I left Julie with a drink and walked about 10 minutes down to Lullingstone church, St Botolph – TQ529644. It is one of the Eynsford churches – website – and is in the grounds of Lullingstone Castle – website. You can find more pictures here, and there is a Victorian guide here. It is one of Betjeman’s best, and it was worth the walk. According to the castle website, the manor house and gatehouse both date to 1497 – I would have thought the house looked later – and the castle is open regularly. Today it was closed and there was a chain across the gate, but I worked on the theory I could have access to the church and walked through.
The church was unlocked and welcoming – lovely letters and welcoming notices in the porch. It is a BCP church, which probably suits the area. There is a very detailed guidebook which tells me that St Botolph is an East Anglian saint, who founded a Benedictine monastery at Iken in Suffolk in 654 AD. There was a Benedictine revival just after the Norman Conquest, and it is probable that the original church on this site dates to that period. The Saxon church of St John the Baptist, built on the remains of the Roman site, lasted until the fifteenth century.
The present building dates to about 1349 – the Lord of the manor then was John de Rokesley – his brass is under the rood screen, but I missed it. The beautiful moulded ceilings in the nave and chancel date to 1723, paid for by Percyvall Hart IV. We’ll try and sort out the family in a minute when we come to the tombs. The roof had to be raised to accommodate this ceiling – if you look at the outside you can see the different bricks. The ornate plaster work below the chancel arch has alternate mitres and royal crowns, bearing witness to Percyvall’s devotion to Church and Queen.
Percyvall also gave the marble floor, and the rare marble font which is enclosed with wooden shutters. It is said that the font is badly stained because of the baptism of the children of soldiers returning from WW1 bringing Jordan water home in rusty flasks – I have this vision of old soldiers reading my blog and denying it!
There are tombs in the Chancel and in the North Chapel. Here is a selection of photos, and I hope I have written them up correctly. It is very difficult to get whole photos of the chapel, so I am sorry that the layout is not clear.
Let’s start with the tomb of Sir John Peché which lies on the north side of the altar, between the altar and the chapel (these photos were taken from the chapel), He lived c1473-1521, was a member of Henry VII’s court, and was appointed Sheriff of Kent in 1495 and Lord Deputy of Calais in 1509. He built the chapel, paid for a chantry priest, and paid for the rood screen (installed sometime between 1502 and 1520). I should have looked more closely at the screen – it contains the pomegranate badge of Queen Katherine of Aragon. It is possible that the designer was Pietro Torregiano, who was responsible for much of the work of Henry VII’s chapel at Westminster Abbey. Sir John lies in effigy in his tomb, wearing plate armour, over which he wears a surcoat embroidered with his arms. The canopy is carved with his arms, the arms of the Grocers’ Company of which he was a Freeman, and a whole mixture of other symbols, including Katherine’s pomegranates. There is even a branch laden with peaches, pecked by a bird, and the initials I and E interlaced, for John and Elizabeth. How romantic!
On the south side of the altar is the tomb of Sir Percyvall (1496-1580) and his wife Friedeswide. Both effigies hold their hands in prayer. He wears a ruff round his neck and his sword by his side.
On the east wall of the north chapel is the tomb of Sir George Hart (died 1587) and his wife Elizabeth Bowes. I love the way these two clasp hands. “Here lieth Sr. George Hart knight second sonne of Sr Percivall Hart Knight, who spent his youth in travel into forayne parts for his better enabling to do his Prince and countrey service which he accordingly performed in his elder years towards them both to his great reputation Queen Elizabeth II of famous memorie (that ever carried a sparing hand in bestowing of honor) gave him the order of Knigthoode. He married Elizabeth Bowes the daughter of John Bowes of Elford in Staffordshire Esquier (descended by that auncient family of Bowses of Yorkshire) by whom he had 5 children, namely Percivall, Robert, and George soones, and Francis and Elizabeth daughters. He lived virtuously the term of 55 years and died religiously the 16 day of July 1587.” Lovely figures too.
On the north wall of the north chapel is this memorial to Dame Anne Dyke and her two husbands – I love the way she records both of them. She certainly outlasted them both.
Then on the west wall of the north chapel we have Sir Percyvall Hart IV’s memorial – you may remember he is the chap who did the ceiling and floor. He and his wife have long epitaths, 46 armorial shields and various other crests. It is a heraldic study of its own – just enjoy it. Sir Percyvall was a Jacobite and might have failed to receive promotion because of that. The guidebook suggests that “One is tempted to assume that Percyvall’s heir, Sir Thomas Dyke, provided this flamboyant heraldic tribute to Percyvall because he felt that his father on law as a mere esquire, disappointed of high office in a Whig government because of his Jacobite orientation, deserved every possible heraldic honour.”
The church also has some lovely stained glass, but my photos are not up to much. I direct you to this photographer’s flickr page to see more of this amazing church – here – you will not be disappointed. This is part of one window.
I really enjoyed looking round this lovely church and was so glad I had made the effort to walk down the road from the Villa. I would suggest that a poster in the Villa might be a good idea – take the walk!