Recent Visits Archive

On this page you will find notes and pictures from our recent – 2019, 2018, 2017 and 2016 – visits to churches and lectures. If you return to the main screen you can navigate to AGM pages and archives of visits for 2015 and 2014.

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The Autumn Lecture was our last event for 2019 on 20th November:-

The Dregs of the People Remain; the Black Death and its Aftermath by Imogen Corrigan.

Imogen Cooper is an experienced lecturer who several of the Friends had heard before. After early 20 years in the army, she took a first class degree in medieval history, a life-long interest, at the University of Kent. She finds art, and especially church art, very helpful as evidence for her research and says that however lovely or bizarre the images might be, it fascinates her to try to get at the people who made them and to hear their voices speaking.

Her talk on the aftermath of the Black Death which started in the mid-14th century described not only the changes to a community when half the population died but also a change in thinking about mortality demonstrated in church images, with an increased interest in what happens in the after-life, both optimistic and pessimistic and a greater interest in ex-pagan images and more demand for spiritual protection.

With many revelations about other plagues than the “Black Death” and more recently assessed figures of losses than we were led to believe in school days, together with a range of slides with material most of us had never seen before, all ensured a very successful lecture.

On 16th July we had a visit led by John Lumley to West Stourmouth, Elmstone and Wingham in the East part of Kent.

A summary of the day’s events (including a presentation to Mary Gibbons) is on the News page.

All Saints, West Stourmouth CT3 1HT which overlooks the Stour marshes is under the care of the Churches Conservation Trust.  Much of the main fabric is Saxon and the church has been added to and renovated through the centuries, suffering from an earthquake in the 14th century and subsidence.  Inside there is 17th century dado panelling, pulpit and choir stalls and also the remains of the rood screen. Map here.

Elmstone Church CT3 1HH has no dedication and no village and even at the end of the 18th century it only had 6 ½ houses (Hasted explains that one house was built over the parish boundary stream so only half was in the parish of Elmstone).  However it still remains active and is an attractive small flint church with a good collection of glass and interesting fixtures including a priest’s stall said to be made from the remains of a boat in which the priest was shipwrecked. Map here.

North East Chapel Elmstone Church Elmstone Kent

The east window in the North East Chapel has very unusual tracery, and is stained glass by William Wailes of 1863 depicting the Resurrection of Jesus. William Wailes (1808-1881) was the proprietor of one of England’s largest and most prolific stained glass workshops; his work can also be seen in the east window of the Chancel consisting of the Passion in 12th century styled roundels.

St Mary the Virgin, Wingham CT3 1BB is a large church with an interesting mixture of styles and dates in a small town with many attractive houses.  The involvement of a number of Archbishops of Canterbury meant that a College of Canons was inaugurated here in 1286. Map here.

Inside the church the reredos is 15th century stone and said to come from Troyes and there are early 14th century misericords.  There are also some splendid memorials including the free standing Oxenden memorial, a tall marble obelisk supported on black ox heads.

Locked away out of public view in the North Transept, now used as the vestry, is Nicholas Stone’s monument to Sir Thomas Palmer of 1624AD. The monument, desperately in need of a little restoration and cleaning, consists of recumbent figures of Sir Thomas and his wife, on a tomb chest behind which rises a black and white wall monument with wreathed Corinthian columns carrying the entablature and open pediment with reclining putti. Nicholas Stone was the most important English mason/sculptor of the early 17th century, being appointed Master Mason to James 1 in 1619AD and then as Master Mason to Charles 1 in 1626 AD.

Oxenden Family Monument – St Mary the Virgin Church, Wingham, Kent

The Oxenden Family Monument of 1682AD is believed to be by Arnold Quellin and occupies the centre of the south transept which became known as the Oxenden Chapel. The monument is of black and white marble and consists of a tall white obelisk with well carved fruit and flowers tumbling down each side. It stands on a lofty base with black angle scrolls and ox heads above. On the base are four beautifully carved putti, two standing with shields and the others kneeling; one with a skull and the other with a helmet in his grasp.

