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St Mary's has a rich history
And a few unsolved mysteries....
The Church, which is dedicated to St. Mary, is a handsome building consisting of a body and two aisles. It has a high Chancel with two chapels, one of which on the South side is dedicated to St. Anne. There was a Chantry on the North side which was removed during the re-build of the East end of the Church in 1863. There is a tower steeple at the West end and a beacon turret, which until recently was topped with a small spire. The tower itself, built in 1534, houses a belfry with six bells and a clock. The Dover clock with one hand was installed in 1727, only to repositioned with the addition of the minute hand in 1790.
The Church is famous as the last known resting place of St. Augustine – The St .Augustine Sarcophagus can be found in the North Chapel. It also believed that St. Thomas Beckett is buried in the churchyard.
Within the Church there are fine memorials to the family members of the owners of Chilham Castle and prominent families from the surrounding villages.
A distinguished family in Chilham was that of Sir Dudley Digges and their burial vault is in the South side of the Chancel. Within this Chapel is the monument to Mary Kempe, wife of Sir Dudley. His mother, Anne St. Leger and brother-in-law Sir Anthony Palmer are buried within the altar rails. A memorial to his sister, Lady Margaret Palmer, was moved from St. Anne Chapel to the North aisle during the rebuild of the East end. In the body of the church are memorials for the Cumberlands, Paynes, Cobbes, Belkes and Bates; in the North transept, for Masters Petits, Spracklyns and Cobbe and, in the South one for Dixon. In the windows there were formerly the arms of Ensing/Esting and Thwayts and of Ross and Honywood. North side – probably where the old above-mentioned Chantry was, is a circular mausoleum topped with a cupola built by the Colebrooke family for their use.
There are the remnants of the steps to the Rood loft in the South Transept. The Rood Screen and Crucifix were removed at the time of Cranmer’s Depositions against the heretics in Kent in 1543.
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An Ancient history
That will be lost without your help
The church of St Mary, Chilham, was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 but has a history going back perhaps as far as the 7th century. In the 12th century, the church was owned by the French abbey of St Bertin, a Benedictine monastery at St Omer. It later passed into the hands of Syon Abbey, based at Isleworth in Middlesex.
The striking tower reaches 68 feet in height, affording far-reaching views. On a clear day, the towers of Canterbury Cathedral can be seen. Canterbury is only six miles away and the cathedral must not be missed on your visit.
Small fragments of medieval glass remain, Among these are sections bearing the arms of the Esting family (1347-1539) and the Roos, owners of the castle from 1364-1482.
In the north-east corner of the church is a rough sarcophagus of Purbeck Marble. This sarcophagus, of unknown date, was discovered underneath the north transept. It was hoped that it might prove to contain the lost shrine of St Augustine, but when it was opened in 1948 it was found to be empty.
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George M Kennedy C.B.E.
Friends of St Mary's Church Chilham
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