Monday, 1 November 2010

St. Martin of Tours, Herne

     My wife and I arrived here having come from little Westbere, and how enormous this large church seemed by comparison.  It resembles those more frequently found in the Weald of Kent, which were usually built on a grander scale than those in the eastern part of the county, largely with the help of the rich wool merchants.  How Herne warranted a church of these proportions, or how it was funded in such a small village can only remain a mystery.

     Apparently, during the late 1980's, the apsidal foundation walls of an earlier smaller church were found beneath the north chapel.  Syms puts forward the theory that this smaller building was here when Herne was a chapelry of Reculver, and after Reculver "succumbed to the sea" this larger church was built.  It is 14th century, of ragstone and flint, and comprises a nave and chancel with aisles continued as chapels, and a broad north-west tower with an avenue of chestnuts leading up to the north porch.  This building (especially the tower) has been afforded the highest acclaim by the architectural specialists, and I bow to their superior knowledge.  However, if I am to remain true to my purpose and record my impressions, I have to say that it is not the type of church that attracts me, being too large and square for my taste and lacking the rustic simplicity of the smaller country church.

     Historically, it is quite another story.  A former incumbent was Nicholas Ridley (1538-1549) who, while he was vicar, allowed the Te Deum to be sung here in English for the first time in England.  Following promotion to the See of Rochester, and later to London, he became heavily involved in affairs of state.  He, subsequently unwisely, championed the claims of Lady Jane Grey to the throne in 1553, and two years later was convicted of heresy and sentenced to death.  He was burned at the stake along with his fellow Bishop, Hugh Latimer, on 16th October 1555 in Broad Street, Oxford.  While at the stake, Latimer spoke these inspiring words:  "Be of good comfort Master Ridley.  Play the man.  We shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England as I trust shall never be put out."  Religious or otherwise, one cannot help having a high regard for members of the clergy for their courage in the face of such horror and adversity.  No doubt such examples are still being demonstrated in various trouble-torn parts of the world today.

     The day of shooting was dull and overcast, so I experimented with warm-up, graduated and soft focus filters to add some much needed colour and atmosphere.  Ironically, this church that didn't particularly appeal to me, yielded a shot that I rate among the best in my collection.  Such is the unpredictability and fascination of this hobby that I love so much.

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