Sunday, 25 March 2012

Herne, Kent

Taking advantage of a child collection from Canterbury yesterday I visited St Martin where my 1st cousin 5x removed was buried - I didn't find his grave but did find a monument to his grandson who died aged 2 months in 1874 and also Sir William Thornhurst d. 1606 who also appears in the family tree.

I liked the exterior - it's a stolid foursquare building, a maiden aunt of a church. Unfortunately the interior is a disappointment being over-restored and over carpeted - having said that I rather enjoyed it since, architecturally speaking, it's so diffeent from what I'm used to.

St Martin (2)

Headstone (2)

James William Robarts 1874

HERNE. Four things has the snug village of Herne that every traveller will wish to see: a tower, a screen, a chair, and a collection of brasses.

The chair is that of Nicholas Ridley, who sat in it when he was vicar here. He made this church famous by ordering that the Te Deum should be sung in English, and in these walls there was first heard in the music of our mother tongue those majestic words:

We praise Thee, O God, we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord.
All the Earth doth worship Thee, the Father everlasting.
O Lord, save Thy people, and bless Thine heritage.
Govern them and lift them up for ever.

This beautiful church was one of the last things that came into Ridley’s mind when he gave away his shirt to some poor man and walked into the fire at Oxford. Farewell, Herne," he said, "thou worshipful and wealthy parish, the first whereunto I was called to minister God’s word. I bless God for all that godly virtue the Lord did kindle in the life and heart of that godly woman there, my Lady Fineaux." She lies near the altar where he stood so often, and her brass is over her. It shows her in a flowing dress lined with fur, carrying a gold ball for holding spices to keep off plague. Her lord lies in the nave at Canterbury, having been a man of some importance in his day. His family came to England in a curious way. An English officer imprisoned in the French wars made friends with his gaoler, who helped him to escape on being promised some lands in Kent. He came home and the Frenchman followed him. His name was Fineaux, and he settled near Herne. There are four other brasses in the chancel and the lady chapel. On the right of the altar, by Lady Fineaux’s brass, is that of John Darley, who was vicar in 1450; he has a lion at his feet. Sir John Sea, who lived in the time of Shakespeare, is here with two wives; Lady Phelip, whose husband supplied the jewels for the coronation of Edward the Fourth, is on a brass of 1470, with much rich embroidery and a girdle and rosary; and the brass of Sir Peter and Lady Halle was made in 1420.

The church is worthy of its beautiful possessions. Its nave and its aisles have all good screens. The ancient screen is very finely carved with tracery, a grape vine running along the top, and the modern screen is a splendid copy. The 14th-century font is beautiful with heraldic panels. There is an attractive stone figure of Ridley in a canopied niche. The chancel has magnificent choir stalls, with misereres. On a wall above the sanctuary kneels Sir William Thornhurst, Captain of the Guard of the Archbishop’s palace at Ford, where Cranmer retired on the death of his royal master. He has been here since 1606, and has a friendly little dog on his helmet, which hangs above his tomb.

The church has a deed going back to 1154, an Elizabethan almsdish, and a brass inscription to Samuel Weller May before which thousands of visitors have stopped. He was a friend of Dickens, who borrowed his Christian names and made it impossible for the world to forget them.

The architectural gem of Herne is its flint tower - one of the very few perfect things in the world, said John Ruskin. Inside and out it is beautiful. It has a vaulted roof with a fine stone face at each corner, and a window extremely unusual and remarkably graceful.

Outside, it crowns the west end of the church as a thing of unforgettable beauty. It rises in layers of brown stone and black flint approached by an avenue of horse chestnuts. Close by is a fine old yew, with a sculpture of the Baptism of Christ looking down on it.

Herne has a windmill which has been a lovely sight from the Island of Sheppey for something like two hundred years.

I feel a re-visit is in order since I saw none of the brasses (although they may have been over-carpeted) nor the misericords - this is OK as I'll be going back down in a month.

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