Capel, Kent – St Thomas a Becket

There was a notice in Tudeley church about the church of St Thomas a Becket in Capel, a Churches Conservation Trust church in the benefice – TQ637444. That was good, but with so many thousands of visitors to Tudeley, why is there no display or leaflet listing churches within 30 miles that are worth visiting? You can read about Capel at the benefice website, a Kent churches site, and the CCT’s website from which you can download a Kent leaflet.

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It was getting quick dark when we got there, but there is a good car park on the north side. There was a Norman church, and there is a yew tree under which Thomas a Becket preached (were there too many people to get in church?).

dsc05582They have planted a fig tree, given to them by the Friends of Merton Priory. The Priory was an Augustinian foundation, an important centre of learning entered by Becket in 1130. The fig cuttings came from the village of Tarring, bear Worthing, which once also had an Archbishop’ Palace, and Becekt was said to have had a garden there in which fig trees grew. The Friends of the Priory have given cuttings to all the churches dedicated to Becket. They gave Capel three, one of which succumbed to frost, this one was planted in August 2016, “if it falls victim to the weather – or rabbits – we still have spare to take its place.” We had contact with the Friends of Merton Priory in Ponteland, which was a Merton living. I will have contact in Darley Abbey, which was an Augustinian Foundation. Allestree also has a large yew tree, and we – like Capel – are having a Crib Exhibition on Saturday as part of the German Christmas Market. Here are some more ideas for next year.

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Entering the church there is a good welcome board and some good displays about the church and the Friends organisation.  There were plenty of books, so I could have had a good read.  The church was rebuilt in the C17 after a fire or a storm, depending which website you read – there wasn’t a CCT guidebook, which was a shame.

Just inside the door is a WW1 memorial. Three poppies from the Tower of London had been given to the Friends, and this case was made by Tony Yates, with oak from Hever. The background painting depicting “this corner of our beautiful land” was painted by Ann Smith. The cross is made from five .5 round cartridge cases, similar to the cartridge case found in a garden at Five Oaks green. The metal base is to be made from a Howitzer shall case.

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The church has wall paintings which were rediscovered under layers of whitewash in 1927. These have been dated to the mid-thirteenth century and were painted in two tiers along the north nave wall. If the south wall had not been rebuilt in the later Middle Ages that too might have yielded further murals. You can see the Entry into Jerusalem, Cain and Abel and the Last Supper. There are also some later murals to either side of the chancel arch.

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The East Window is lovely, as is the Communion Rail. You can imagine it being installed to stop the dogs getting to the altar.

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This was a lovely little church, and I would like a better look round and a closer inspection of the paintings. Worth going back!

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