Thursday, 28 October 2010

St. Nicholas, Pluckley

     The biggest problem when visiting this charming little hill-top village is finding somewhere to park the car.   Pluckley featured heavily in the hugely successful dramatisation of H.E. Bates' "The Darling Buds of May".  This has inevitably led to a large influx of sightseers and visitors, particularly in the summer months.  Good news no doubt for the village traders, less so I suspect for the residents of this otherwise tranquil little outpost in the beautiful Weald of Kent.  The redbrick cottages are mainly 19th century, with the quaint schoolhouse dating from 1849.  The cottage windows are unusual, having two arched-lights.  They are known as Dering windows after Sir Edward Dering (1807-1896), who had them fitted to his own house, and in the buildings on his estate.  His fancy that they brought him good luck was tenuously based on the legend of a Sir Edward Dering, a Royalist supporter, who supposedly escaped from the Roundheads through one such window during the Civil War.  The only building that seems to have avoided their inclusion is the church itself.

     St. Nicholas, of 13th-14th century date, is a very pretty church which adorns its village like the distinguished elder that it is.  Built of ragstone, it has a 13th century chancel; west tower with a recessed shingled spire; and a nave rebuilt in the 14th century with the addition of a south aisle.  The south chapel, named after the Dering family, was added by Richard Dering in 1475, and is separated from the church by two outstandingly beautiful screens.  One is probably contemporary with the chapel's construction, the other was added in 1635.  There are several brasses to be seen inside, including seven (three in the nave, four in the south chapel) to members of the Dering family said to date between 1425 and 1610.  According to John Newman these are all "ingenious forgeries," installed in the church from 1628-35 by Sir Edward Dering (our Cavalier friend) as testimony to his family origins.  The bounder!  There are two windows worth seeing.  Designed by Francis Stephens and John Hayward in 1954, they have a strong emphasis on local objects such as oast houses, and even the church itself.

     Pluckley's other claim to fame is that it is, reputedly, the most haunted village in Britain.  It is not known how many ghosts walk the village, but they include a schoolmaster who hanged himself; a mysterious Red Lady searching for her child among the gravestones in the churchyard; and an old Gypsy watercress seller who burned to death when she dropped her clay pipe on her straw bedding.  Reflecting on the lovely "chocolate-box" church and, that one only has to walk a few hundred yards to the edge of the village to enjoy beautiful views across the Weald, it seems something of a perversity that it is better known these days as a backdrop to a popular television programme.  Such is the way of the world I suppose.


  1. TV? What is it? Barnaby? Beautiful photo as I already said and an interesting text. I didn't understand the specialty of these Dering windows! Don't you have a detail photo?

  2. I wondered if you could give a reference for the John Newman comment about 'ingenious forgeries' please?


  3. I wondered if you could give a reference to the John Newman comment on 'ingenious forgeries' please?