Friday, 3 July 2009

St Michael, Playden

Playden is today almost a suburb of Rye, and passes almost unnoticed by those driving along the A268. But it is mentioned in the Domesday book (as “Plaidenham”), and has a fine – and largely unrestored - late 12th century church, tucked just off the main road.

From the outside, the most notable feature is the slender shingled broach spire, atop a robust Norman tower. The interior betrays the change from round Norman arches in the three easternmost bays of the nave, to Early Gothic arches in the westernmost bay, and under the tower. A small Norman window in the north aisle also testifies to a possibly older past.

But its treasures are its fittings: first amongst equals is the rare but astonishing decorated gothic wooden screen between the north aisle chapel and the tower. This has complex ogee work forming medallions above turned columns, and is believed to date from around 1310. The chancel is screened by a later Perpendicular screen, simpler but still handsome. Under the tower itself is an ancient ladder – there is no staircase – which has been dated to 1686. Alas, it is no longer safe to use.

Finally, in the north aisle is an unusual memorial stone, featuring two casks and a crossed matchstick and fork. It commemorates a Flemish brewer, Cornelis Roetmans who was buried here in 1530.

Playden, on A268 1 mile north of Rye.

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