On Thursday 13th June we had a visit led by Sir Paul Britton to three churches in north Kent just south of Sittingbourne and near Watling Street

St Mary the Virgin, Newington (near Sittingbourne) ME9 7JT is a church isolated among orchards.  It has a fine tower and is open and airy inside due to the wide aisles.  There is much to see inside including a largely complete scheme of early 14th century wall paintings. It is one of the very few English parish churches to contain a saint’s shrine – to St Robert le Bouser.  Click here for photographs inside the church.

The church car park is on the site of the supposed devil’s footprint.  Newington also has the national collection of witch hazel in Calloways Lane.

St Peter & St Paul, Borden ME9 8JS is set in a pretty village with many medieval houses.

The church is flint faced and of Norman origin, commissioned in 1210 by Lady Robergia de Bourdon a descendant of both the last Saxon lord of the manor and the first Norman lord.  It has a well preserved early 16th century wall painting of St Christopher, and a ‘very interesting hanging monument, showing St Michael spearing the Devil and crushing him under his shield’ (Pevsner).

Click for more photographs.

St John the Baptist, Tunstall ME9 8DX is another church with early origins which was rebuilt in the early 14th century and later added to.  The south chancel or Lady Chapel has some special monuments to the Crowmer and Hales family including a magnificent one to Sir Edward Hales in full armour lying on his side with his funeral helmet and gauntlets nearby.

Stone Angel Corbel Carving St John the Baptist Church Tunstall Kent

South East Tower Head Carving St John the Baptist Church Tunstall Kent


Sir Edward Hales 1st Bart is shown lying on his side in full plate armour, a type of effigy popular in the mid seventeenth century.

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The 2019 John Briggs event was a lecture on 19 May at St Dunstan’s Church, Frinsted on Victorian Church Wall Paintings: a Fresh Perspective by Dr Elizabeth Wooley. In the morning the church was open, free of charge, to visitors between 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. Evensong was sung at 5:30. Please click here for a PDF colour pamphlet with more information and photographs of the church.

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On Thursday  14th March 2019  Sir Paul Britton gave us a talk at Lenham Community Centre – 1000 years of Stained Glass in Kent churches in 100 slides.

The churches of Kent are rich in stained glass of all periods, especially of the 19th century. In this heavily illustrated talk, Paul Britton traced the history of stained glass in our churches, its technical and artistic development and who designed and made it, using examples from all parts of Kent. Please click here to see his list of slides.

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On Thursday 8th March 2018  Janet Gough OBE gave us a lecture at Lenham Community Centre entitled  How to pick a favourite church, a trip through England’s unique heritage

Jane Gough was Director of the Cathedral and Church Buildings Division of the Church of England, ChurchCare from 2008 to 2016 where she raised over £90 million in funding for cathedrals and churches.  She launched the Church Days website for visitors and set up with Sustrans the Tower and Spires Cycle Tours linking cathedrals and churches.  Recently she published two Scala paperbacks in their Director’s Choice series on the Cathedrals of the Church of England and Churches of the Church of England.After reading history and the history of art at Cambridge she qualified as a Chartered Accountant and worked for Southeby’s for nine years and was a guide at and on the Executive Committee of the Friends of the V & A.  Janet was awarded an OBE for services to heritage in 2017 New Year’s Honours.

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Please click here for information on our 13 June 2018 visits to Benenden, Biddenden and Frittenden organised by Paul Britton.

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The Annual John Briggs Event was on 24 June 2018 at St Mary the Virgin, Nettlestead. Please click here for details in a flyer.

The theme of the afternoon was the glass at St Mary, a church which was built to house fine glass in the 15th century. Although some was destroyed by a storm in the 18th century there is still much to admire as well as the two magnificent monuments to the two wives of Sir John Scott dated 1598 and 1616.

We were given two talks – “The History of Stained Glass” by Leonie Seliger from Canterbury Cathedral and “The History of our Church Glass” by the Rector, The Revd. Anthony Carr.

Tea was given at nearby Nettlestead Place, a medieval Manor House, by kind permission of Mr and Mrs Roy Tucker.

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Please click here for information on our 11 July 2018 visits to Brookland, Old Romney and Ivychurch organised by Richard Latham.

