Church History
Bell

Statuette of St George

Arms of the Peckham Family





Rood Screen
Rood Screen

13th  Century Font


13th  Century Piscina
Monuments




St George's Church,
Wrotham, Kent






St. George's is a generously proportioned late 13th century church with a 15th century tower and porch.  It is a Grade I listed building.  The Church dominates the village square at the centre of Wrotham, a village of just under 800 households and some 2,500 inhabitants, lying on the Pilgrims Way.  St. George’s is the only place of worship in the village.  It is the second church to be built on the site – the first dating back to the middle of the 10th century - and has always been dedicated to St George, which was relatively rare at the time of its consecration. 

The Tower, Bells and Clock

The Tower

The 15th century tower appears to dominate the whole village, rising as it does almost directly from the road.  The tower has angled buttresses and a NE stair turret. It has a passage through the base of the tower, unique to Kent and relatively rare in England, with three bay rib vaulting.  The passage was probably made to allow the annual Corpus Christi procession around the Church without needing to go outside consecrated ground, as the tower forms part of the western boundary of the churchyard.  On the west side of the passage there is a large piece of sandstone with curious marks.  These were probably made by archers sharpening their arrows on the stone on their way to the butts for archery practice.  Alternatively they may be remnants of crosses which were often incised on external walls or perhaps wear from pilgrims marking what might have been a holy stone with the sign of the cross.

The Bells

The peal of eight bells is reputed to be one of the best in Kent.  The number at one time was six, but increased to eight in the mid 18th century.  It is recorded that at a Vestry meeting in 1754, when repairs were being made to the tower, that "the six bells be taken down and carried to some foundry or other proper place and there melted down or cast into a complete peal of eight, with such additions of new metal as may be required.” These eight were again recast in time for the coronation of King George V in 1911.

The Clock

The clock was made in 1614 and is probably one of the oldest church clocks in the country.  It is still in excellent mechanical order.  It has a carillon (repeater) and is capable of playing one of five selectable tunes at selected hours.  The tunes were originally all hymns but in 1754 a popular song of the time "The Captain with his whiskers, took a sly glance at me." was substituted for one of the hymns.  In 1968 the clock winding mechanism was "improved" so that it could be wound by electric motors rather than hand winding which had to be carried out daily.  This was done without making any alteration to the clock mechanism.

The Porch

The Church has a two storied 15th century south porch. 

In the niche over the entrance to the porch is a statuette of St George by Willi Soukop RA.  It was exhibited at the Royal Academy before being placed in its present position and replaces a statuette that was stolen in 1971.

On the central boss of the vaulted ceiling of the porch can be seen the arms of the Peckham family who held Yaldham manor in the Parish for fourteen generations up to the year 1713.  Over the porch there is a room, sometimes called a parvise or priest's room, which was probably used as overnight accommodation for visiting priests.  The room is approached by a stone turret staircase from the south aisle of the Church. 

Interior

The interior comprises the nave, a north and south aisle, chancel and vestry.

The nave, the gabled aisles and the chancel all date from the late 13th century.  The nave is divided from the aisles by circular arcade pillars and double-chamfered arches.  The north arcade is made up of four arches and is simpler and more early English in character than the south arcade.  The south aisle was built slightly (perhaps 50 years) later and is made up of only three more widely space arches, including a very wide east one - perhaps to accommodate a rood loft structure.  The demi-octagonal responds at the western end of the arcades are perpendicular in style - probably contemporary with the tower - and are bevelled in a manner that is unusual in Kent and more commonly found in the Cotswolds.  The tall tower arch at the west end of the nave is also in perpendicular style.  The chancel arch has mouldings identical to those of the south arcade.  The late 13th century chancel was restored in 1860-61.  The vestry, situated on the north side of the sanctuary, is in late perpendicular style, probably dating back to the beginning of the 16th century.

North Aisle

The tomb situated on the north wall of the north aisle is the oldest in the church and reputed to be that of the founder of the church, Richard de Wrotham.  On the same wall, there is a curious bulge in the masonry about three or four feet above floor level.  Some believe that this was intended to act as a support for "sickly worshipers" as there appears to be no structural purpose for this additional masonry.

