Saturday, May 14, 2022

St Mary in the Marsh, Kent

On the marsh, 2

Of the many churches on Romney Marsh, St Mary in the Marsh is now one of my favourites. Standing alone except for a pub and a small group of houses, it signals its presence with a lovely splay-footed spire, on which the shingles make the transition from the the upper steep slope of the spire to the lower splay with a satisfying curve. From a little nearer one can see a small church of grey stone and the red roof tiles so common in Kent and Sussex, mostly built in c. 1300. On either side of the porch, though, are two large later windows of two round-headed lights and dripstone in the shape of a shallow arch – the hybrid form of design is a feature of that late Gothic (but without pointed arches) that antiquarians used to sneer at and call ‘debased’. These two windows are said to have been inserted in around 1800. On making their acquaintance, I was inclined to ignore the antiquarians’ sneers and to like them, and to reflect that their clear glass should make for a pleasant, light interior.

And so it proves. Inside, the church is whitewashed, paved with quarry tiles, furnished with box pews, and topped with crown-post roofs. These elements suggest that there has been no Victorian restoration and that nothing much beyond discreet repair has been done to the building since the insertion of those two large windows. The arms of George III, vigorously painted on canvas, no doubt by a local artist, adorn the north aisle. The result is both beautiful and, as we stood there on a quiet spring afternoon, it exuded an atmosphere of spirituality that made one happy to be present.

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