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Please click here for information on our 12th September 2018 visits to Otterden, Stalisfield and Charing organised by Amicia Oldfield.

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On Thursday 1st November 2018 Jonathan Deeming gave us a lecture at Lenham Community Centre – Canterbury Cathedral: a talk by the Surveyor of the Fabric.

Jonathan Deeming has been Surveyor of the Fabric at Canterbury Cathedral since 2013. He carries out quinquennial inspections of the building, advises the Dean and Chapter on what work needs to be done and plans and oversees repair and conservation work on the fabric.  Jonathan trained at Nottingham University and subsequently qualified as an Architect Accredited in Building Conservation.  He is a partner at Purcell’s, a leading architectural practice.

Jonathan gave an illustrated talk about the challenges of looking after the Cathedral. He covered in detail (to a very attentive audience) the recently completed project to repair the south west transept, the current works to repair the western towers and the clerestory glazing in the nave and also outlined the planned future projects. Jonathan also touched on recent projects at some other Kent churches for which he is responsible.

What fascinated us was the importance of the choice of materials, how they can adversely interact and the lessons learned as scientific understanding and technology have progressed. One theme was ” a stitch in time” to save deteriorating items, remedial work which can be contrasted with bigger scale restoration much of which, in his slides, showed the expertise of craftsmen at Canterbury cathedral. Another theme was the history, deterioration, restoration and “modernisation” of aspects of the very familiar Christchurch Gate – quite amazing was the revelation that so little of the original material survived.

We now know exactly why the area between the gate and south west entrance is being dug up and better understand the hazards of not enough attention to effective drainage.

Overall an excellent talk followed by the usual standard of afternoon tea – very good indeed!

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Our first lecture for 2017  – What Are Churches For? was given by A N Wilson on 1st March at Lenham. He has written extensively, nearly 50 books, which include biographies, novels and histories and recently presented television programmes on Josiah Wedgwood, C S Lewis, Sir John Betjeman and Queen Victoria.

Originally destined for ordination, many of his works have a background of religious and ecclesiological themes and he has made public his changing views on religion through his life. In the 1980s he declared that he was an atheist, publishing a pamphlet Against Religion and thirty years later wrote about his rediscovered faith, writing articles attacking academic and media atheists. A recent book, The Book of the People: How To Read The Bible, is an examination of the different books of the Bible and how and why we should read it.

As predicted, we had a stimulating and entertaining talk!

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The 2017 AGM – on the 2106 Annual Report – was held at St John the Baptist, Wittersham on Saturday 20th May. Here are the AGM 2017 Minutes. Full details of the AGM and the churches visited are at the AGM 2017 Report page.

A visit to St Mary, Stone in Oxney preceded the AGM with a talk on the “Mithraic” Altar Stone by Norman Penny.

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The Annual Briggs Lecture was at Luddesdowne on 17th June 2017.

The Very Rev Dr Michael Chandler, former Dean of Ely Cathedral, gave a very interesting talk on the Oxford Movement and its development.  The event was held to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the re-consecration of the church following reconstruction.  Everyone enjoyed seeing the wonderful church with its Victorian decoration scheme even if finding it was a bit of a challenge and it was a great pleasure having tea watching a village cricket match on a definitely sloping pitch. As always the Briggs talk is intended to help a church with fund raising by providing sponsorship and publicity and if your church would like to host an event do let Mary Gibbins know at

1. St Peter and St Pauls Church Luddesdowne Kent

St Peter and St Paul Church, Luddesdowne was originally a manorial church which can be dated back to the 13th century. In 1865 the church was in danger of collapsing so with the exception of the tower it was demolished and subsequently rebuilt by the Wigan families of Luddesdowne and East Malling, and reconsecrated in 1867 by the Bishop of Rochester. During the restoration the height of the tower was increased.

Grave memorials of the Wigan family

Grave memorials of the Wigan family

Grave memorials of the Wigan family who rebuilt and beautified St Peter and St Paul Church, Luddesdowne in the 19th century: Edith Maud Wigan and Eleanor Jane Wigan, daughters of the Rector of St Peter and St Pauls Church, Luddesdowne, and granddaughters of John Alfred Wigan, Justice of the Peace for Kent, of East Malling.

