From 1841 the Rectors of the church embraced the Oxford Movement which promoted a return to Catholic doctrine, ritual and spirituality. This Anglo-Catholicism was pioneered by the Reverend Frederick Woolley, and still underpins worship at St Michael in Lewes today. Edgar Herman Cross, Rector of St. Michael’s between 1877 and 1890, instigated (and partly paid for) the extensive changes which gave the church much of its present-day character. In 1878 the galleries were removed and new pews were installed, the chancel was lengthened by a twelve-foot apse housing a raised high altar, and the choir was separated from the congregation by a dwarf stone wall with lectern and pulpit.
Over the next few years the work of beautification continued with several stained glass windows by Henry Holiday, the stone reredos (ornamental screen covering the wall at the back of the altar) by J L Pearson, and the re-opening of the 15th century doorway which today forms the principal entrance to the church from the courtyard. Church House to the west was built in 1881 to serve for church functions and the Sunday School. It incorporates the Town Clock which overhangs the High Street.