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History of St. Mary's, Lamberhurst

If you stand with your back to the entrance door from the porch you will be looking at the north wall of the building through an arcade. This divides the aisle, in which you are standing, from the nave. Look to the east and you will see the oak and glass entrance to the Chapel of St Katherine often called the "Scotney Chapel". If you look to the west you will see the archway into the tower and the oak partition of the kitchen area.

The architecture around you is mainly in the "decorated" style of the 14th century and the "perpendicular" style of the 15th century.

There is evidence of a Church on this site in Saxon times, which was consecrated on 29th September, 998, but it was probably a wooden structure of which there are no know remains.

The Church is a "much loved friend" that shows signs of continual additions and adaptations.

In 1840 major restoration work was carried out but in a rather unskilled way. Many images, crosses, piscinas and other pieces were discovered in the rubble and were fixed in places that were thought to be suitable. These will be noted during the tour.

In 1964 all the internal fixtures were removed and a parquet floor of bagac wood was laid. The oak pews were gathered around the alter, which was placed against the north wall.

In 1992 the present layout was adopted, with the main altar being placed in the centre of the Church between the arches to the Chancel and the Chapel of St Katherine. Pine wood pews from a redundant Church in Tunbridge Wells were introduced to supplement the oaks pews.

At this time new oak was introduced to screen off the Chapel of St Katherine for a greater variety of uses and the lower part of the tower was screened to form a kitchen and toilet, with a Vicar's Vestry above on a new floor. This oak came from the Bayham Estate and donated by a parishioner from wood blown down in the storms of October, 1987.

THE NAVE

Look to the west and you will see the organ. Look to the east and you will see the pulpit, the chancel and the beautiful east window.

Now look up at the roof and the timbers. This is typical 15th century crown post roof which is of a later date than the arcade and north windows. The white painted ceiling and the lighting enhance the beautiful simplicity of the roof shape.

Turning to the north you will be facing the clear glass windows. On this wall are memorials to various of the Morland family, a family which has owned Court Lodge, the large house to the west of the Church for nearly 300 years.

Note especially the testimonial to Mrs. Ellen Morland who "gave to every person and thing (even to beauty in her own sex) their due praise ....."

Also on this north wall you will see the "Consecration Cross" incised when the completed restoration work was consecrated by the Bishop of Rochester in 1964. Two more, similar to those which you can see on the south wall of the aisle, were lost during the work.

If you turn now to face west the first thing to catch your eye in the single manual Bishop organ built in 1874. Originally it was in the gallery at the rear of the Church removed in the restoration of 1964. In 1995 it was completely rebuilt and extended by Martin Cross, Organ Builder of Essex. This retained and enhanced the fine tome of the original Bishop instrument.

Above the organ you can see the fine "perpendicular" west window. This was inserted in the 15th century. By 1870 it was in urgent need of renewal and was restored as an exact copy of the original.

POSTSCRIPT

Behind the organ, the west door is still accessible though it is in need of considerable restoration.

If you turn again, this time to face south, you will be looking at the arcade. This is in the "decorated" style. If you look up you can see three hatchments, painted in the 19th century, and showing the arms of Morland, Matson and Marriott families.

Finally, turning to the east you are facing the Chancel. Dominating the entrance arch is the pulpit. Behind the preacher's head , you can see the date of its being made 1630. The Vicar's initials R(obert) S(teede) are also to be seen. The lower desk was contrived in the 19th century by rev. Robert Hawkins re-using older materials. The poppyheads were carved by him. The Clerk's Desk was removed in 1916. Thus the original "three decker" pulpit became only a two decker! It remains an impressive piece of carving.

If you look at the pillar by the pulpit and the arcade you become acutely aware of the incline of the north wall, the whole length of which was specially underpinned by an Italian company in 1963.

As you walk towards the Chancel take a look at the main altar and its platform on your right. The altar was made in 1964 from the panelling of the Georgian gallery which was taken down because it had become unsafe, this is another example of the re-use of existing materials.

The four wrought iron candlesticks at the main altar were made at the forge in the Village by local craftsman. In 1997 they were stolen, only you be spotted by a sharp-eyed member of the Church Choir in an antiques shop a few miles away. Now they have been restored to their rightful place.

All the kneelers in the Church have bee made by the parishioners since 1964. Over the years they have been added to by the skill and love of the people of Lamberhurst.

THE CHANCEL

The Chancel was largely rebuilt in 1870. The architect was Ewan Christain. Look at the "notches" cut into the arch. These were original fixing for the roof screen and loft, which have since been removed.

