Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Brookland, Kent

Brookland has one of the most extraordinary churches on Romney Marsh, a place where several remarkable churches punctuate broad, windswept vistas of sky and greenery. The most unusual feature of the church is the one you see first, as you arrive: the belfry. This is wooden, shingle-clad, octagonal, and, as Pevsner rightly says, like three candle-snuffers stacked one on top of another. It is also detached from the main structure of the church.

A few other Kent churches have spires with a similar profile, but none a detached monster like this. What is it doing here? A good guess would be that the ground hereabouts isn’t very firm and the builders were unwilling to risk a heavy stone tower, which might have subsided and collapsed. The ancient arches of the church interior certainly lean a lot. A lightweight wooden structure was probably a safe option and the belfry seems to be as old as the church – the lower timbers of the octagon are apparently 13th century while the upper ones were added or renewed some 200 years later.

The church itself is as interesting as the belfry. A wooden porch leads into a large space, with two rows of outward-leaning arches (late-13th to early-14th century) lit by windows full of clear glass. Highlights in this light, spacious interior include a lead font (on which figures illustrate the Signs of the Zodiac and the Labours of the Months) plus 18th-century furnishings such as a large two-decker pulpit and box pews. The church escaped the more extreme restoration activities of the Victorians, and is still packed with interest, a wonderful tribute to the ingenuity of medieval carpenters and to the parishioners who have cared for it for more than 700 years.


Peter Ashley said...

That porch is a winner too. Not only like a pair of barn doors, but also having something of equine blinkers about them. A horse well and truly bolted to its stable, very Romney Marsh.

Anonymous said...

I came across this church last year whilst touring the marsh. I chatted to the restorer who was creating a new tester for the pulpit - I think he was making it out of an old table top. Don't miss the lead zodiac font.

Anonymous said...