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.
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.
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.