Saturday, 16 October 2010

Holy Cross, Goodnestone (Nr. Wingham).

     When I was initially moved to capture Kent's medieval churches on film in 1992, it was to Goodnestone that I turned to open my account.  I had no pre-planned reason for making this the first, it was purely a random choice, but I remember how inspired I felt when I received my first glimpse of this beautiful church in its pleasant little village, and thinking that I really couldn't have made a better choice for my maiden photographic outing, and hoping that perhaps many such delightful surprises lay ahead.  Goodnestone was built as an estate village to the nearby Goodnestone Park and, apparently, most of the houses that line the street to the Park are still in its ownership - at least, they were in 1987.  M.R James, the celebrated writer of ghost stories was born at a Goodnestone Parsonage in Kent, but whether it was this one or the other Goodnestone near Faversham I do not know.  By the general look and feel of this village I would like to think it was here.

     On entering the churchyard, the first thing I noticed was an area designated as a Wild Flower Conservation Area, and in the porch was a list of the various varieties to be found there.  The church itself is 12th century in origin and built of knapped flints and Caen stone.  The tower is well proportioned and of the type found commonly in Kent, with a stair turret running up the south-east corner.  Along with the north side of the church, the tower is still the original medieval construction, as the three shields of arms above the spandrel of the west doorway testify, but the nave and chancel were restored in 1840.

     According to John Newman in the excellent volume "The Buildings of England", there are several brasses to be found inside, one of which, in memory of a Thomas Engeham (d.1558), has a verse that begins:  'By doleful dynt of deathes dyre dart....' (they were obviously not troubled by false teeth back in the 16th century).  The pews used to face south across the nave, commonly known as prayer-book style, and would certainly have done so when that famous parsons daughter, Jane Austen, occasionally used the church during her visits to Goodnestone Park before they were turned to face the altar in 1910.

     When one views this church end-on to the tower, it is easy to visualise the days of Jane Austen, and it was for this reason that I chose this viewpoint for my photograph.  I have since visited many other 'picture book' churches, but Goodnestone will always hold a special place in my affections for being such a memorable first.

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