The 12thc. sculptural decoration of Icklesham belongs to three different building campaigns. The N tower and side aisles were added to an existing nave in the early 12thc., while the present nave arcades and the ground-chamber rib-vault of the tower were built at different times during the second half of the century. The N and S chapels are ofc.1200, and the Decorated-style chancel of the early-14thc. The church was restored by S. S. Teulon in 1848-49.
Icklesham was not mentioned in DS, and there is no evidence that a church existed before the early 12thc. Icklesham is thought to have been one of seven fees held by Humfrey de Wilicheres of the Count of Eu in 1166, but must soon afterwards have passed into the hands of Robert of Icklesham who gave 60 acres of land there to the Cistercian Abbey of Robertsbridge. Robert's son Ralph was alive in 1195, and the present nave arcades must have been constructed during the time of either father or son. Possible patrons of the earlier campaigns cannot be suggested.
The third, or bell-stage of the N tower is lit by twin bell-openings on all four sides. Those to E, W and N incorporate carved capitals, while that on the S is undecorated.
Of one order. The coursed central shaft supports a renewed double-scallop capital with triangular projections between the cones; the engaged semi-columnar responds carry renewed capitals with two scallops on the main face, again with triangular projections separating the cones, and a single scallop on each side. The capitals support a renewed monolithic double-arcuated lintel set within a semi-circular arch.
Of two orders.
First order: the central shaft supports a worn double-scallop capital with triangular projections between the cones; the engaged semi-columnar responds carry renewed capitals with two scallops on the main face, their cones separated by triangular projections, and a single scallop on each side. The capitals support a monolithic double-arcuated lintel.
As 2(i) above.
The round-headed arch separating E bay of N aisle from N tower is supported by two fat semi-columnar responds which carry irregular multi-scallop capitals, indented to correspond to the two-order arch above. The central element of the N capital, five scallops long and one deep, carries the plain, rectangular inner order, while the lateral elements, one scallop long and two deep, carry a plain, rectangular arch on the E face and a nook roll on the W. The central element of the otherwise similar S capital is four scallops long. The majority of the cones of both capitals are separated by triangular projections which vary considerably in detail. Modern tooling reveals that both capitals have been scraped. The chamfered label on the W face of the arch is decorated with nailhead.
The soffit roll of the round-headed arch separating the E bay of S aisle from S chapel is carried by engaged half-columns with carved capitals. Both capitals have pronounced bells and broad, fluted leaves issuing large, spherical angle volutes. The centre of the main face of the N capital is carved with fruit emerging from two symmetrical, semi-unfurled leaves. The shallowly fluted leaves of the S capital terminate with four rounded tips in the centre of the main face. The attic bases have waterleaf spurs.
E respond: The semi-circular E respond capital is carved with a continuous row of spade-shaped leaves enclosing smaller almond-shaped leaves and connected by loops at the bases of their stems. The triangular spaces between the tips of the leaves are filled by concave leaves with rounded tips.
Pier 1: The pier capital is carved with a row of triangles surmounted by two overlapping tiers of slightly concave leaves with round tips. The triangles and the lower tier of leaves have incisions along their edges.
W respond: The W respond capital is carved with a row of approximately lozenge-shaped compartments which can be read as the superposition of two meanders or as the meeting of a lower band of zigzag with an upper band of salient cusping.
In the NE and SE angles triple shafts with water-leaf capitals carry the formerets and ribs. In the SW and NW angles the ribs are received by corbels carved with grinning animal heads, while the W ends of the N and S formerets are received by double-scallop capitals which appear to have been carved on three faces. There is no W formeret.
String course below N window in ground chamber N tower, partially incised with lozenges.