All the stained glass in the Chancel dates from 1870. The stonework of the east window in the "perpendicular" style and probably dates from the 15th century, the same dated as the tower. The window is known at the "Te Deum" window, as it represents the opening verses of the great canticle "We praise Thee, O God, we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord...."

Windows in north wall are in memory of Margaret Morland and represent four major episodes in the life of Christ. The lancet window in the sanctuary depicts the victory of the Lamb and the coming of the Spirit.

The arcade in the "decorated" style, but is later than that in the nave. The oak panelling was inserted in 1994 to separate the Chapel of St Katherine.

Take a close look at the final arch and pillar in the sanctuary. It is particularly interesting. This arch was uncovered in the restoration works of 1840 and the excavation shows the base standing on stony soil 4 feet below the present floor level. It is "early English" style, possibly from the 13th century. Traces of a lancet window and a door in the north wall and two windows in the south wall are said to correspond with it. These will be pointed out on our external tour of the Church. You can light the wooden flooring with care and see the base of the pillar resting on a genuine "early English" holdwater base. The height of the capital of the pillar indicated for those who do not lift the wooden board the possible level of the original stone Church.

At the east end of this arch there is a piscina under the wooden protecting shelf. This and the sedilia are probably 19th century reconstructions. In the wall at the west end of this arch is the aumbry, where the blessed sacrament is reserved. This apertures may be original.

If you return to the middle of the Chancel and look up you will see a beautiful wooden roof supported by crown posts. The tie beams and bosses date from 1870. Each boss is different. They we re-gilded in the 1994 redecoration. Again the new lighting in the Church reveals the detail of the roof.

Turning to the north wall of the Chancel there are some interesting memorials to be seen.

On tablet refers to John Porter who "built" Court Lodge. This should, more correctly, read "rebuilt", for a large house already existed on the site. The monument is an example of lapidary humour, possibly not unintentional. The quotation is from Horace and the translation runs (the words in brackets have been omitted on the tablet).

"Virtue when (with us we loathe) removed from our sight we quest for it (enviously)"

There are memorial to the family of Rev. Robert Hawkins. He was Vicar from 1834 until 1893 and was responsible for much work carried out in the Church. His initials appear on a paving stone in the sanctuary.

Cast iron tombstones are set in the floor. The Thomas family lived at "The Great House", now called "Coggers Hall", in the village from about 1600 - 1750. Excavations at the time of the 1964 restoration showed burial vaults under the Chancel.

The Chancel has oak memorial pews with names carved on the backs. These date from 1964. Many of those named have family members still living in Lamberhurst.

THE CHAPEL OF ST KATHERINE

You can approach the Chapel either through the double doors from the Chancel, or through the nave, across in front of the main altar and through the doors from the aisle.

The Chapel is dedicated to St Katherine, who was martyred by being fixed to a fiery wheel. This is, of course, the origin of the name of the "catherine wheel" firework. You will see this commemorated in the beautifully worked altar frontal and the altar kneelers.

The memorials in the Chapel show the historic link with Scotney castle. The Hussey family still live in the Castle, whose garden is run by the National Trust.

The Chapel was largely rebuilt, along with the Chancel, in 1870. If you look up you will again see a crown post roof and tie beams dating from 1870. This time the ceiling has been painted, unlike the wood in the Chancel.

Of interest is the reredos by Tinworth, a potter at Doultons who modelled in terra cotta. His biggest work is in Truro Cathedral, the triptych represents the trial and crucifixion of Christ, and rest on a ledge behind the altar.

The altar steps were reconstructed with 14th century tiles found at Scotney Castle, whilst the altar is similar to the main altar and made from Georgian gallery panelling.

The south wall has a variety of windows. The east window dates from 1870. The southern window is similar to those found in the early English conversions of the Norman stone work with (botched) late "decorated" lights inserted.

If you stand in the middle of the Chapel and turn to face the west you will see the central pillar at the right of the arch. If you pull back the curtain you will see the remains of a stairway which probably led to a roof loft.

Noting the 4-centred arch, you may be looking at the site of an 11th century tower. The notches in the Chapel arch were fixings for a screen.

As you the Chapel today, it s carpeted and separated from the body of the Church by built-in cupboards for choir robes, music, sanctuary requirements and Sunday School equipment. All these were made in 1994 with wood from the 1987 storm. The chapel is more used than ever. It serves as a meeting room as well as a place for prayer and informal worship.

