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Cowfold Church

Cowfold Church

Old timber framed houses and a cluster of cottages surround the parish church at Cowfold which attracts a steady stream of visitors, whatever the weather, whatever the season. They come to see one of the most beautiful sepulchral brasses in Sussex - that of Thomas Nelond, 25th prior of the Cluniac Priory of St Pancras at Lewes. No one knows how or why the brass, and perhaps his body, is in this medieval church a good 15 miles or so away from Lewes. Maybe it was brought here in the troubled times that followed Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries. The Lewes priory was broken up in 1538 and it could be that a dispossessed brother returned to his home village with this precious relic of monastic life. The brass would have been no easy object to transport. It is more than 10ft long and shows the life size figure of the old prior in his monk's habit with his arms clasped together in prayer. Surrounding him is an elaborate canopy on which are depicted the Virgin and Child, St Pancras and St Thomas a Becket. The brass is kept well covered with a thick carpet which is padlocked securely but there is a rubbing of it in the church for all to see.

A mile or so to the south rises the tall spire of the only active Carthusian monastery in this country - St Hugh's Charterhouse. It was built in 1877 on a grand scale for the white robed monks of the order founded by St Bruno, and for a time accommodated a number of French brothers who were fleeing from France to escape persecution. It has 34 rooms in its cloisters for the monks and 32 rooms for the lay brothers. Now some 20 to 30 monks spend their days in contemplation in their cells or hermitages, each of which has its own garden and workshop. They meet together only for services and for lunch on Sundays.

I have completed a monument more lasting than brass
© Horace.
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