St Bartholomew’s – Cross in Hand

St Bartholomew’s Church, Cross-in-Hand

St Bartholomew’s Church came about as follows: when All Saints Church in Waldron was closed for restoration in 1862, church services were held in temporary accommodation in Cross-in-Hand.  These alternative services were well-attended by the expanding population, with more residences built locally (as is now also happening) so local landowner and Justice of the Peace Mr J G Boucher offered the Ecclesiastical Commissioner a plot of land on his woodland estate of Heatherden, agreeing to build a church ‘with surrounding yard and enclosure’ at his own expense. James Piers St Aubyn was appointed as architect, and St Barts was built from locally-quarried stone and consecrated as a chapel of ease on 24 August, 1863, by the Bishop of Chichester. It is an archetypal Victorian Nave and Sanctuary building with a unique atmosphere. The church enjoys a longstanding choral and musical tradition, and its font gurgles on emptying in a manner our Vicar suggests recalls the River Jordan.

In 1901 the church was enlarged by the addition of a vestry and organ chamber, to the memory of John Crossley who lived at Heatherden from 1891. The south transept abutting the vestry was added in the early twentieth century. St Bartholomew's, or St. Bart's as it is known locally, was once called "The Church in the Woods"; prior to the great storm of 1987 it was almost completely hidden amongst the trees. In 1987 Waldron and Heathfield Parish Council acquired the depleted woodland surrounding the church curtilage, for use as a burial ground from the following year onwards; the church car park also came into being around this time.

Cross-in-Hand was recorded in 1835 as being a ‘hamlet of Waldron’ and had gained its name – supposedly in 1547 - from being sited where ‘ancient routes meet‘ rather than being any reference to the Crusades and the alleged passage of Richard Lion Heart with his troops on their way to the coast. The road from Cross-in-Hand to Hailsham via Little London became a turnpike in 1754, the Lewes to Burwash road became one in 1765 and the Mayfield and Tunbridge Wells road (now the A267) in 1767. Cross-in-Hand has historic links with the Wealden iron industry, the surrounding woodland providing fuel for iron-working which started as small-scale Romano-British smelting and progressed through an intensive mediaeval period of iron production from the late 16th to the mid-18th century, assuring the south-east of prosperity unrivalled until the Industrial Revolution.

Worship on alternate Sundays is held here (on the second and fourth Sunday each month) and the church also has close links with Cross-in-Hand Primary School.

This account is adapted from the Heritage Impact Assessment (report No. 2018323 of March 2018) prepared for St Bartholomew Church, Cross-in-Hand.

The Friends of Waldron Churches are committed to raising funds to ensure that both parish churches remain structurally sound, so future generations can enjoy them.