The medieval churches of Romney Marshes


Whilst spending a few days in Kent we came across an archaeologist who was very well informed about the medieval churches around Hythe Brookland and Rye . This was something I had never heard about and so under his advice we visited some of these churches and began to read about them and here is what I found out. I also took quite a few photos.

Near the hotel was a tin tabernacle which doubled as a cinema and meeting space for the local community. I rather liked it and I hadn’t seen one before. Apparently they come in kit form a sort of IKEA church.

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It is not surprising that in a county that contain the most famous church in England that churches would abound. In addition when one considers that this church was the scene of one of the most famous murders of the the middle ages then the place becomes much more attractive. I refer of course to the Murder of Thomas a Becket whose death was allegedly authorised by Henry II . Following this event Thomas was declared a martyr and his remains were carefully kept by the cathedral, who then turned the site into a place of pilgrimage and made a lot of money from it. This was due in part to the medieval fascination with relics and the belief that such remains could prove to be miraculous.

The church at Brooklands I have not seen this stable door arrangement on a church before

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Owing to this, a number of churches have some nod to Thomas a Becket and here in  Brooklands on Romney Marsh, the church has a medieval mural of the martyrdom of Thomas a Becket. This is remarkable, not so much for the subject, but for the fact it has withstood the deprecations of both Cromwells Thomas and Oliver and the whole destruction of religious iconography that accompanied the reformation. Although to be fair it was covered up.

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In addition the church has the most fantastic bell tower that is completely separate from the church and stands in the church yard. The tiles are wooden.

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A reminder of the fact that a couple of hundred years ago everyone would have had to pay tithes a tenth of their crops to the church was found in these weights. This ensured the church received its due demands.

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As well as this I found a tomb of a sailor with a rather amusing epitaph.

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In case you can’t read it I added the description.

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and a grave with a name I had never heard before. Gamaliel.

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It sounds like something from Lord of the Rings. I felt a bit ashamed of myself for judging those parents who name their children after trendy things the Paris, Morpheus, Tequila, Chardonnay, Mercedes and Sarumans of the modern generation. Obviously this is not a modern trend.

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Further on we found a lovely lead baptistry very heavy and  beautifully carved. I hope the church security is good. The lead was stolen from St Leonard’s in Wollaton last week again. Most churches in the area have replaced the lead with a less costly material. Indeed most of the lead on St Leonards was replaced  with an alternative material after the last theft.

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Most of the churches on the marsh had that smell of damp and mould and old hymn books. However the one in Hythe did not. It has a ossory where you can go and stare at the bones of dead people if you are so inclined. however having given myself nightmares over the one in Rome I wasn’t about to repeat the experience. The church was much lighter than many of the other ones and didn’t smell which was a relief. It was cool on a hot day and very quiet we wandered around enjoying the silence and the high roof.  The churches in both Rye and Hythe are massive indicating either a much larger population or a more devout community or alternatively a stopover for pilgrims on the way to Canterbury.

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Here is details of the altar it seems a bit ornate compared to what I am used to. I preferred this simple chapel. I know in Rome the churches are full of lovely art and sculpture. However they. did not have the reformation.

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So this was our day for looking at churches I found it restful and interesting but I am glad that My favourite Geek prefers wildlife to old churches as I wouldn’t want to do it all the time. Thanks to the expert though I can now identify a Norman arch.

 

Lots of love your mother

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