October 8 – A Church Micro Day in East Kent

Temple Ewell, Wootton, Denton, Barham, Kingston, Bishopsbourne, Petham, Lyminge, Acrise and Lydden

Hello from 1066 – A Medieval Mosaic

It is our last day in Deal so we decided that we should go a bit further afield and try to clean up some church micros. The first cache we headed for was at Our Lady in North Dover. The cache was easily found but it was sopping wet and completely unsignable. It really needed maintenance as soon as possible.

Next, we headed up the road to Temple Ewell but on the way, we found a village sign cache at River. That is a great name for a village and was very picturesque though we did not actually see a river. The church at Temple Ewell was very hard to approach as if you missed the right turning and it was not signposted then there was no other option than to do a U-turn. The church when we found it was closed but we collected the numbers and soon found the cache with an excellent hint. As with many other English churches, there was probably a wooden Saxon church on the site, but the first Christian church built was St Peters & St Paul’s. It was erected by the Templar’s in the 12th century, the first recorded vicar being a John Sacardos in 1185.

On the way to Wootton, we passed the Lydden Hill Race Circuit which is quite a sight so we had to stop to have a look. As luck would have it there was a geocache nearby and we took a short walk down a public footpath to find it.

St Martins church in Wootton was open and had a fantastic carve alabaster reredos of the pelican in piety from 1881. The geocache was quickly found and we moved on to Denton.

St Mary Magdalene in Denton is a lovely church with some good stained glass windows and an impressive wall monument to William Willats Esq from 1867. It also had a brass plaque and coat of arms of Hanna Pettit from 1641 and a ledger stone of Wortly Whorwood of Sturton Castle from 1703. (What a great name!) The wonderful tapestry kneelers added a splash of colour. The church is in a really pretty spot where we had to drive through a great flock of pheasants before turning through an unmarked gate and driving up across a field to approach the church where we made a nice easy find.

At St John the Baptist church in Barham, the stained glass window by the North Door is of St George and the Dragon, which was given by the survivors of the 23rd Signal Company Regiment as a memorial of the First World War.  The window is the work of Martin Travers. There was also a variety of other wonderful stained glass windows with styles from Victorian to modern. We arrived about half an hour before a funeral started and mourners were just starting to arrive. We had a quick look into the church which looked lovely then Mike went to find the cache as I felt too uncomfortable to go around the churchyard. He found the cache without any problems, it was tricky and well hidden. I have often mentioned that despite visiting over 1200 churches in the last two years we have never come across a funeral taking place but now it has happened twice in a matter of days.

St Giles in Kingston is a lovely church with five Biblical pictures on the altar frontal and another three on the reredos, all with a gilded surround. Above the altar was a lovely East window. We looked for the geocache for ages which was made even more difficult by a lady walking in and out of the church. We thought she might have been keeping an eye for us but she was actually taking water into the church for some flower arrangements that she had to do later in the week for a funeral. We looked for ages but still, we could not find the cache but we kept looking as we were determined to find it. Other people have found it so we can too! Eek! Finally there it was – a great moment hiding up in the corner of the porch about five metres away from where the coordinates were showing.

At Kingston, we saw a great village sign and we made a very quick find of the geocache although we were not sure about a Difficulty 4 rating. The sign depicts the ‘Kingston Brooch’ which is an important piece of Anglo-Saxon jewellery dating from the 7th Century which was discovered in a Tumulus on Kingston Downs in 1771 by Rev’d. Brian Faussett. It is 8cm in diameter, made of gold, with garnet, blue glass and shell settings. It is now on display in the World Museum, Liverpool so we made it a mission to go to see it as we will be housesitting near to Liverpool later in the month.

Bishopsbourne was the home to Rev. Richard Hooker. Hooker was the rector for the parishes of Bishopsbourne and Barham from 1595 until his untimely death in 1600. He played a major part in the development of Anglicanism as the ‘middle way’ between the two extremes of Protestantism and Catholicism. He wrote an eight-volume of work ‘ The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity ‘, a critique of the Puritans and their attacks on the Church of England in general and on Thomas Cranmer’s ‘Book of Common Prayer in particular. Hooker is buried under the Chancel of St Mary’s. A memorial to him can be seen on the south wall. The memorial was erected in 1632 by the poet William Cowper. This is the best church that we had been into all day with amazing  19th-century mosaic work in the chancel and sanctuary in pink, red, blue and gold tiles. It was so impressive. Also, St Mary the Virgin church had a wonderful East window. some medieval glass in the Lady Chapel and other lovely stained glass. The 14th-century wall paintings are faint but impressive on both sides of the nave and the Martyrdom of St Edmund was immediately recognisable as was St Michael weighing the souls. We found the cache easily with a good hint and placed our name on a brand new log. This is a very vigilant CO who keeps an eye on all their caches which is the best kind of CO.

