Romney Marsh Churches

Romney Marsh Churches

The work of the Romney Marsh Historic Churches Trust is acknowledged and more information about the Trust and its work can be obtained from: The Romney Marsh Historic Churches Trust, C/o Mrs E Marshall, Lansdell House, Rolvenden, Kent. TN17 4LW (01580 241529)

Still Standing on the Marsh

Fourteen medieval churches still stand on the Marsh. There were more but these have either vanished or fallen into disrepair. Examples of these are Blackmanstone Church, which appears in the Domesday Book, but has since disappeared, Orgarswick which is now a mound and the church at Broomhill which is now merely a heap of stones. Eastridge, Hope and Midley churches are in ruins but the rest are still standing even though many are in danger unless remedial work is done.

These churches are a vivid reminder of the wool trade that prospered on the Romney Marsh and enabled these churches to be built. The Romney Marsh is often used as generic term for what is in fact three main areas, the Romney Marsh itself, in the east, Walland Marsh in the west and Denge Marsh in the south.

St Eanswyth, Brenzett

This church is dedicated to a Saxon princess who established a nunnery in Folkestone. The church was heavily restored in 1876 and in 1902 the chancel and bell turret had to be re-built.

However, a thirteenth century priest’s door remains in the chancel as well as some Norman masonry. There is a 17th century chest tomb with full length alabaster figures of father and son John Fagg.

St Augustine, Brookland

Brookland ChurchThe church is famous for its separate wooden bell tower. The 16 foot 13th century tower is conical in shape and octagonal. One of the bells dates from before the Reformation, Inside, the nave arcades and outer walls lean outwards. This is because of subsidence which is still continuing.

In 1964, a wall painting of St. Thomas a Becket was discovered on the south wall. The nave has escaped restoration so  a Georgian pulpit , box pews and 14th century glass survive. The 13th century  font is circular and made of lead, and is the most important of its kind in the country. It has the signs of the zodiac depicted upon it.

Burwash ChurchAll Saints,  Burmarsh

Burmarsh is one of the oldest settlements on the Marsh (c850). The church, with its white and  yellow lichen on great stone walls, has Norman origins but it has been much restored.  There is only one fifteenth century window left, near the porch . The rest of the windows are eighteenth century.

The tower was re-built in the fourteenth century and had buttresses added to stop subsidence.The Georgian interior was removed when restoration work was done in 1876.

Romney Marsh - Dymchurch ChurchSt Peter and St Paul, Dymchurch

The church is a 12th century Norman building pf stone, slate and tiles, enlarged in 1821 by the remova1 of the north wall in order to widen the nave. At this time the tower was demolished.

The legendary Dr. Syn, the Marsh smuggler, would have used this church and this was where the 1960 Disney production was filmed.

St Mary the Virgin, East Guldeford

East Guldeford is technically part of Walland Marsh and its church the only marshland church in Sussex.

It was built in 1505 by Sir Richard Guldeford. It is made of brick and its  buttressed structure and two pitched roofs with a bell-cote sitting between them show Lowland influence.  The interior. much restored in the early 19th century,  has a simple open design There are box pews and also a 19th century wall painting depicting the seraphim with musical instruments.

Romney Marsh - Fairfield ChurchSt. Thomas à Becket,  Fairfield

This church now stands alone as the village of Fairfield no longer exists. A causeway was built in 1913, and until then the church was more often than not surrounded by water during the winter and spring.

In 1912 the fabric was in a very poor state and a complete rebuilding within the timber framework took place. However, the inside of the church was, fortunately, left untouched. It is Georgian, with a three decker pulpit, box pews and texts boards. The pews are still painted white with black linings.

St George, Ivychurch

Romney Marsh - Ivychurch ChurchThis is a large church built between 1360 and 1370. During the thirteenth century there was a Priory on the site, which might account for the church being so big. The pitted and scored stonework show the church’s age. The 15th century tall tower and  chancel stalls are unusual for a village church. There are excellent views across the marsh from the tower.

The church has three parallel aisles, running the full length of the building, a total of 133 ft. The north aisle was once the village school. The Chinese Chippendale screens which back the choir stalls are reputed to have come from Old Romney.

Some of the old glass with flower tracery survives in the western window of the north aisle and the eastern window of the south aisle.  The empty but lidded stone coffins once provided good hiding places for smuggled liquor as well as corpses.

All Saints, Lydd: ‘The Cathedral of the Marsh’

Lydd is a small town on the Denge Marsh, which became a corporate member of the Cinque Ports Confederation in 1290. The church is the largest in Kent and the tower is 132 ft. high and was built in the fifteenth century.

