Tuesday, 30 November 2010

St. John the Baptist, Barham

     Barham nestles among the Downs in the beautiful Nailbourne Valley, and the first view one gets when approaching from across the A2 Dover road is of the slender copper spire of St. Johns towering attractively above the trees on the wooded slope which runs down to the village. 

     Barham Downs has been the backdrop to many notable events which go to make up the rich tapestry of this country's history.  The Romans camped here on their way inland after landing at Richborough in Thanet; William the Conqueror met the Men of Kent here to receive their oaths of loyalty, and to take delivery of hostages as insurance; Royalist troops massed here during the Civil War before their attack on Dover Castle, and the British army camped here during the Napoleonic Wars prior to embarkation on their way to the Continent.

   The church, dating mostly from the 13th and 14th centuries, has a hint of Norman in the tower, so has played silent witness to many of the great events mentioned here.  It is cruciform with nave; chancel; north and south transepts and south aisle.  The tower, situated at the west end of the building, has been elongated to the north and south making shallow chambers.  Though not remarkable, St. John certainly graces its surroundings and, when viewed from the south, I find its long sleek outline hugely pleasing.  The only sour note for me is the removal of many of the gravestones to the perimeter of the churchyard.  It may make the upkeep of the churchyard more manageable but, in so doing, I feel that it destroys its character.

     Inside there is an elaborate memorial to Sir Basil Dixwell (d.1750), which received extremely short change from John Newman, brasses to Roger Digges (d.1375), and John Digges and Wife (c.1460).  On the war memorial can be seen the celebrated name of Kitchener who owned nearby Broome Park.  Broome Park consisted of the 17th century mansion and 500 acres when Field-Marshal Lord Kitchener of Khartoum purchased it in 1911.  He planned to spend his retirement years here but it was never to be.  He made many alterations and filled the interior with treasures he had collected during his long career in the army.  He was known as an avid collector, and one whose methods were not over-scrupulous.  If he fancied something, he would say so, and was often presented with it by the owner who felt almost compromised into handing it to the great man.  Kitchener spent his last hours in England in the garden at Broome Park, before leaving on the 3rd June 1916 for Scapa Flow.  He embarked there on the cruiser "Hampshire" bound for Russia, but perished when the ship struck a mine and sank.

     As can be seen, Barham certainly enjoys its fair share of colourful connections, as do many other villages in this charismatic county that can boast an historical heritage second to none.  As a lover of history it makes me proud to call it home.


  1. I love reading about the various wonderful churches you write about. Even more interesting is the history that you add to the various locales. They make the places come alive. I am sure some reading it could come up with a thought for a plot of a book.

  2. HI paul,
    Many thanks again. Yes, I think you are right with the very colourful history that some of them have seen in their time..LOL. As a lover of history, it would be great to be aboout 800 years old now!
    Kind regards,