An unusual medieval feature is the raised dais at the east end of the aisle which is contemporary with construction of the north aisle.

Windows

The windows in the main have been heavily renewed or, as in the case of the south and north windows in the chancel, replaced during the 19th century.  None of the stained glass is particularly old – mainly 19th century with some 18th century glass in the south aisle. 

However, the east window is worthy of mention.  The window is of Portland stone and was brought in 1952 from the church of St Alban's, Wood Street in the City of London, where it formed the west window of that church prior to the 1940 air raids.  St.Alban’s was badly damaged and subsequently all of the church, apart from the tower, was demolished.  It is thought to have been designed by Sir Christopher Wren when St Alban's was rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1666, but may have been the earlier window designed by Inigo Jones in 1633-34 which may have survived the fire.  The previous window at St.George’s was a memorial window installed in the 19th century of Bath stone and had weathered badly. It collapsed and for some time the window was blocked up.

Side Altar

The altar in the south aisle was known as the altar of our Lady of Pity - one of the Peckhams requested that her body “might be laid to rest in front of the statue to our Lady of Pity in Wrotham Church".  The rerodos above the altar was designed by Sir Ninian Comper in 1907.  It is a beautiful example of his work and frames a painting with blue-robed, rose-chapleted angels of the Wilton Diptych.  The rerodos is flanked on each side by riddles and curtains.

Rood Screen

The rood screen is 14th century, with square headed lights.  It is capped by a later plinth and seven candlesticks which are believed to be 18th century.  The original rood loft would have been removed during the Reformation, but the staircase that led to it remains and can be accessed from a doorway at the north east corner of the south aisle.

Nuns Gallery

The staircase leading to the rood loft continues to a passage running above the chancel arch from the south to the north aisle, with openings looking both east and west into the Church.  This highly unusual feature of enigmatic purpose is referred to as the Nuns Gallery, but how the name originated is unknown.  There has been much speculation about its purpose – it was possibly used to light lanterns/lamps which illuminated the Rood below, or it could have been a place which enabled people to watch over relics that may have been placed at the Altar when Archbishops stayed at the adjoining Archbishop’s Palace.

The Font

The font dates from the 13th century and probably dates back to the original church on the site.  It is octagonal in shape and remarkable because it has two shallow sunk panels on each of its eight sides.  Each of these panels probably contained a carving of a single figure, but they have all been effaced.  The bowl is supported by eight columns which are a later addition and may have replaced earlier columns.

Pulpit

The 19th century pulpit is considered by some to be the finest feature of St. George’s.  The pulpit is constructed of stone with marble and alabaster shafts and supported by a well carved group of large angels.  It was designed by Newman & Billing in 1861 and was erected by the Rev. C. Lane (Rector from 1845 to 1879) in memory of his daughter, Blanch Emma Lane.  Prior to this there was a Jacobean oak pulpit that was sold for 10 shillings and is now in a church in Sevenoaks.

Piscinas

The 13th century piscina on the south wall of the sanctuary is one of the Church’s most telling original features, with its cinquefoiled ogee arch and hood-mould with a ballflower base making a rare appearance in south east England.

There is an identical piscina on the east wall of the south aisle but without the hood-mould.  The piscina situated at the east end of the north aisle is in similar style, but is not thought to be in its original position.

Just inside the porch door on the south side there is a stoup in 13th century style.  On the same wall there is another niche which may been an aumbry or piscina. 

Floor Brasses

There are a number of brasses recessed into the floor in front of the chancel screen.  These include brasses in respect of (i) Thomas Nysell. (d 1498) and wife Alice, (ii) John Burgoyne (d 1500), (iii) Thomas Peckham (d 1515) in armour and wife Dorothy (d 1512) (a will extract states that he was "to be buried in the church of St George at Wrotham before the Rode besyde my wife), (iv) Reynold Peckham in armour (d 1552) and wife Joyce (d 1523) in a heraldic mantle, (v) James Peckham (d 1532) and wife Agnes, (vi) Wm. Clerk (d 1611) and wife Ann and 12 children, and (vii) Elizabeth Crispe (d 1615) in modish dress. 

