Saturday, 14 January 2012

Harbledown, Kent

I forgot to write about St Michael & All Angels, which was locked with no keyholder listed, probably because it's a very plain church with seemingly little merit but does have some fine headstones - I'm not sure I missed much by not gaining access.

Having read Mee's report I researched a bit and find that Harbledown has two churches - St Michael and the more interesting St Nicholas which I must have passed without seeing it or a sign for it. Another visit for next time I go down.

St Michael & All Angels (2)

Henry Williams 1746

Harbledown, Kent

HARBLEDOWN. It creeps up to the height of the Downs and we do not wonder that here Chaucer’s pilgrims became more serious. Here Chaucer’s last story was told; here his pilgrims were thrilled with the sight of the towers and spires of Canterbury. It was their Mount Pisgah, Chaucer’s Little Town. Still there is something here that Chaucer must have seen; still there is a place his pilgrims must have called at. Certain it is that at Harbledown we tread in their very steps.

Through the timbered archway opening off the rising street we step far out of the busy world and are back in time, it would almost seem, 1000 years. When we called an old man of 93 had just been cutting the grass.

Here is the little world started 850 years ago by the Conqueror’s cousin Lanfranc, who founded a leper hospital out of which have grown the almshouses gathering round the Norman church (st Nicholas not St Michael & all Saints). A very impressive place it is with its huge Norman columns, its 14th-century roof, and the astonishing benches on which old men must have sat since the days of Magna Carta. The old steps of the belfry are still there. There are ancient tiles and frescoes, some glass 500 years old, and a font with animals carved in the 15th century. The carving on the capital of one of the Norman columns is exceedingly rich, and the Norman work in the nave, the west wall, and the doorway belongs to the century when the Normans came.

There is much to see in the hall, rich in treasures of the past. The writing on a charter here is still clear after more than 600 years and the seal is still unbroken. There is the leather pouch of a pilgrim in which he doubtless carried water from one of Becket’s wells. There are four bowls 600 years old, and a chalice older than Shakespeare. There is a medallion of a lion and a dragon made in 1603 by a good craftsman with the good name William Smith; it is riveted into a bowl with 64 rivets. There is a bowl with a medallion of that Guy of Warwick who slew so many dragons, and rescued so many knights, and destroyed so many giants, all for the love of a lady, before he died at Guy’s Cliife near Warwick ages and ages since. There is a l4th century chest with five locks, the lid cut out of solid oak; it has an acorn on the catch of the middle lock. There is a piece of canvas on which are fading away the arms of that Chichester boy who became Bishop of London, William Juxon, to whom Charles Stuart spoke his last word on the scaffold. There is a crystal which we are asked to believe Thomas Becket wore on his shoe, the very crystal the leper asked Erasmus and Colet to kiss when he came to see this place, much to the anger of Colet, but rather to the amusement of Erasmus, who dropped a coin into the leper’s box, the very almsbox that we may see and handle here.

No comments:

Post a Comment