Few people visit parish churches, even for the landmarks of life. This puts their future in peril, but it does have its advantages. You have a tremendous building to explore and, normally, a nature reserve in the churchyard in which one can relax and listen to the birds and insects. Sitting to write this on a bench overlooking the downs from Wye churchyard is blissful.
All Saints Boughton Aluph was sadly locked, but the churchyard and the exterior are well worth visiting. They’ve even come up with a novel way to make Portaloos look nice. We are in Alfred Deller land here- he and his wife buried in the churchyard and his son Mark does vast amounts of local music making. The building is set up high by the manor and has a wonderful view on this glorious spring day. The building is a dilapidated animal, legs creeping out underneath its vast stone belly.
Above – The church and Alfred Deller’s grave
Erecting a large, robust tower was clearly ‘in’ in these parts- perhaps the Normans needed to be especially butch here to show their control. The medieval tower over the hills in Wye is especially hilarious. I read in the guide that when the church fell down in the 17th century, the new tower took the place of the entire nave. The church of St. Gregory and St. Martin really is quite a surprise. One expects the interior to match the grandeur of the tower, but one is confronted within (alongside a mercifully cool climate) with a chancel one would expect in a Dutch church, rather than a medieval Kentish/Victorian combination. The effect is really rather Farrow and Ball… but it really does impress.
Above – Wye church tower and chancel
I finished off by nipping to Brook in a hurry, realising with dismay that I had been there before and had a hearty Sunday lunch in the local pub followed by a massage in Ashford overlooking the M20. Quite how that could have slipped my mind is beyond me. The church must have been locked as surely those wall paintings would have stuck in my mind. They are in top condition and the combination of them and the plain stone altar and chancel is sincerely moving. How blissful that I am the only one in the church, but what a tragedy that it is that this building does not have wider use.
Above – the church in Brook. The wall paintings and the bare interior. Get lunch down the road or even get an ice cream in the posh garden centre as I did. Those paintings are some of the most complete in England and there are exquisite 14th century floor tiles. I also saw an odd hole in the wall, called an hagioscope, which is for people to peek in the church to gaze at the altar. Different times…