Monday, 18 October 2010

St. Peter, Swingfield

     Swingfield is situated north-west of the Alkham Valley, a mile from the A260 Barham to Folkestone road, and what a pleasing impression this little village gives as one drives down its narrow main street, with the church on the left and an old country pub called "The Three Bells" opposite (the church only has one bell now, as two were sold to pay for repairs to the roof).  The first view of the church is extremely attractive, with the lychgate in front and the ancient west tower as a backdrop, and had it not been for the unsightly telegraph wires that ran parallel along the street, a constant problem when photographing ancient buildings, I would have taken my first shots from here.

     The church consists of a 15th century three-storeyed tower with semicircular stair turret; a partially Early English (12th-13thC) nave and south doorway with scratchdials; and a heavily restored chancel.  The simple interior contains a ledger stone, dated 1677, with an alarmingly fatalistic inscription:  'Death fears no colours, drums, guns, pike or blade, All these give place unto the fatall Spade.'  A comforting thought as one approaches the autumn of one's life!
The Preceptory of the Knights Hospitallers of St. John
     History has played its part in this sleepy little village, or at least half a mile from here at the Preceptory of the Knights Hospitallers of St. John where, in 1213, King John under threat of invasion by the French, met the papal legate and agreed to accept Pope Innocent as his overlord.  This was in exchange for the lifting of a decree of excommunication on himself and the country.  This was apparently caused by a disagreement over the appointment of the Archbishop of Canterbury.  John insisted that John de Gray, Bishop of Norwich, should fill the vacancy, but there was some argument in Canterbury about who had the right to elect the primate.  Innocent III proposed Stephen Langton, and on 17th July 1207, duly consecrated him as Archbishop.  John promptly reacted by seizing the revenues of Canterbury Cathedral and driving the monks into exile, thus directly challenging the authority of the Pope - a challenge which could have but one outcome.  The 13th century knapped flint chapel remains, complete with a north-west porch, and for many years was used as a farmhouse, but now stands under the care of English Heritage.
     As, in my view, the churchyard is as important as the church in reflecting the timeless nature of the place, I elected to take my shots looking up the path to include the lovely slanting age-worn headstones, sundial, and appealing little 14th century wooden porch.  The whole time that I was here, I didn't see a single person, proving that life here today is a good deal quieter and less turbulent than in the days of King John.  A fact for which, the local inhabitants must be eternally grateful.

No comments:

Post a Comment