At All Saints in Petham, we made another easy find with a great view across to Waddenhall Wood. The church was down the hill but I can see why the CO wanted to place his cache up here as it is lovely and not too far to walk.

In Lyminge, we came across a church dedicated to St Mary and St Ethelburga. Ethelburga was the daughter of King Ethelbert and Queen Bertha of Kent. Christianity had come to Kent with St. Augustine and as a consequence, Ethelburga was influential in converting her husband, Edwin, King of Northumbria to this new religion at York. When he was killed in battle in 633 A.D., Ethelburga returned to Lyminge in Kent where she had been given the land in the area by her brother, King Eadbald, who had succeeded his Father. The original construction here was supposedly a minster or convent which was used by both monks and nuns with Ethelburga becoming the first Abbess. When she died in 647 A.D. her remains were buried in the Abbey and having achieved the status of a Saint, the Abbey became a place of pilgrimage. The visible remains of the original Church, erected by Queen Ethelburga soon after she came here in 633, are to the east of the porch. The eastern apse where the altar stood and the beginnings of the rectangular nave can be seen clearly. The massive stones revealed by excavations to the south-west of the tower seems to indicate that the original church extended westwards, probably before 840 when the Danes ravaged the Abbey.

At one time a very large Roman Villa stood somewhere in the Lyminge area but the exact location is not known. It is possible that it was actually on the same site where the Church currently stands but this has never been proven. The Church does have Roman tiles incorporated in its stonework although this is fairly common for churches in Kent. There is some very unusual herring-bone stonework on the exterior of the South-East corner near to another unusual feature which is a flying buttress built in the late thirteen century across the path up to the door of the Church.
The actual Saxon charters relating to Lyminge are some of the oldest church documents in England and are preserved in The British Museum.

We were thrilled to find this church as I did some research for Westminster Palace a few years ago which included St Ethelburga and I cannot believe that we are now not only at the place where she was the first Abbess of the Abbey of Lyminge but also where she is buried. Wow! a very special feeling!

The church had a beautiful East window with lots of red in it with similarities to Pugin’s work. The reredos was in gold and paint and the rectors date from 1085 with Radulphus. We loved the collection of numbers for the multi and the short walk down the hill to the cache but the placement of the cache by an old broken fence of no note was sad and St Ethelburga deserves better.

Over the road, we found another multi-cache at Queen Ethelburga’s Well which was sunk in 7th century AD by St Ethelburga where we made an easy find too.

We also found a geocache at the Methodist church in Lyminge. The church was originally built in 1894 and was destroyed by a flying bomb on 31st August 1944 at 5.45am. All the houses in Church Road were damaged, including the Manse. Unfortunately, the petrol still in the bomb caused the entire building to catch fire.

St Martin’s in Acrise was closed and it took us a while to find the geocache because of the excellent camouflage but found it we did. In the Domesday book, Acrise was entered under the lands belonging to Odo, Bishop of Bayeux and the stone Norman church which was built after the invasion replaced an existing Saxon church.

The last church of the day was St Mary’s in Lydden and is a beautiful Saxon church dating back over a thousand years with the probable date of the foundations being laid in 1042. The church is home to 3 different species of bats, and often at Christmas time during the ceremonies that take place in the church, the heat from the congregation and candles wake the bats and they fly out of their roosts to join in the celebrations. We had a quick look around the churchyard but could not locate any of the headstones so given that we have an evening appointment we had to leave this cache for another time.

Just before 7 pm Faye, a friend of Jill’s called to collect us and the three of us walked down into Deal to spend the evening with Lucia and Paul. Paul has friends in the North Island of New Zealand and is going over for his fourth visit in early November. We had a lovely evening talking about all sorts of things but particularly New Zealand.