Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Boughton under Blean, Kent

Sadly locked SS Peter & Paul contains an impressive collection of C18th headstones in its churchyard and is a lovely looking building with an unusual south aisle/chapel. It is set away from the village down and up a twisting, narrow lane and perches on top of a small hill with commanding views of the surrounding countryside. It's a shame it is kept locked with no keyholder listed since I really fell for it (and Mee makes it sound amazing) and don't get down to Kent that often.

SS Peter & Paul (1)

A bit of Kent

John Jenning 1733

BOUGHTON-UNDER-BLEAN. Just a street, but what a street! It lies between grassy banks, with trees and huge thatched barns and old cottages everywhere. The Tudor fronts are splendid. The black oast-houses come down into the street with a white windmill looking on. The church is far away among the fields; another windmill here is thought to be the broadest in Kent.

The Blean was a forest in Chaucer’s day, and is still richly timbered. The churchyard has a very fine yew, and from near it a group of ll oast-houses can be seen. Here, when we called, was the best example we have come upon of the strait and narrow way. It led out of the churchyard through a huge cornfield, a footpath straight as a
die, cut through the corn a few inches wide.

The 13th-century church, with a 15th-century tower, has two aisles and two chapels, and is a beautiful place. It has many carved stone faces and some fine monuments. Two 16th-century brasses are to John Best and his wife (1508) and to Cyriac and Florence Petit, with four daughters. On a wall is one of the smallest sculptures ever seen, with John Pettit, household servant to Queen Elizabeth, kneeling with his wife at a desk. They are eight inches high.

But it is for another piece of sculpture that every lover of English art comes here, a monument set up in the year Shakespeare died by a man whose name shines in English sculpture with something of Shakespeare’s lustre in English poetry, for it is the work of Epiphanius Evesham, our first known great sculptor, and is one of the two best examples we have of his work in Kent. Hythe and Mersham have tablets, and Lynsted has two other groups like these; they are the best of all, but these at Boughton are tmly wonderful.

They show Sir Thomas Hawkins and his wife on an altar tomb, stately alabaster figures. He is in armour, his helmet hanging above him. Below on the front of the tomb are two sculptured panels of seven sons and six daughters. The two panels are a veritable museum piece of sculpture, with an almost incredibly small figure of a baby in a cradle. One of the daughters has a handkerchief to her eyes as in the group at Lynsted. One of the sons holds a ball, and a small boy holds a skull. The faces are all lifelike, and the carving is of great delicacy.

Close by sleeps the John Hawkins who saved the family from ruin in Cromwell’s day, and on the floor of the chapel is a brass to Thomas’s remarkable father Thomas. He lived to be 101, and two pompous verses, engraved in brass in 1587, tell us that he was high and long and strong, excelling all that lived in his age. Another stone has another curious boast:

Marbles shall fade; George Farwell’s name shall not;
Such in the Book of Life by God are wrot.

It has kept his name alive since 1747, and we pass it on. Fitting that in this small place of great boasting a bell should say:

Although I am but light and small
I will be heard above you all.

No comments:

Post a Comment