The original church was a Saxon basilica, parts of which can still be seen in the north aisle. The blocked window and the arches are the oldest parts of the building, and are indeed the oldest remaining church building on the Marsh. No Norman building work remains. The church was rebuilt and enlarged from the thirteenth century onwards.

In 1940 bombs destroyed the east end of the church but the Perpendicular tower survived and the building has been well restored and some pre-Conquest features may still be seen. There are sixteenth and seventeenth century brasses.

Romney Marsh - Newchurch ChurchSt Peter and St Paul, Newchurch

This parish church is known for being larger than the average on Romney Marsh, for its leaning (kinked) tower and its fine peal of bells.  Although a church is noted here in the Domesday Book, this was probably an earlier wooden Saxon church as the existing church was built some 100 years later than the others, about 1240, so there are no Norman remains

The tower suffered subsidence during its construction and for some time work stopped, It was later completed, correcting the tilt brought on by the subsidence, and this gives the tower its apparent ”kink”.

From the outside it looks as if the West door has been peppered with shot. There is a story that Revenue officers chased a smuggler here who disappeared– by falling into a newly dug grave.

 St Nicholas, New Romney

This town is one of the original Cinque Ports; the prefix ”New” was not used until the fifteenth century (see Old Romney below),   St. Nicholas is the only one of the four churches that existed in the Middle Ages to survive. .The building dates from the twelfth century and the tall Norman tower is about 100 ft high. Originally there was a spire which acted as a landmark for shipping but this was taken away in the eighteenth century.

The west doorway is Norman and the floor level is below the street. This arises from the great storms of the late thirteenth century, which diverted the river Rother from flowing into the sea at Romney, to entering the sea at Rye. During these storms silt was built up outside the church. In the fourteenth century the church gained a Decorated east end chancel arch, two three bay arcades and three large East windows.  Its dark box pews are Victorian.

St. Clement, Old Romney

Romney Marsh Churches -  Old Romney

”Old” is not really correct. The town was originally one with the present New Romney, but the part nearest the sea became larger and the inland part declined until it was just a few houses and the church. St. Clement was built in the twelfth century and later enlarged. It is an irregular buttressed structure of pale timber and silver stonework covered in yellow and brown lichens,  and has a shingled spire.

The interior is considered one of the best and least spoiled George interiors in the country. Its Georgian minstrel gallery has been used in many films.  The nave has massive moulded tie beams and crown posts. There is an unusual thirteenth century font of Purbeck marble and Caen stone supports.

St Mary in the Marsh

The Norman church tower, with its later shingled spire, is all that is left of the original church. Two of the bells are from before the Reformation. In the thirteenth century the church was enlarged and two narrow aisles were added. The high Georgian box pews were removed, but the 1ow box pews seen todaycould be the previous pews cut down.

Quarry tiles make up the floor and the ones in yellow and green are from the fourteenth century. The rest are from the late eighteenth century.

E. Nesbit, the chidren’s author, is buried in the churchyard. Noel Coward also lived nearby.

St Dunstan, Snargate

Snargate takes its name from the snare or sluice gates used to guide water to Romney Harbour via the Rhee Wall.  The picturesque church has a 13th century nave and aisles, with a 14th century chancel. The tower is Early Perpendicular. The eastern part of the north aisle was blocked off from the inside and entrance could only be gained from the outside.

Like other Marsh churches St Dunstan’s is associated with smuggling as its  isolated position made it useful as a smugglers’ ‘hide’.  Tobacco had been found in the belfry and a cask beneath the vestry table. In 1964 a terracotta coloured painting of a ship was discovered on the north wall, dating from about 1500.

The rector here was Richard Harris Barham (1788-1845), revealed to be one and the same as Tom Ingoldsby, author of the Ingoldsby Legends— a combination of burlesque and horror tales some thought an unsuitable creation of a minor Canon of St Paul’s. It was ‘Thomas Ingoldsby’ who wrote:

The world. according to the best geographers,  is divided into Europe. Asia, Africa, America and Romney Marsh.

Romney Marsh Churches - SnaveSt Augustine, Snave

This remote church is mostly thirteenth century with the exception of the upper part of the tower. Many buttresses surround the building in order to avoid subsidence.

Restoration took place in 1873 which means it hs been heavily Victorianised. The church is now in the care of the Romney Marsh Historic Churches Trust.

For larger and up-to-date colour images of the churches — and much else — go to The Beauty of Romney Marsh  and Churches of Romney Marsh.

First posted in Romney Marsh on 14th October 2009
Last updated: 2nd November 2013
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