Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Locked church no 4 Gillingham

Gillingham churches St Mary and All Saints

There are actually three churches side by side along a short road which leads to Gillingham Hall…A locked Roman Catholic church and the two (one is a ruin) Church of England churches which stand either side of the Hall gates leading up to the Hall.

St Mary’s church
It has quite a large churchyard which is full of rabbit holes, in fact as I was walking around, a rabbit ran across my feet and vanished into it’s hole in the gave me  a bit of a shock. Thank goodness it wasn’t a rat!!!
            St Mary's is an early C12 flint built church, from the time of Henry 1st  – older than the ruined church of All Saints, but it was greatly modified in the mid C19,  thankfully retaining it’s splendidly carved  Norman doorways. The West one being the main entrance to the church..
Viewing the church from it’s East side it’s Apsidal chancel is displayed admirably, and you can see the tower  has a central position in the church
 It’s such a pity this church is now kept locked. Fortunately I was able to take a few pictures of the interior through clear glass on the North side of the church.

I got the impression that it's rather plain and simply furnished

Gillingham Hall stands directly behind the East end of the church, and there are a few fine large tombstones close to the church wall on that side….Although I couldn’t recognise any of the names, I suspect they belong to people who had connections with the Hall in the past.

 Surprisingly the churchyard is quite neat and tidy, evidently someone keeps it in order on a regular basis.

The ruins of All Saints church
This church was built in the C15 but by 1629 had united with St Mary’s, leaving All Saints abandoned. Most of the church was knocked down in 1748, with only the top of it’s tower now on view.  The rubble from the knocked down church was used to repair roads…(I’m surprised the tower was left standing)

The remains of the tower is almost hidden by a thick mantle of ivy
cladding and now completely inaccessible

A few burials still took place in this churchyard right up to the early C20, but only one or two headstones can be seen.
Sadly it was impossible to negotiate through the centuries of heavily overgrown vegetation to find others…it reminded me of the fairy story of Sleeping Beauty’s castle! ... At one point I was on a slope hanging precariously to a trembling branch to retain an upright position, with scratches, nettle stings and insect bites to show for my efforts.
The things I do in the name of research!!

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