Saturday, 18 April 2009

Joys of Churches

I love churches. Churches of all kinds, really, but especially little village churches which no one would think to visit, which have no special architectural or historical distinction in the grand sense. The closer you look, the more history you find, and the more it begins to seem important. Every stone speaks the soul of the place where it has stood for centuries, and yet there are always similarities and echoes of other places and other times; each church is individual, local, and at the same time belongs to everywhere.

There's probably a poem which expresses all that rather better, but I don't have one to hand at the moment. Instead, I have photographs. These are the fruits of a recent visit to the church of St James the Great in Elmsted, Kent. It's on the North Downs, between Canterbury and Folkestone. What are the joys of pretty churches?

Firstly, a view over the Downs - sheep and blossom:


Look at those windows! Apparently this three-part east end is typical of Kent churches (I can read guide books, you see) though I don't know if it's usual for it to be quite so mismatched...

What else? Churchyards, of course, have yew trees, hundreds of years old:

And dinky porches with little lamps, diamond windows, flint walls (now that is typical of Kent) and rather wonky wooden beams inside:

So much for the outside. Inside?

Light, stained golden:

The church is full of memorials to the Honywood family. The window below is in memory of Arthur Honywood, who died in 1880, aged 19, in Afghanistan while bearing the Queen's colours. The plaque underneath the window records that "When already badly wounded, he held the colours above his head and called on his men to rally with the words 'What shall we do to save these?'. The next moment the fatal shot came."

History, you see.