Windows into history

St Michael’s Church, which next year celebrates its 900th anniversary, declares its history not just in its stone and wood architecture, but in its windows too.

Two stained-glass windows in particular come from significant moments in the history of the village.  The oldest glass in the church can be glimpsed behind the right-hand choir stalls (Decani, for those choristers amongst our readers…), and dates from the fifteenth century. The Martyn Window, named after the family responsible for rebuilding the church at the time, was originally installed in 1447; the remaining glass owes its continued existence to the fact that it was apparently hidden on a nearby farm during the English Civil War.

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The Lady Chapel is home to a window from the Pre-Raphaelite Period, commissioned in 1877 from Henry Holiday (1839-1927), artist, illustrator, sculptor and stained-glass window designer who lived in Bayswater in London. Holiday’s windows can be found across the country, notably in Westminster Abbey and Worcester College, Oxford, to name but two. Holiday was also commissioned to illustrate Lewis Carroll’s famous The Hunting of the Snark. Holiday’s family were also friends of Emmeline Pankhurst, organiser of the Suffragete movement. The Pre-Raphaelites famously rebelled against the Royal Academy’s trumpeting of genre-painting and idealist depictions, urging rather an embracing of the natural world and an intense realism in art, led by William Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

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Pieces from a civil war and rebellious art: echoes of great history and its wider cultural connections quietly presented in this small corner of the world…

(Grateful acknowledgement of the information leaflet in the church for some of these details).

Recently unearthed documents provide a glimpse into Hernhill’s past

Recently unearthed documents relating to the village were on display in Hernhill Church last Saturday, affording a fascinating glimpse into the village’s history. Stored in a steel chest, to which the key had gone missing, the key recently came to light, and the treasure-trove of maps, letters, invoices and photographs was set out for visitors to examine.

There’s always something rather magical about coming into contact with archive documents, a physical, tangible manifestation of moments in history; artefacts which would have been touched, handled by people lost to memory, and the collection represented a brief moment for these lives to step out of the pages of history and into the light.

As expected for an area rooted in agriculture, there were documents relating to tithes and land ownership, included details from August, 1840, and a map of the area from 1913.

A map of the area, dated 11 October, 1918

There were plenty of letters relating to the village school, including a receipt for an insurance premium from 1935 for the princely sum of £2 11 shillings;

From the Second World War, letters to the then Headmaster, Mr S.B. Pritchard confirming the acceptance of the post of Divisional Commander to a Sea Cadet Camp in 1943; and most fascinatingly, details about the closure of the school for the wonderfully-named Whitsun and Fruiting Holiday period that same year.

There were also glimpses of mundane, pragmatic concerns that make up daily life, including a quote for cleaning and maintenance of the church clock in 1937.

There was also a wonderful Book of Common Prayer from 1785.

Also on display was the rather endearing Our Homes, a copy of an address given by the Rev W.D. Springett, former Rector of Pluckley and Rural Dean of East Charing and (at the time) formerly of Hernhill, which included photographs of the church,  given at the church in the afternoon of Sunday 12 December in 1915; a possible morale-boosting community event during the dark days of the Great War.

Memorial Church showing entrance: from 1915
Addition to churchyard: from 1915

All in all, the event was a marvellous look through a tiny window into the history of Hernhill and its people; thank you to all those who both organised the exhibition and who ran the event itself. Let’s hope these documents are preserved for future generations to enjoy.

Hernhill Christmas Craft Fair: Sat 12 November

Come and bag an early seasonal bargain at the Hernhill Christmas Craft Fair next week.

Between 10.30am – 4pm on Saturday 12 November, St Michael’s Church will be hosting the event, and there will also be refreshments and light lunches served, with all donations and profits in aid of the church.

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There will be additional parking in the yard opposite the village green on the day; get ahead of the crowds and find an early Christmas gift! Find out more about the church and its location here.