Friday, March 27, 2009

Reculver, Kent


Close shave

Between Herne Bay and Ramsgate, near the remains of the Roman fort of Regulbium, not far from swathes of caravans, on a cliff overlooking the relentless sea stand the two towers of St Mary’s Reculver. They are what’s left of St Mary’s Abbey, a church begun in the Saxon period – in around 669 – by followers of the St Augustine who converted the southeast of England to Christianity. The church survived the battering of the waves, the Norman invasion (after which the towers were added), the ups and downs of the Middle Ages, the dissolution of the monasteries, and the rest of the upheavals that time threw at Britain until 1809. But in that year everything changed, as the Parish Clerk recorded and Pevsner relates: ‘Mr C. C. Nailor been Vicar of the parish, his mother fancied that the church was kept for a poppet show, and she persuaded her son to take it down.’

All except for the west front with its pair of towers. Trinity House, mindful that church towers are often useful markers for those journeying on land and sea, realized the value of the towers as a sea mark for passing vessels. So they took over the towers and restored them. Tall, small windowed, once topped with spires, the pair are lovely examples of the building of the early Norman period, with their plain walls recalling those of contemporary castles. They make a stunning sight, whether seen from the land side through the ruins of the rest of the church, or, still more romantically, glimpsed on their cliff from the sea.

6 comments:

Peter Ashley said...

I'm sure Reculver makes an appearance in a James Bond book, but I can't remember which one. I'm on more certain ground (I think)in that Reculver was connected to another Roman fort at Richborough by a waterway that created the Isle of Thanet.

Jennifer said...

It's Goldfinger. Goldfinger's house is nearby. To be really spoddy about it, James Bond stays in Ramsgate and plays golf at Sandwich. It's very Thanet based...

The caravan park right next to them is very bizarre I always thought.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Yes, of course, Goldfinger. Thanet Alloys. Thanks for sorting that out, Jennifer.

Ed said...

I remember a New Statesman competition many years ago where you had to write a limerick that began "There was an old man of Ulva" and it could not contain any rude words. One of the entries concluded with the words "... the mighty twin towers of Reculver", but I can't recall any more. I didn't know what what was being referred to until I read your posting. Thank you.

Wartime Housewife said...

I've never really got to grips with that part of the coast, despite living most of my life in London. This picture makes me want to run down there immediately.

Incidentally, while I'm here, I subscribe to your blog but I don't get notifications of new posts. Have I not pressed enough buttons?

Philip Wilkinson said...

WTHW: I think what may be happening is that Google Blogger has a few cogs and connections missing here. I don't think it's your fault for not clicking enough buttons, but I'm not quite sure how to put it right, either. I'll look into it, though, and see if there's anything I can do.