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The first of our 2017 sets of visits, organised by Paul Britton, was on 21 June to Chiddingstone Causeway, Leigh and Tonbridge.

Below are three photographs of St Luke’s church, Chiddingstone Causeway from Chris Rigby.

This church replaced the small corrugated iron chapel of St Saviour as the village population grew due to the success of the local cricket bat industry and was consecrated in 1898. It was designed by Mr John Francis Bentley who was also the architect for Westminster Roman Catholic Cathedral and was constructed in Bath stone to the late Free Gothic style with many notable features.

The coped gable porch has a moulded doorway with engaged shafts and carved spandrels and a good quality carving of a winged bull which was the emblem of St Luke. The interior of the porch is fitted with a stone seat on each side of the entrance.

The font, which was also designed by Mr John Francis Bentley, has an octagonal pink alabaster stem and deep octagonal tulip shaped bowl of green streaked Cippolini marble with a white marble rim and stands on a Portland stone cross shaped step.

St Luke’s church – Chiddingstone Causeway – general view

St Luke’s church – Chiddingstone Causeway – porch

St Luke’s church – Chiddingstone Causeway – baptistry

Below are four photographs of St Mary’s church, Leigh from Chris Rigby.

1 St Mary's Church, Leigh

The architecture suggests a church which was rebuilt during the 13th century.

Quite probably the western tower was never completed at this time as the construction of a new tower began in the 15th century.

In 1860-1861 the church underwent considerable reconstruction with a new tower erected on the existing base and the rebuilding of the south wall.

In 1903 the tower clock was presented in memory of Queen Victoria.

2. Porch and Turret South Wall St Marys Church Leigh

Porch and Turret, South Wall.

3 - North Aisle Column

13th Century North Aisle Column.

The columns of the North Aisle were built into the current north wall after a fire destroyed the North Aisle during the 15th century.

Some years ago a section of the current north wall was opened up to reveal the 13th century column and how it had been decorated.

4 - Millenium Sundial

Millenium Sundial.

The Welsh slate gilded and painted sundial was commissioned to commemorate the Millennium in the year 2000.

The sundial was made by Sally Hersh, a sculptor and sundial maker, and designed to complement the shape of the windows in the turret.

The third church this afternoon was to St Peter and St Paul, Tonbridge.

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The second of our 2017 sets of visits, organised by Richard Latham, was on 12 July to  Chilham and GodmershamSome Friends had suggested we have a “two church” afternoon and this did, indeed, prove to be very popular – more time for talks, exploring and discussion.

A view across Chilham square

The model of Chilham Church in Chilham Church

Richard Latham (who organised the day’s events) with our two presenters at Chilham Church. A fascinating insight – not only into the church history but also the village and its various owners.

Friends arriving at Godmersham Church

A fascinating talk about Godmersham Church, Park and House from Rebecca of Godmersham Park Heritage Centre

The walk from Godmersham Church to the House – and a superb afternoon tea in a very large marquee

The photographs below are courtesy of Chris Rigby.

St Marys Church, Chilham. The large western tower is sixty eight feet tall and was constructed in the 16th century being completed in 1534. Externally the church has Flint and Caen/Rag chequer work with Ragstone plinths and quoins. There is a beacon stair turret on the south east side of the tower and round headed windows with square hood moulds in the upper stage. The west window of Bath stone under the tower is entirely 19th century. The clock was made in 1727 but only had the minute hand fitted in 1790.004 St Marys Church Chilham Kent 020317

001 The Wildman Memorial St Marys Church Chilham 071114

< The Wildman Memorial.002 The Pulpit St Marys Church Chilham 071114

The pulpit and organ pipes >

The Hardy Children Monument  located in the North Chapel was carved in white marble by the sculptor Alexander Munro. It is a memorial to the children Arthur and Edmund Hardy who died in 1858 at Yorkshire before their parents moved to Chilham Castle in 1861. Originally the monument was on display in Chilham Castle and was gifted to St Mary’s Church when the Hardy family left Chilham Castle in 1918.

