Many thanks to Paul Smallwood for organising and leading our visit to rural Kent, south of Canterbury. Written directions to the first church (posted on our web site) complemented the links to maps.
St Mary, Lower Hardres
Having fallen into disrepair, the original church was demolished with the one we see being built in 1830. Described by our guide as a “poor church” the general lack of coloured windows at least let in a lot of light. The East windows were boarded over since 1940, uncovered in 2004, found to be in reasonably good repair then refurbished by the Cathedral Studios. The reredos which covered the windows was moved to the Baptistry near the 1217 Bethersden marble font (one of only two of this type in Kent). Electric light came in 1943, electric heaters were installed in 1970 – before this light (and heat?) came from candles.
St Peter & St Paul, Upper Hardres
There was already a Saxon church here at the time of the Norman Conquest – it was rebuilt in ragstone in the 12th century with subsequent changes and developments in the 13th and 14th centuries. The original tower and Norman pillars supporting the chancel and Lady Chapel remain.
Glass from the 13th to 16th century is represented in this church. The 14th century East window came from St Mary, Stelling Minnis in 1791. The west window was shattered in the 1972 fire and fragments have been assembled as below:
We were told about two grotesques with the suggestion they may be those on the south side of the chancel (almond eyes and furrowed brow) but I rather suspect they are the outer north side window bosses (right side below)!
Several small size brasses are set in the floor and readily seen – including a broken example which reveals some “re-use”; this palimpsest brass has left an outline of its previous engraving on the floor.
Coverings were removed and we were shown one of the church’s treasured possessions. This brass depicts John Strete (once a rector of the parish who died in 1405) kneeling with the patron saints of the church on a bracket behind him.
Upper Hardres church web site is at http://www.upperhardreschurch.co.uk/index.htm
St Mary, Stelling Minnis
A significant external impact on arriving here is the size of the yew tree which is estimated as being 1500 years old. The implication of this and its proximity to the Roman road between Canterbury and Lympne is that this was an early Christian church dating from the Roman occupation. The impact of entering the church could be seen on the faces of Friends entering the church! An unexpected wide arch, box pews and a pulpit as a focal point all in one glimpse.
In the 1790s the church was re-ordered in a non-conformist style by placing the pulpit midway along the north wall of the nave and re-arranging the box pews. The pulpit is a three-decker with sounding board – believed to be unique in an Anglican church in East Kent.
An additional treat was some bell ringing by the church warden.
This was our last set of church visits for this year.