Wednesday, 24 November 2010

St. Nicholas, St. Nicholas-at-Wade

     "Large and impressive."  "One of the most rewarding churches in the north-east corner of the county."  These are just two of the epithets used to describe St. Nicholas whose tall 14th century tower dominates the village and surrounding farmland.  Today's church - dating in part from the 12th century, but largely 13th/14th century - gave its name to the village, and originated as a Saxon chapel of ease subordinate to the Parish of Reculver.  St. Nicholas, however, became a separate parish on the appointment of Adam de Brancestre as vicar in 1294 during the reign of Edward III.

     Built of flint and ragstone, it consists of a clerestoried nave; chancel; north and south chapels; two-storeyed porch and a broad west tower with a south-west stair-turret.  Battlemented virtually all the way round, the use of other local stones in the fabric gives the building a distinctively attractive aspect.  The interior is no less compelling, and offers much to preoccupy the aficianado.  Some of the carvings on the arcade pillars are said to be "superb Kentish examples of the medieval Green Man"; the beautiful east window in the chancel depicts Christ on the cross, flanked by St. Nicholas and St. Augustine; and the Jacobean pulpit, dating from 1615, is the earliest dated example in the county.

     There are many interesting ledger stones in the nave and tower floor, the oldest of which is dated 1582, and one, to a William Henaker (d.1609), has an inscription that is memorable in its understatement:  '(he) lived to the age of 39 yeares or thereabouts and then died and was buried.'  Another reads thus:  'Here lieth the body of Edward Hannis who departed this life 23 April 1750 aged 55 years.  And also 9 of his children.'  Does this mean he had more!

     The south chapel - dedicated to St. Thomas a Becket - is used as a vestry, but up until 1833 was the parish schoolroom and still has the fireplace intact.  Next to the main door a very rickety ladder (which I climbed at the risk of life and limb) leads to a room above the porch.  This is used as a storeroom but, back in the 18th century, was rented as a workshop by the local plumber.

     The north chapel contains several memorials to members of the Bridges family, one of which is to a former Poet Laureate - Robert Bridges (1844-1930).  I suppose, from time to time, we are all reminded by certain events of our own mortality, but perhaps the verse found on a tomb chest to two young members of the family is as stark a reminder as any:  'Stay reader, stand and lend a tear.  Unto the dust that slumbers here;  And when you read the state of me.  Think on the glass that runs for thee.'  Enough said!

1 comment:

  1. Reading the description of this fine church and how you climbed a rickety ladder to a room above reminded me of the time I visited Christchurch Priory. My aunt Doris was still alive when we visited Bournemouth and she took us on a tour of the church and grounds. I had attended church there as a little boy with my mother and brothers.

    The caretaker happened to be there while we were touring and Doris asked if we could visit the upstairs Priory schoolroom where my great-great grandfather had taught school. He graciously unlocked the access door, and we climbed a stone staircase that wound up and up above the church to a very large room. It was empty, but had oak floors, and clear leaded paned windows that let lots of light in. One could see clearly all the way to Hengisberry Head. (sp) Apparently my great great grandfather was the last school master at the priory.

    A diary of our family history that goes back hundreds of years was entrusted to the Priory many years ago by my grandfather. Apparently it is now at Winchester.