St Laurence the Martyr Church, Godmersham The church is situated in an idyllic setting by the banks of the River Stour and was attended regularly by Jane Austen in the early years of the 19th century when she visited her brother Edward who owned the nearby Godmersham Park. The church is of Saxon origin but variously dated to the 10th or 11th century.

001 St Laurence the Martyr Church Godmersham Kent 020317

002 Tower Detail St Laurence the Martyr Church Godmersham Kent 020317

< Tower detail

003 Norman Dog Tooth Block Tympanum Above Blocked West Doorway St Laurences Church Godmersham Kent 020317

Norman Dog-Tooth Block Tympanum above  blocked West doorway ^


During the early 12th century a Romanesque apsidal chapel at the base of a tower was added to the north wall of the nave and can be accessed via a small door adjacent the pulpit. Originally it opened by way of a wide arch to the nave and there was a north door to make it independent of the church. Tower naves are believed to be of Saxon origin which gives a clue to the age of St Laurence Church, Godmersham.

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The third, and last, of summer 2017 visits, organised by Paul Smallwood, was on 6th September to St Peter & St Paul, Bilsington then to St Mary, Ruckinge then to Kenardington.

St Peter and St Paul Bilsington can be dated back to the 12th century and probably replaced the Saxon church recorded in the Domesday Survey of 1086. The church is constructed of ragstone with a red brick and timbered porch, and above the ridge of the porch, and to the west of the porch roof, blocked-in archways can be detected upon very close inspection. Photographs and text courtesy of Chris Rigby.

The two stage 15th century tower is set on a high plinth and completed with a timber belfry. The 15th century bell hung outside the church was removed from the belfry in the 1930’s amid concerns the timber bell frame could no longer support the weight of the bell.

St Mary Magdalene Ruckinge is a Grade I listed building and mentioned in the Domesday book of 1086. The main structure of the building is 12th century, but it was probably built on top of an old Saxon church. The Western tower was rebuilt in the 13th century, its origin being Norman.
In the east window of the north aisle, there are fragments of 14th century glass, featuring St George and the dragon. As in many churches of this area, most of the glass is clear. The chancel has medieval choir stalls with poppy head bench ends, tracery and shields. Much damage was incurred in 1987 in the Great Storm, and has only recently been fully repaired. In 2011 the interior plasterwork was completely redecorated and restored.

For a few centuries smuggling was rife on Romney Marsh, and it is rumoured that the notorious Ransley brothers were buried in Ruckinge churchyard after being hanged at Penenden Heath, Maidstone. One of these graves is marked with a ‘Bedpost’ Memorial.

Text and picture © 2017 Archbishops’ Council / A Church Near You.

002 St Marys Church Kenardington Kent 210117001 St Marys Church Kenardington Kent 210117

St Mary’s Church, Kenardington,is of 12th century origin and is what remains of a church damaged by a French raiding party in the fourteenth century and struck by lightening in 1559. Most of the church was demolished leaving only the former south aisle and chapel to form the current church. On the south wall original windows were reduced in size by filling in the outer sections leaving some fascinating shapes of ‘blind’ tracery. Photos and text courtesy of Chris Rigby.

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On 26th September 2017 we had an excellent Guided Tour of Rochester cathedral with John Bailey.

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On Wednesday 8th November our last lecture of 2017 was given by Matthew Saunders MBE on Redundant Churches and the Friends of Friendless Churches.

Matthew Saunders is Honorary Director of the Friends of Friendless Churches, a charity founded 60 years ago which campaigns for and rescues redundant historic churches threatened by demolition, decay or inappropriate conversion.  It currently owns 50 former churches or chapels, including St Mary, Eastwell and maintains them as peaceful spaces for people to enjoy. He is also secretary of a kindred charity, the Ancient Monuments Society, a member of the Church Buildings Council and was trustee of the Heritage Lottery Fund.  He has written and lectured extensively on historic buildings and was awarded the MBE for services to Architectural Conservation in 1998.

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In 2016 we had two Lectures and three afternoons of church visits. Plus the John Briggs annual Talk – this year with a musical interlude. Also, a day out to St Paul’s Cathedral and some City of London Wren Churches.

