Section page has a clickable icon at the top to obtain a plan . A larger set is available as a PDF - Section Plans
An additional list of burials without memorials is given in "Aged Persons" 1814-86.
"Section S" is also a list of additional names and details, which we were unable to find ourselves.
|Where Illustrations are Clickable, they expand into larger versions to show more detail.
To navigate between these, use left & right keyboard keys. Click to close.
Seaford's Parish Church of St Leonard in 1899,
by which time the graveyard was full and further
burials were prohibited by an Order In Council.
The grave memorials were rather cleaner then.
A number have since disappeared, broken, sunk,
or (more commonly) listed somewhat
to port or starboard.
The apparently clear inscription on the
decorated stone in the centre is now
all but indecipherable.
In the foreground, just beyond the path,
are more recently dug graves, but
without markers as yet.
|Remember with love and prayers
those whose remains are buried here.
May they rest in peace and rise in glory.
Tablet North of the church marking the area in which
unmarked burials (cremation ashes) may still take place
|The ranks of memorials are not as regular as they may seem at first glance.
This ancient burial area contains an interesting mix of styles and materials, including sandstone, limestone, brick, iron, marble and granite.
|Tooling ("Crinkle-cut") and Stone Rails
|Many of the headstones at St Leonard's, but only a few at St Peter's, have a very similar design pattern. This is characterised by tooled or batted edges (nicknamed "crinkle-cut"), a central stone rail (they used to be wooden) between headstone and footstone, and rounded carving on the shoulders.
|The rails are mounted on a stone base running between the head and footstone. They are held upright by metal tags - usually lead-covered iron - set into the backs of the head and footstone and into slots on the top of the rail, as shown in the fallen rail (right).
|Sussex Wealden Sandstone and the Long-Lasting Footstones
The main material used in St Leonard's is sandstone from the Sussex Weald. The few headstones at St Leonard's in a harder, smoother stone look almost new by comparison, so clean and sharp are the lettering and decoration (left).
The churchyard is unusual in that a significant number of graves include a mixture of stone: Wealden sandstone for the headstone (and rail where included), and a clearly better-weathered, less eroded stone for the footstone.
The local Sussex Wealden sandstone varies, but is generally not good at retaining detail or overall integrity. An extreme example is at right (this is not Vermiculation, which is intended to give a worm-eaten appearance!). Many such stones are visibly narrower at about half-way down, when they become too thin to support the upper portion and break.
Local historians might wish to note a similarity in headstone patterns shared with stones which can be seen around the Church of St Andrew at Alfriston.
A number of footstones are in a type of stone with a warmer, greenish hue. They are often sharper and cleaner than their headstones, and look much newer.
Quite possibly the smoother, harder stone matched the appearance of the sandstone when erected, but has endured the weather - and repelled lichen - rather better. A few even have tooled backs (right).
|St Leonard's has a daughter church, St Luke's in Walmer Road, Chyngton. It was built in 1958-59 and although dedicated with the inscription "AMDG" (Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam - To the greater Glory of God), it has not been consecrated. It therefore contains no marked graves or memorials.
|For further information about St Leonard's please see the St Leonard's and St Luke's Parish website.
Their history is summarised at Sussex Parish Churches. See also Previous Recordings
|© Seaford MI Group 2013-2020