THE AISLE

From this view point you can see clearly the arch of the tower, which unusually abuts on to the Aisle. The notches in that arch indicate where fixings for the Georgian gallery and Victorian Screen were made. These were removed in the restoration of 1964.

In 1994 additions to the tower were designed to allow the maximum amount of light to come into the Church.

As you move from the Chapel of St Katherine into the aisle, note the fine example of a carved wooden lectern.

When you look up to the rook you can see the new tie beams and wall plates which were fashioned of oak which came from the Scotney Estate in 1952. Previously there were none.

Looking to the south wall you will observe three medieval Consecration Crosses; the windows are in "decorated" style. The blue doors were re-furbished by the parishioners in 1962.

Over the door is a remarkable and unusual Arms of Queen Anne (circa 1710) that was once part of a reredos, though probably not in this Church. It was discovered when the gallery was removed. It was decided to hang it over the door to the porch. The ghostly cherubim are said to represent the number of still born babies that the Queen had had at the time of the painting.

The font was re-located from the Chapel of St Katherine, possibly in 1964. It is plain octagon embellished and given a new base, which is unfinished, in 19th century by the Vicar, the Rev. Robert Hawkins. The lid is a recent gift from a parishioner and probably Victorian and from a redundant Church.

The window adjacent to the font contains stained glass designed by John Piper and made by David Wasley. It was installed in 1985 in memory of a parishioner.

The War Memorial tablets on the west wall to the right side of the tower arch contain names of many families still flourishing in Lamberhurst. The lamp was introduced in 1989 when the aumbry lamp was restored to the Chancel.

THE TOWER

The Tower was built in the "perpendicular" style in the 15ht century.

The Georgian and Victorian additions to the Church having been removed in 1964, the worshipers of 1994 have added their own requirements. The oak hatch and screen conceal a kitchen and a toilet.

Just behind the pillar in the south wall is the doorway leading to a turret spiral staircase which gives access to the ringing chamber, the silence chamber, the bell chamber and the top of the tower. For safety reasons this must, unfortunately remain locked. If this it too tantalising you can make an appointment with the Captain of the Bell Tower or the Vicar to visit the upper part of the Tower.

Surmounting the Tower is a fine timber frame for the shingled Spire. There is a photograph in the Church showing the results of a 19th century lightning strike which caused severe fire damage to the Spire.

There are six bells in the ring. The tenor weighs 13 cwt. 0 qr. 17lb. Full details are given on a notice in the porch. In the ringing chamber there are quarter peal commemoration boards and a memorial to Albert Relfe, a great bell ringer of Lamberhurst.

In the kitchen, behind a work top, there is a four-centre arch to form a fireplace. A chimney runs up inside the wall for about 25 feet, but no outlet was found in the work carried out in 1960. The window in the west end of the Tower dates from the 15th century..

In what is now the toilet you can see a doorway in the north wall. This opening is Victorian and gave access when the lower part of the Tower was a Vestry. If you open the door you can see that the wall of the Tower has a width of 4 feet.

We are now about to start our tour of the outside of the Church. Before you leave please remember to pray for us, for yourself and for God's world.

THE PORCH

The Porch was an important part of the parish life in former times. It was a place were legal disputes were resolves and land transactions sealed.

You can see the stone seats on either side with scratch markings which some claim indicate this former use. The roof is again supported by a crown post.

We now pass outside the Porch making certain that you note the exquisite view of the valley of the river Teise. You can trace the footpath across the valley and up the hillside opposite as it winds its way to Scotney Castle. This path has been used by generations of worshippers coming from the Estate.

After a few paces we turn to look outside of the Porch. It has a very unusual "perpendicular" style doorway. Over the centre is a niche which may once have contained a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

If you look carefully you may discover the sundial, dated 1691, over the doorway, and the head at the apex and the cross on the ridge.

THE EXTERIOR OF ST MARY'S CHURCH

WEST END

As was mentioned earlier, the Tower is placed at the end of the Aisle, and this is unusual. The Tower itself is in the "perpendicular" style, and is surmounted by a wooden Spire with shingles, enclosed by a parapet. The height of the Tower is 107 feet. The weathercock has the following inscription on it: J. (Or I.) D.W. J. (Or I.). It is unknown to what this refers.

Whilst you are looking up at the top of the Tower note the gargoyles that serve to direct rain water away from the walls and evil from the building. The small windows give light to the ringing and the silence chambers.