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Catholic Churches – a more recent heritage –  a lecture by Sophie Andraea was on Wednesday 2nd March 2016 at Lenham.

Sophie talked about the surge of church building in the 19th century by the Catholic church after emancipation which has carried on up to the present day. Pugin’s work and Westminster Cathedral are very well known but there are many more including the more recent Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral.  Lots of different churches fulfilling different needs and an opportunity for architects to try new ideas!

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The AGM and lecture – 14 May 2016 – are reported on a separate website page – AGM 2016 Report.

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Thursday 15th September 2016 a visit to the eastern part of the county was led by Paul Smallwood. Many thanks to Paul for organising the visits and to our speakers at the churches and for the excellent afternoon tea laid on for us at Northbourne.

St Mary the Blessed Virgin, Eastry CT13 0HL is a church reflecting the importance of the village in the Middle Ages and earlier. It was built in the 13th century by its patrons, Christ Church Canterbury, with solid columns and a clerestory. An important feature is the medieval wall painting on the chancel arch, a series of symbols in roundels.

The following pictures and text courtesy of Chris Rigby:-

Viewed from South East - St Mary the Virgin Church Eastry KentSt Mary the Virgin Church, Eastry, viewed from the south east, dates from c1230 and was built lavishly in the Early English style of architecture by the monks of Christ Church Abbey, Canterbury, who owned Eastry Manor at that time. This Norman church built of flint almost certainly replaced a Saxon building since Eastry boasted a royal palace for the Kings of Kent as early as 660 A.D.

Tower - St Mary the Virgin Church Eastry Kent

The tower, standing 66 feet high and 24 feet square, was originally completed with battlements which were lost when the top was rebuilt in the early 1800’s with ‘medieval’ corbels. The semi-octagonal buttresses of the lower part of the tower were apparently added to the original c1200 flat and shallow pilaster buttresses as part of the Early English ‘modernisation’. The pointed oval (Mandorla) recesses alongside the remodelled triple windows to the bell ringing chamber may also date from around 1230-1240. The horizontal divisions of the tower are marked with String-Courses, or Drip-Stones, since they are undercut to prevent water running down the walls.

004c-st-mary-the-virgin-church-eastry-kent-100816The trio of Lancet windows in the east wall of the Chancel depict the life of Jesus. The lower part of the east wall, including the sills of the three lancet windows, is hidden by the 1908 Reredos of red-brown marble. The mosaic scene of the Reredos shows the Last Supper with Jesus and the disciples. The south side windows of the Chancel, positioned to give maximum light to the Alter, show the Resurrected Christ in the garden meeting Mary of Magdala. The symbolic iron tilting helm of St Roger Nevinson (1625) can be seen in the top left hand corner of the picture, and also the Brass of Sir Roger Nevinson in the floor of the Chancel.

St Andrew, Tilmanstone CT14 0JW is a Norman church without side aisles sympathetically restored by the Victorians to preserve its simplicity. There is a screen, a reredos by Powell’s, a yew tree estimated to be 1,200 years old and stocks. Well worth a visit and a hidden gem!

til-bPaul welcoming Friends of Kent Churches to St Andrew, Tilmanstone.


Detail from the tower – difficult to see here and just as difficult to discern from the ground! A bird – but what species?

The following pictures and text courtesy of Chris Rigby:-

Viewed from South East - St Andrews Church Tilmanstone KentThis church is basically 11th – 12th century Norman, of Early English Gothic design, with walls and tower of flint construction.

View from the south east
Tower from South West - St Andrews Church Tilmanstone Kent

The tower viewed from the south west which was added to the church in the 13th century and is of flint construction. In 1790 the tower was described as very low, but formerly higher, having been taken down a few years ago.

SE Corner - St Andrews Church Tilmanstone Kent

A variety of eighteenth century grave memorials adjacent to the south east corner of St Andrew’s Church, Tilmanstone, illustrating some of the many artistic designs adopted during this period.

