Wednesday, 21 March 2012

St Augustine, Brookland, Kent

Set in the flat and bleak landscape of Romney Marsh, Brookland church looks weirdly out of place. The distinctive belfry, with its three conical tiers of wooden shingles, might look more at home in the Balkans than in the Garden of England. According to legend, the belfry was originally located on the roof, but leapt from the church in surprise when an aged batchelor married an equally elderly spinster.

The adjacent church is a little more orthodox, although still interesting. The porch, with its wooden half-gates is charmingly rustic, and adjacent is a narrow, low tower with a clock. Dating from around 1250, the gothic nave is wide and spacious, and it has equally generous aisles. The scarily odd angles of the walls and arcade arches betray serious signs of subsidence, all adding to the charm (and betraying the real reason for not building the belfry on the church roof). It still retains its original box pews, some pretty 14th-century stained-glass windows, and a well preserved pre-reformation wall painting of the murder of Thomas a Becket.

The most notable furnishing is a Norman font, made of lead: reputedly stolen by a local raiding party from a church in France, it features the signs of the zodiac and pictures of rural life. Close by are other artifacts of rural life, including a set of weights and measures, an unusual portable porch (supposedly intended to keep the priest dry at funerals), and the clock mechanism, set at ground level for all to see.

But most poignant for me is the memorial erected to John and Mary Munn and ten of their children, all of whom predeceased them. It was erected by the only survivor, Henry. You can almost feel his plight.

High Street, Brookland, Romney Marsh, Kent TN29 9QR