Sunday, 31 October 2010

St. Cosmas and St. Damian, Challock

     If the claim of a local nurseryman in 1983 had been upheld, Challock might have been world famous.  He declared that he had developed the blue dahlia which, in horticultural circles, was roughly akin to discovering the lost Ark!  Unfortunately, his claim was dismissed when the flower was judged to be purple.  The old village was hard-hit by the Black Death in the 14th century, so the villagers moved away from the plague-ridden centre and resettled on a new site.  This, plus the enclosure in 1589 of the old road that passed the church within the confines of Eastwell Park, has left this beautiful old building isolated among woods at the bottom of a dead-end road about one mile from the present village.

     The church is one of only two in Kent that is dedicated to the Arabian medics SS. Cosmas and Damian (the other being Blean, near Canterbury).  Of 13th century foundation, it consists of a nave with north and south aisles, chancel and north chapel.  The attractive west tower, added in the 14th century, comes complete with a south-east stair turret, diagonal buttresses that die-in halfway up and a flint cross embedded in the fabric just above the first stage.  The chancel was virtually rebuilt in 1873 and, following extensive bomb damage in 1944, the church was largely rebuilt and rededicated in 1958.  It would seem that the 'fickle finger of fate' was at work here for the church to sustain a direct hit, situated as it is in such an isolated spot.   One finds it hard to believe that even an enemy aircraft would wilfully bomb a church having no strategic value - one would like to think not anyway!

     I first came here on a wet and dreary day in November 1995, when the long roomy churchyard was crawling with pheasant and, immediately falling under its spell, quickly made a firm decision to return under better photographic conditions.  This I did during the church Flower Festival in August 1996, when the inside was beautifully decorated with flower arrangements interpreting The Revelation of St. John the Divine, and a gentleman was playing songs from various Lloyd-Webber musicals on the church organ.  It gave me an opportunity to see first-hand the celebrated wall paintings for which the church is justly acclaimed.  Those in the north chapel show country scenes - with roundels - depicting the adventures of SS. Cosmas and Damian, and were executed in 1953 by two students of the Royal Academy School; the chancel paintings, effected in 1955 by Royal Academician and book illustrator John Ward, are scenes from the life of Christ with figures in modern dress alongside the biblical characters.  The paintings lend a lively feel to the light and airy interior, and although I am not one to find the more formal demeanour of a church discouraging, I have to say that the almost carnival atmosphere revealed a face that the Church in general might do well to show more frequently.  Well-done Challock!


  1. Beautiful old church, it's a pity that you couldn't take some interior shots too.
    Thanks for your visit on my paintings.

  2. church now closed for the casual walker, keys are located miles away it would seem....