002-st-andrews-church-tilmanstone-kent-100816The entrance to the church; door and font, St Andrews Church, Tilmanstone. The circa 12th century Norman font is of local Bethersden marble and was thrown out of the church by Protestant extremists during the Civil War, being later reinstated into the church at the restoration of King Charles 11 in 1662. Beyond the font on the north wall of the nave is an unbroken record of clergy from 1271; three clergy being recorded for 1349, the year of the Black Death.

St Augustine, Northbourne CT14 0LL is another grand church and also had close connections with Canterbury with St Augustine’s Abbey having had a large Grange here on land given by King Eadbald in 618. Built about 1120, the church is plain with simple decoration over the south door, a fine 14th century head of a king found in the ruins of Ethelbald’s palace and a magnificent 17th century monument to Sir Edwin Sandys.


Friends of Kent Churches listening to the history of St Augustine, Northbourne.

The following pictures and text courtesy of Chris Rigby:-

St Augustines Church Northbourne Kent

St Augustine’s Church, Northbourne, is one of the few cruciform churches to have been built in Kent during the twelfth century. It was built circa 1120 AD and is located on the site of a previous Saxon church (said to be founded by the monks of St Augustine’s Abbey, Canterbury). Parts of a previous Saxon building are present in the structure.

North Side View - St Augustines Church Northbourne Kent

View from the north side

North East View - St Augustines Church Northbourne Kent

View from the south east

On Wednesday 2nd November 2016, John Goodall, who is well known to many through his many contributions to Country Life, gave a talk on The Medieval Parish Church in Kent. 

John is the architectural editor of Country Life. He is responsible for writing and commissioning the celebrated series of architectural features published in the magazine every week.  He has been involved in various television series on history and architecture and was the series consultant for the BBC1 television series on architecture presented by David Dimbleby, The Way We Built Britain (2007).

Apart from numerous articles for books, journals and magazines he has published three books; God’s House at Ewelme, which won the Royal Historical Society’s Whitfield Prize, The English Castle and Parish Church Treasures, The Nation’s Greatest Art Collection published last year.

He is an experienced lecturer to specialist, university and general audiences and we thoroughly enjoyed his talk.

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Tuesday 27th September 2016 – a Visit to St Paul’s Cathedral followed by Wren Churches in the City of London was organised by Richard Latham – many thanks for organising this excellent day out for us. We met up by the statue of Queen Anne by the west end steps (well known from Mary Poppins “feed the birds tuppence a bag” and seeing famous state occasions including the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer and the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill).

The tour guide, Richard, included the Cathedral floor and crypt, the stairwell of the famous geometric staircase, the Chapel of St Michael and St George and the quire. He fascinated us with an in depth history of many aspects of the cathedral.

After lunch we met up again for a visit to St Vedast in Foster Lane, St Mary Aldemary and St Stephen Walbrook (Wren’s prototype for the dome of St Paul’s) and many points of interest on the way. Our guide, Tony Tucker, has produced a short book on the City of London Churches – a great memento and reminder of the range of styles of Wren churches and the varying detail of each steeple. Several of us had worked or spent time in the city and Tony showed us places we must have walked past many times not realising what we were missing – for example the Fountain Court by St Vedast, the fan-vaulted plastered ceiling of St Mary Aldemary (meaning old Mary) and the church of St Mary Abchurch tucked away across from Cannon Street station.

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Thursday 26th May 2016   a visit to West Kent

St Mary, Woodlands. TN15 6AA St Mary is half way between Kemsing and West Kingsdown in Tinker Pot Lane and near to Woodlands Golf Club in Knatts Valley Road. A small rural church built in 1850 when Woodlands became a separate parish, which is charming in its isolation despite being in the busy South East.  There was lots to see at the church and also in the village where the local 7th century saint, St Edith, has a well said to have healing properties.

This photograph of Woodlands is courtesy of Dr Nick Hudd.

St Mary the Virgin, Kemsing. TN15 6LU 

In the autumn of 2010, the Friends of St Mary’s Kemsing commissioned Léonie Seliger of Canterbury Glass Studios to remove the oldest piece of stained glass in the building, to restore it with the greatest care, and then to reinstate it.

