Tuesday, 19 October 2010


     When I first conceived the idea for this journal, my initial concern was where to start.  After much consideration, I felt that I could no better than to explain my reasons for undertaking such a mammoth task of recording Kent's beautiful medieval churches.

     My reason for using the medium of photography was a logical one as, firstly, I make no claims to any artistic ability with paintbrush or pencil, and secondly, as a keen amateur photographer of the English landscape and historical places of interest, it seemed to me to be a perfectly natural progression.  My motives, however, for committing these churches to film in the first place were not so much of the practical but rather the spiritual variety.

     As a lover of the great outdoors, it had always appeared to me that the old country church seemed to adorn the countryside like a "jewel in the crown", and that any country view without it seemed somehow diminished.  One of my most enduring childhood memories is of staying at my uncles house on Beddington Farm in Surrey, and hearing the bells of old Beddington church echoing across the farmland on those balmy Sunday summer evenings.  The overpowering sense of peace and serenity that pervaded me at these moments - as if all was right with the world - has always stayed with me and, to my mind, one senses the essence of the Almighty far more keenly in the churchyard of a simple country church than when standing in the most feted cathedrals in the land.  So, dear reader, if you are still with me, you can probably see that first and foremost this photographic crusade was, and remains, a labour of love.

     I have tried to analyse why these old churches should have such a conscious effect on me.  The answer probably lies in my general love of all things historic, and given that many of them have stood for up to eight or nine hundred years, it is, perhaps, this air of permanence (in a modern world where nothing seems to last for more than five minutes) that fascinates me.  It certainly captures my imagination to consider that these lovely old buildings existed at the time of the signing of the Magna Carta; survived the infamous attentions of Henry VIII; witnessed the events of the Civil War and Cromwell's puritanical regime; and played host to their respective congregations prayers of thanksgiving when that greatest of all Englishmen, Admiral Lord Nelson, defeated the combined French and Spanish fleet at Trafalgar.

     That Kent is blessed with so many churches of the type that excite my interest is by no means coincidental.  Being so close to mainland Europe meant that most migratory influences first touched our shores here in Kent, thus making its inhabitants the most civilised.  The Roman legions sent by the emperor, Claudius, to add Britain to the Roman Empire landed here in 43 AD, as did the Danes in 449 AD.  So it was with St. Augustine.  Sent by Pope Gregory the Great from Rome in 597 AD to convert the people to Christianity and build churches for them, he met with the pagan king, Ethelbert, and preached his first sermon at Ebbsfleet in Thanet before moving on to Canterbury, and the rest, as they say, is history.  Kent therefore, being in the vanguard of the Christian explosion, can justifiably claim to be the 'cradle of Christianity' in this country - a fitting crown perhaps for the only English county to still retain its earliest known name, and whose kings were the first kings of England starting with Hengist in 455 AD.

     Should the reader prove interested and read on into the main body of this book, he or she will quickly realise that I make no claims to expertise on the architectural merits of the buildings covered therein.  I leave the learned evaluation of these to more meritorious works than this.  Any comments I make are purely subjective and only reflect my personal impressions.  This book, therefore, does not pretend to be a definitive guide book on the subject, but is aimed purely at those who, like me, have noticed these old country churches when passing in the car or looking around them here and there on days out, and, in spite of knowing nothing about them, have found them interesting and infinitely appealing.  I have tried to record in layman's terms what I have seen or felt and, as this book is illustrated with my own photographs, have thrown in here and there why I have approached the subject in the photographic manner or style that I have.  Furthermore, as these marvellous churches reflect the historical legacy not only of Kent but of the country as a whole - and, as a book devoted to the minutiae of the churches alone may make (for the average person like me) rather dry reading - I have included any historical associations, direct or indirect, which I feel may illustrate the point to good effect.  However, where in parts it may seem that the historical content of the village overshadows the church itself, it must be remembered that it was the church that drew me there in the first instance, and which, has my overriding interest.

     To further assist the reader, I have included the following dating table for the various building styles mentioned in the book (e.g. Early English, Perpendicular etc.,).  Other versions may differ slightly, but generally speaking, this is it:

     Norman Romanesque................................1066-1200        
     Early English Gothic...................................1200-1300  
     Decorated Gothic......................................1250-1350
     Perpendicular Gothic.................................1350-1500
     Early Tudor (or late Perpendicular)............1501-1550

     I feel that perhaps here I should make mention of the laudable work of such admirable organisations as The Friends of Kent Churches and The Historic Churches Trust who, by their untiring efforts, do so much to assist in the upkeep and continued existence of these historic buildings.  Long may they continue to do so, for they are an important part of our heritage and I feel that we would all be the poorer without them.

     In any event, may I express the modest hope that this journal will prove to be of some interest, and that it might afford the reader at least a small measure of the enjoyment I have experienced in visiting and photographing these remarkable old buildings.  It is with is in mind that I offer this humble effort.



No comments:

Post a Comment