As you walk past the West End of the Church look at the outside of the West Door to the Nave which is built in the "perpendicular" style and the small door in the north wall of the Tower. This latter was inserted in 1840. From this tarmac path you can gain a good view of the restored west Window. Also on the West End of the Nave notice the cross.

THE NAVE

You are looking at a good example of 14th century "decorated" walls, buttresses and windows. The glass tell-tales were put on the walls in the 1960s to give warning of additional movement.

The chimney for the boiler house was built in 1952, and was designed to supplement 19th century buttresses. It may supplement, but hardly blends with the existing structure.

THE CHANCEL

This part of the north wall was rebuilt in 1870. Before that there were traces of an "early English" priest's door and a lancet window in the eastern half, at a level corresponding to the low arch at the east end of the arcade between the Chancel and Chapel.

THE EAST END

Again the walls were largely rebuilt in 1870. You can see crosses of re-cycled material on the roof.

No evidence of foundations has been found to show that the Church extended further east, but low arch and pre 1870 joints on the north and south walls show that it must have done so, but perhaps not more than the thickness of the wall.

THE CHAPEL

The eastern bay was rebuilt in 1870. Traces of two "early English" cuts were found at the level of the low arch. This supports the view that the old Church, 4 feet lower, possibly extended over part of the present Chancel and Chapel.

Here you can note the flat buttress which possibly formed the eastern bay of the Norman Chapel. Before 1870 it had a string course returning through the wall and straight joint against the wall to the east.

The west bay is formed by a rough rubble wall. You can see the botched stone work of the window, pointed out when we were inside the Church. The massive buttress dates from 1840.

THE AISLE

you can note here 14th century "decorated" walls, buttresses and windows, similar to those we saw in the Nave.

On the wall, before you reach the Porch, you can see the "Mass Dial". In an age before clocks, the sun shining on this dial told the priest when to celebrate the Mass.

THE CHURCHYARD

The Churchyard was enlarged once in the 19th century and twice in the 20th century. If you look down the slope towards the west you can see the line of three distinct boundaries.

There are no outstanding memorials though a copy of an Irish cross at the east end attracts attention. It was carved in Ham Hill stone by two Lamberhurst masons. It is said that this was ordered by a member of the Hussey family after a visit to Ireland.

The most interesting tombs are under the old yew tree on the south side of the Church. The oldest are the two altar tombs of the Dyne family, dated 163? John Dyne was a stonemason who rebuilt the Vicarage in 1624. This stands at the junction of the a21 and the road to Horsmonden, but it longer the residence of the Vicar.

The tombstone of Richard Pilbeam has a double date: 4th of March 1790/20. Also look at the testimonial to Virgil Pomfret on his monument.

There are many late 18th century tombstones with quaint carvings on them which were worked by John and Thomas Wallis of Wadhurst from sandstone quarried at Faircrouch, near Wadhurst station.

There is a sundial just to the left of the Porch. It was made by J. Cuff. A James Cuff was apprenticed clockmaker in 1699 and a John Cuff was a member of the Clockmaker's Society in 1718. The pedestal appears to be 18th century.

There are some apparently unconscious lapidary humour. You should find especially:

"Annie Aylward... for 17 years faithful and attached servant of the Morland family.
Whom the Lord loveth. He chasteneth"!

Again you might discover

"Surely I come quickly.....John Jones Pierce, aged 96, Catherine Pierce, aged 101"!

"Sacred to the memory of Charles Greagsby of this Parish who departed life April 11. 1860 aged 30 years
Also John son of Charles & Ellen Greagsby who departed this life February 21, 1858 aged 1 year and 4 months
Left mourning a widow and 3 children"

THE LOCATION OF THE CHURCH

The road to the Church is a spur off the old highway from Lamberhurst to Goudhurst. The access road to the Church was built by a former occupant of Court Lodge to avoid the traffic especially of hearses, passing across the view from his front windows.

The Church stands on a sandstone ridge and is away for the Village. This is not because the village population has moved but rather because the valley of the river Teise is flooded each winter. The Church is safe on its ridge.

The stone from which the Church is built may have been quarried in what is now the rock garden of Court Lodge.

POSTSCRIPT

Your tour of the Church St Mary the Virgin in Lamberhurst is now completed. We hope that you enjoyed walking around our Church with us. Please buy this guide as a memento of your visit. This inspiration for the Church building is, of course, from God which is the creator an redeemer of all. To him be all glory and praise.

Please pray for those who have built, restored, maintained, and worshipped in this place and those who love it and find it an inspiration We hope you have found this guide interesting, informative and helpful.