The glass itself was suffering from some surface accretions that threatened to damage this delicate piece over the coming years. The way the glass was mounted further obscured it, so that the clarify of its colours could not been enjoyed to the full. It is estimated that this particular piece of stained glass dates to the 13th century, when techniques of glass staining were at their earliest developement. There are few pieces of glass this old in the country.

Photograph and text from:-

St George, Wrotham TN15 7AD, like St Mary, is at the foot of the Downs and close to the Pilgrims’ Way. It has the remains of an Archbishop’s palace nearby. A generous 13th century interior houses an interesting range of brasses and monuments and the passageway though the base of the tower is unique to Kent.

In a niche over the entrance to the porch is a statuette of St George by Willi Soukop RA. It was exhibited at the Royal Academy before being placed in its present position and replaces a statuette that was stolen in 1971. Photograph courtesy of Wrotham Parish Council.

This photograph of Wrotham is courtesy of Dr Nick Hudd which shows the two little windows high on the chancel arch, in a small gallery that runs across and looks down into the nave (several members went up there and reported “very interesting”. Should anyone wish to see a more detailed version, please EMail

Our thanks to Sarah Bracher for organising this afternoon’s visits.

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This year’s Briggs event was on Saturday 9th July at St John the Baptist, Tunstall. A flint church with a 14th century west door, it has a good set of brasses and monuments and a beautiful 1967 hanging rood.

Over £1,000 was raised which will go towards repairing the roof of St John the Baptist, Tunstall church. Sponsored by the Friends in memory of John Briggs, a generous supporter of the Friends, the evening at the church included a talk by local historian Helen Allinson on the monuments in the church and a musical interlude. Many thanks to all those attending and to the congregation who provided delicious refreshments.

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Tuesday 12th July 2016 three churches near the Channel Tunnel but in a different world! A visit organised by Richard Latham.

Photographs courtesy of Norman Penny.

St Nicholas, Newington next Hythe CT18 8AU is a simple church with Norman nave and chancel and some beautiful brasses of family groups. This was a good opportunity to visit a church not often open. The church has benefited from much restoration (e.g. roof in 1958/59, windows 2 years ago) and modernisation including a kitchen and the addition of a toilet extension. The latter (third picture below) has been sympathetically crafted.

Newington near Hythe

Newington near Hythe

Newington shingle steeple

Newington shingle steeple

Newington porch & extension

Newington porch & extension (toilet)

Richard in action!

Richard in action! Using Cynthia’s notes.

Cynthia (to the left of Richard Latham) is now 80 and has been coming to the church since she was a child. She recalled the days of large choirs and being brought up around the church.

Newington glass 2 Newington glass 1

The small stained glass windows date from 1857 – 1889

Newington Norman arch

Newington Norman arch – a fine example

St Peter & St Paul, Saltwood CT21 4QA is close to Saltwood Castle. A light and airy church with much evidence of its Norman origin and 13th century additions and alterations. There are a number of brasses including one of an angel rising through the clouds with an inscription which reads ‘Here lieth the bowell of Dame Anne Muston’.

A history of the church is at :-


St Peter & St Paul, Saltwood

Saltwood - box pews and our speaker

Saltwood – box pews and our speaker

Saltwood - devil in the string course - left side

Saltwood – devil in the string course – left side

Saltwood - angel in the string course - right side

Saltwood – angel in the string course – right side

Edward III

Saltwood – Edward III – nose defaced

Saltwood - Queen winking

Saltwood – Queen winking

St Leonard, Hythe CT21 5DP is a large church with an impressive 13th century chancel, which has been raised up to allow processions to pass under it. This vaulted passage is now an ossuary with a large number of bones – one of only two churches in England with one.

Hythe 2

Hythe – our guide pointing out the back to back Norman & Saxon arches

Hythe 3

this is the Saxon arch

Hythe 4

and this the Norman arch

Hythe 5

From the chancel, across the nave to the organ

Ossuary 1

The Ossuary is housed in the precessional path area under the chancel

Ossuary 2

The Ossuary – from south to north under the chancel

Ossuary 3

Jaw bones in the Ossuary. We were told that dentists are very interested in these teeth – eroded rather than decayed.

Many thanks to Richard Latham for organising this afternoon’s visits and for delivering most of the talk at Newington.