Sussex Heritage Trust 2024 Awards Launched at Berwick

Sussex Heritage Trust Chairman David Cowan and Rupert Toovey at Berwick Church

Leading architects, artisans and supporters gathered at St Michael and All Angels, Berwick, East Sussex for the launch of the 2024 Sussex Heritage Trust Awards.

Sussex Heritage Trust Chairman, David Cowan thanked The Revd. Peter Blee, headline sponsors Irwin Mitchell and all gathered for their hard work and support.

The church’s fine decorative scheme has recently been sensitively restored. It was commissioned by Bishop George Bell of Chichester. Bell was a great patron of the arts. He wished to see churches once more filled with colour and beauty. Eternal truths would be proclaimed anew in modern art, poetry and music. More people would be drawn into the Christian community by the revival of this old alliance and renewed vitality. Bell founded the Sussex Churches Art Council. Relying on generous patrons, like the famous economist John Maynard Keynes, he began to commission work. Keynes, a frequent visitor to Charleston, was close to Duncan Grant.

During the summer and autumn of 1940 the Battle of Britain was fought over the skies of Sussex. The Luftwaffe failed to defeat the R.A.F. but the Germans continued the Blitz into the May of 1941. Against this backdrop, Bishop Bell commissioned Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell to paint St Michael and All Angels. The parish church at Berwick is just a few miles from the artists’ home at Charleston.

Writing to her daughter Angelica Bell in 1941, Vanessa Bell proclaimed that Charleston was “all a-dither with Christianity”. Large panels were prepared to be painted on in the barn at Charleston. Family, friends and neighbours were used as models. These well known Christian stories were retold in paint and set in the Sussex landscape.

Sponsors Matthew Baker of NFU, Nicholas Toovey of Toovey’s and Daniel Grainge of Kreston Reeves

Initially the project met with local opposition but Kenneth Clark and Frederick Etchells acted as expert witnesses and the scheme was accepted. At the time Kenneth Clark was director of the National Gallery in London and Surveyor of the King’s Pictures.

The Sussex Heritage Trust’s work is as important today in promoting best practice in our county’s built environment and landscape whilst encouraging and supporting talented young people into careers in conservation, building and horticulture. I am delighted that Toovey’s, alongside a number of Sussex companies, remain long-term sponsors and supporters of their important work.

The closing date for entries for this year’s Sussex Heritage Trust Awards is 22nd March. To find out more visit