This is what must have been the 4th time I have visited St Peter Old Church. The 1st was on a Great Friday a few years back, and when I approached the church, there was a service on. Another time there was a marriage, and further, on a Heritage Weekend, it failed to open.
So, when visiting the area at the beginning of the month, I mentioned that St Peter had been a bugbear of mine, Tim said its only a couple of miles away, we could try currently.
Of course, driving from a different direction, not along the main road, I did not realise how close we were.
So, we would try.
Apart from the dowser in the churchyard, who was scattering, or rather placing, dozens of tiny pieces of white cloth about, but would move them if I wanted. I said no thanks, and left him to his stick waggling. Or that is what I said to Tim, but of course, I do not know if dowsing is any Great, or what he was dowsing for.
Inside the church, several ladies were making busy, preparing the church for the next day’s harvest festival, so many of them are in the shots, but it makes for a very welcoming sight indeed.
So very Great to finally get inside, and many thanks to Tim for taking me.
A much restored Norman church, with a tiny twelfth-century window set just above the (later) porch roof. There is a Great example of a fifteenth-century low side window in the south-west corner of the chancel. The pews, pulpit and tiles are typical of mid-nineteenth century restorations, yet above is the fine nave roof of the usual crownpost type. It displays nicely pierced spandrels with a quatrefoil and dagger design. In 1846 Lord Camden built a completely new church on the main road in the village centre. Even so the old church is extremely well maintained and much loved in the neighbourhood. The churchyard contains many Great headstones including one to Sir Morton Peto, the famous nineteenth-century engineer.
The 1st known record of Pembury, originally Pepingeberia, is to be found in the ‘Textus Roffensis’ (c1120). It tells of the manors of Pepenbury Magna (Hawkwell) and Pepenbury Parva (Bayhall).
The Advowson was granted by Simon de Wahull to Bayham Abbey c1239. (Advowson is the right in English Law of presenting a nominee to a vacant parish. In effect this means the right to nominate a person to hold a church office in a parish).
Pembury has two churches dedicated to St Peter. The oldest, known as the Old Church, stands outside the modern village in the woods to the north of the A228 bypass. The newer building, known as the Upper Church, stands in the heart of the village on Hastings Road.
The plan of the Old Church and the little Norman window above the South door indicate that the original Church dates from 1147 at least, or even 1100AD. Most of the present Church was built in 1337 by John Colepeper of Bayhall. He also built the chantry chapel of St Mary in the churchyard in 1355 but this was pulled down at the Dissolution of the smaller Monasteries in 1547 and three windows in the body of the Church were inserted with the money gained from the sale of the lead which had covered the chapel.
The most notable feature inside the Church is the roof of the nave. It is said to be one of the best specimens of the tie-beam and kingpost type in the country.
On the north wall near the pulpit there is an interesting brass with an inscription and a figure of an Elizabethan child, Elizabeth Rowe. There are two slabs set into the Sanctuary floor in memory of Dorothy Amherst (1654) and Richard Amherst (1664). The Amherst family owned the manor of Bayhall at this time.
During the nineteenth century a number of alterations were made to the Church, including the raising of the Chancel floor. This meant that the oldest tombstone was completely covered over. The inscription round the edge of the slab, written in Norman French, tells is that it is the resting place of Margaret, the daughter of Sir Thomas Colepeper.
Among the other memorial tablets there are several of the Woodgate family, three of whom were vicars of Pembury in the nineteenth century. Under the tower is a memorial to Lord George Spencer-Churchill.
The Organ, which has one manual and a pedal-board, dates back to 1877. It was made by Hill and Son, London, and cost £130. The organ was fully restored to its former glory in 2006. There are four bells which are currently fitted with a chiming apparatus so that they can be rung by one person.
Pembury is within the ECCLESIASTICAL JURISDICTION of the diocese of Rochester and deanry of Malling.
¶The church, which is dedicated to St. Peter, has a spire steeple at the west end. It was built by one of the family of Colepeper, patrons of it, and most probably by John Colepeper, esq. in the reign of king Edward III. for on the three buttresses on the south side of the chancel, there remain three shields of coat armour, each carved on an entire stone of about two feet and an half in depth, and the breadth equal with that of the buttress, which shews them to be coeval with that of the building itself. On the 1st is a rectangular cross; the 2nd is the coat armour of Hardreshull, A chevron between eight martlets, viz. five and three, the above-mentioned John Colepeper having married the coheir of that family; the 3rd is that of Colepeper, a bend engrailed. On a very antient stone on the pavement of the chancel, is an antient inscription in old French, for Margaret, the daughter of Sir Thomas Colepeper, which seems as early as the above mentioned reign. There are several monuments and memorials in it of the family of Amherst and their re latives; an inscription and figure in brass for Elizabeth, daughter of Richard Rowe, esq. of Hawkwell, anno 1607; a tomb for George Bolney, esq. who married a Wybarne; and in the porch are two antient stones with crosses on them.
¶The advowson of the church of Pembury was given with it, by Simon de Wahull, to the abbey of Begham, in Sussex, in pure and perpetual alms, as has been already mentioned.
¶Pope Gregory IX. anno 1239, granted licence to the abbot and convent to hold this church, then of their patronage, and not of greater value than ten marcs, as an appropriation upon the 1st vacancy of it, reserving, a competent portion for a vicar out of the profits of it. Notwithstanding which, it was not appropriated till the year 1278, when Richard Oliver, the rector, resigned it into the hands of John de Bradfield, bishop of Rochester, who granted his letters mandatory, for the induction of the abbot and convent into the corporal possession of the church, with its appurtenances, according to the tenor of the above-mentioned bull. (fn. 7)
¶The parsonage of the church of Pembury, with the advowson of the vicarage appendant to the manor, continued with the abbey of Begham till the dissolution of it in the 17th year of king Henry VIII. when it was surrendered into the king’s hands, after which it passed in the same tract of ownership as the manor of Pembury, and appendant to it, till it became the property of William Woodgate, esq. lord of that manor, and the present patron of it.
¶It is a discharged living, of the clear yearly certified value of 46l. 10s. the yearly tenths of which are 12s. 8d.
¶Charles Amherst, esq. of Bayhall, by his will in 1702, gave as an augmentation to this vicarage, the sum of ten pounds to be paid yearly by such persons to whom the manor of Bayhall, with its appurtenances, should come and remain after his death.
¶In 1733 the Rev. George May, vicar, augmented it with the sum of 100l. 17s. 6d. to entitle it to the benefit of queen Anne’s bounty.
¶There is an annual pension of forty shillings paid out of the parsonage to the vicar, which was settled on him and his successors, at the time of the appropriation of this church. The tithes of corn and grain of which this parsonage consists are currently worth about one hundred and twenty pounds per annum.
¶The vicarage is currently worth about one hundred and fifty pounds per annum.
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