The Parish Church of St Mary's Chilham
A HOUSE OF PRAYER
St. Mary's Church was mentioned in the Domesday Book in 1086. It is built on land once owned by an Anglo-Saxon called Sired who fought for King Harold at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. In King Stephen's reign in 1153 the church belonged to the Benedictine Abbey of St. Bertin, at St. Omer in France and was associated with the Priory at Throwley, 5 miles from Chilham. Then from 1444 until 1539 it belonged to Syon Abbey at Isleworth, Middlesex. It is now part of the Rural Deanery of West Bridge in the Canterbury Diocese.
The tower is 68 feet tall and has a magnificent view of the Downs, the beautiful Stour Valley, and even of the Bell Harry Tower of Canterbury Cathedral.
The clock was made in 1727 but only had the hour hand until 1790.
The fine peal of 8 bells weighs nearly 4 tons altogether. The vicarage was built in 1746 by the owner of the castle.
The last 100 years of the church a recent article from the Millennium Special Issue Parish Magazine according to it's Vicar Chris Duncan:
1900 to 2000
If a time-traveller from 1900 were to visit our Church today, I suspect that apart from the smell of and lack of oil lamps it would be little different from what they’d grown used to.
And yet a lot has gone on, and a lot of the detail has changed in these past 100 years. The organist sitting electrically detached from the organ, a new Clerestory window at the east end of the south aisle, sound amplification and a servery in the south porch, to name but a few. The ancient yew tree just a stump of its former self and the footpaths to both south doors of the Church now overgrown with grass in the Churchyard, and the addition of that poignant reminder both to human folly and to individual self-sacrifice and bravery the parish War Memorial recording the dead of two World Wars.
Looking to the future — our perceptions of people and of their needs have grown such that public buildings now provide for disabled access, as will our Church of St Mary, once we are able to re-open the west door in the north aisle, and move the table monument to Lady Margaret Palmer. The need for toilets at the Church should also be met in 2000, together with a secure Vestry and the provision of meeting space.
But all these only make any sense and have any validity if they allow the Church building to be a spiritual resource for all who enter here, visitors ~ and parishioners. A place where prayers are said faithfully and dutifully, and where the spontaneity of peoples worship is expected and accepted.
A place where anyone may resort in joy or sorrow to unburden with God or to sing his praise.
2000 years ago Jesus Christ obeyed our Father, lived God’s love and gave us the gift of new life; in 2000 and beyond his Church must live his example, shoulder his mission and continue to bring his love to our world.
Blessings in 2000,
Rev Chris Duncan