Monuments

There are also numerous wall monuments, which include (i) on the north wall of the north aisle, monuments to the Betenson family – the monument to Lucretia Betenson who died in 1758, incorporates a bust in relief on  draped roundel set on a slightly concave background with a crumply top,(ii) a monument to Robert Rychers (d 1588) – black marble incised slab of kneeling family set in alabaster architectural framework, (iii) monument erected in 1661 to Nicholas Miller – a black tablet with a bust facing between the points of a white open pediment, and (iv) on the south and north walls of the chancel are a pair of standing monuments in mixed styles to Harriot Moore (d 1840) and George Moore (d 1845) – these monuments are marble reliefs of sarcophagi and draped urns under heavy crocketed gables. 

There is also a Benefaction Board situated on the north wall of the tower ringing chamber.  It has a surround of fern-leaves sprouting at right angles and is late 17th or early 18th century.

The Organ

The current Organ was built in 1883 by Forster and Andrews of Hull and is situated on the north wall of the chancel. It is over 30 foot tall and is pierced by one of the tie beams of the chancel roof.

 

November 2014

 

                  SOME RECENT INCUMBENTS OF ST. GEORGE’S

 

GEORGE MOORE, MA

Collated 2 September 1800, on resignation of the last. He was installed Canon in the sixth Prebend of Canturbury 10 February 1795 . In 1801-2 he rebuilt the rectory (now Court Lodge), from designs by Samuel Wyatt. His second wife was Harriet Bridges (whose sister was married to Jane Austin’s brother).

 

CHARLES LANE, MA

Collated December 1845, on death of the last. Previously Rector of Deal, he was for 3 years Rural Dean of Sandwich and after his collation to Wrotham held a similar position in the Shoreham Deanery. In 1869 he was appointed Hon. Canon of Canterbury. In the year 1861 he carried out a complete restoration of this church.

 

TONY SMITH

Instituted 2nd June 1978 on resignation of last.  During his incumbency extensive alteration was carried out in the Sanctuary and Chancel. 

The existing Riddel screen was removed and the curtain arranged along the east wall, making it possible to celebrate Holy Communion westward facing.  Old and dilapidated choir stalls and seating were replaced and access made to the small door in the south wall.  A communion rail was installed in the Lady Chapel.  Much of this work was done by the Rector himself.  Other repairs and alterations in his eleven years included the total repair of the south aisle floor, the repair to the font cover support, and extensive repair to the roof after the storm of September 1987.  Much greater use of the north aisle for exhibitions was inaugurated in his term, as well as the beginning of the Garden of Remembrance in the north area of the churchyard.  During the last eight years of his incumbency he served as Rural Dean of Shoreham.

 

GILBERT ALAN ROBSON, MA

Instituted 13 July 1989 on resignation of last.  During Alan Robson’s incumbency, the pews in the North Aisle were found to be badly infested.  These were removed and chairs replaced them in part.  The balance of the space previously occupied by the pews became an area where the very young members of the congregation could be busied during Service.  A new communion table, lectern and prayer desk were made from the ninety year old altar that formerly stood in the North Aisle by the previous incumbent and consecrated as such.  Just before the completion of this incumbency a large wooden crucifix was installed on the East Wall of the North Aisle by the Bishop of Tonbridge.

 

HEATHER WINIFRED TURNER 1995-2002

Instituted 30 October 1995.  Licensed as Priest-in-Charge on resignation of last. Heather Turner was the first person not to hold the position of either Rector or Vicar.  Her duties as Parish Priest which were intended to occupy half of her time were combined with her Chaplaincy to the Deaf for the Diocese of Rochester.

During her incumbency substantial repairs and additions were made to the Church’s electrical and heating systems.  The floor brasses were also repaired and reset by a conservator.  She was instrumental in raising funds for grills to protect the stained windows on the North and East side of the Church which had become the targets of Vandals.  

BRENDA HURD 2002-2014

Instituted Priest-in-Charge 2002-12, Rural Dean of Shoreham 2006-11 and Rector from 2012-14

EDWARD WRIGHT 2015

Instituted 2 September 2015 as Rector













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Two Storied 15th Century South Porch


Nave with double-chamfered arches










East Window



Comper Rerodos


Nun's Gallery Staircase
Nun's Gallery
19th  Century Pulpit
Floor Brasses