Welcome to the Church of Saint George
Wrotham's only church is in the centre of the village. The church is dedicated to Saint George; it dates back to the late 13th Century and its tower and porch were added in the 15th Century. Within there are some interesting old monuments and artefacts - however, the paucity of time required me to be selective when looking at them. However, this all sets the historical scene and indicates that St George's is definitely worth a visit, providing some of those essential cultural and historical ingredients that complement a good walk.
Of course, the fact that the church was open, was a cultural opportunity too good to miss. In addition, I even received a personal welcome from the vicar!
The church of Saint George is in down-town Wrotham. Opposite is another - but erstwhile - establishment spiritual in the form of the "Three Post Boys" pub.
The porch is larger than perhaps expected. On the first storey this porch has priest's room - probably overnight accommodation for a visiting priest.
In addition, Saint George has his statue set into the porch wall.
The boss on the porch ceiling is the crest of
the local Peckham family. The Peckhams occupied the nearby Yaldham manor for 14 generations until 1713. Their crest would "keep an eye" on all the parishioners as they entered for worship.
As you enter the church, you see that the nave points eastwards - as generally expected!
As you can expect, the history of a village is often reflected in its church monuments. The few monuments I managed to take in photographically, spanned the Middle Ages right up to early Victorian times. A number of them referred to apparently two very important families in the locality, namely the Peckhams and the Betensons, the latter even with connections to one Martin Folkes, a president of the Royal Society - of Christopher Wren and Charles II renown - no less. The wife of one of the many Rectors of Saint George's is also represented. All-in-all, some interesting snippets of local and national history.
In the quotes from the monuments I try to adhere to the original spelling and pronunciation, which linguistic aspects do not always accord with our own. Of course, it's also interesting to appreciate how English usage and the meaning of words have changed over the centuries. For example, words such as "ornament" and "pattern" appear in a context to which we are probably not accustomed in our neck of the early 21st century.
This stone floor slab is tough going when it comes to understanding the messages the brass inserts are intended to convey. Allow me to make a bit of a humble stab at the writing - you may be more proficient at such things and put my humble knowledge to shame!
It is written in Mediaeval Latin and opens as follows.
"Hic jacent Jacobus Pekhm armiger et Margareta uxor eius filia Thome Burgoyn ..."
which my modest 'O' Level Latin renders thus:
"Here lie Squire James Peckham and his wife Margery daughter of Thomas Burgoyne ...".
It goes on to say something about their departure from this world,
"? ? ? qui quidem Jacob? obiit xviii die Februarii aetatis sui
? ? et Margareta obiit die ____________ aetatis sui ? ? ______ ? ? ? deus"
"??? the very Jacob died on the 18th day of February aged
? ? and Margaret died on the ? , aged ? ? __________ ? ? ? God."
Here is a closer view of the text. As you see, before you even get to the Latin, it's a question of deciphering the letters!
Under the writing on the stone floor slab you see a crest with a dog (a talbot, which breed of dog is now extinct) and also the five kneeling ladies - five daughters (of someone!). Whether the daughters are connected with James Peckham and his wife or just happen to appear on the same stone slab as a result of the muddied waters of history, I know not! However, the talbot features on the crest of the Burgoyne family. James Peckham lived from ca 1346 to 1400; Margery was his first wife and by 1376 he had married his second wife.
give more details.
Fascinating stuff - for the likes of my humble self anyway!
Here is a closer view of the crest. A talbot occupies the right half of the crest. This gives credence to the fact that the talbot was absorbed into the Peckham crest by virtue of the marriage between James and Margery, since a talbot appeared on the crest of her father Thomas Burgoyne. So there you are - a little rummage around a corner of Mediaeval history over 600 years ago.
"Sacred to the Memory
of Mrs. LUCRETIA BETENSON the belov'd Wife of
RICHARD BETENSON Esquire only son of Sir EDWARD
BETENSON of this County Baronet. Her early Death
fix'd deep in the Breasts of her disconsolable Friends
an inexpressible and lasting Sorrow, as she was an
affectionate Wife, a sincere and steady Friend; ever
compassionate to the Sorrows and bountifull to the
Wants of her fellow Creatures; In a Word an amiable
Pattern of every christian Virtue; she was Daughter &
Coheiress of MARTIN FOLKES of Hillington in NORFOLK
Esquire who was President of the ROYAL SOCIETY and
distinguish'd by his extensive Learning, among the
brightest Ornaments of the Age."
"This Monument was erected by the Care
and Direction of the aforesaid
Richard Betenson Esquire."
[Lucretia Betenson 1721 - 1758, died aged 37]
"Sacred to the memory
Sir EDWARD BETENSON
of the County Baronet
Grandson of Sir JOHN RAYNEY
of the Town Baronet
who changed this Life
for a better November 24th 1762
Near the same place
lie deposited the Remains of
Dame URSULA his Wife,
who died 11th June 1763. Aged 67,
to whose memory this Stone
is inscribed by their affectionate
Sir RICHARD and HELEN BETENSON"
This is a monument to Sir Richard Betenson, presumably one of the above children. The details eluded my camera. Sorry! But on your walks, why not visit Wrotham Church to find out?
SECOND WIFE OF THE REVEREND GEORGE MOORE
RECTOR OF THIS PARISH
DIED DECEMBER 12TH 1840 AGED 59 YEARS
OH 'TIS AN AWFUL THING TO DIE.
'TWAS EV'N TO THEE YET THE DREAD PATH ONCE TROD
HEAV'N LIFTS ITS EVERLASTING PORTALS HIGH
AND BIDS THE PURE IN HEART BEHOLD THEIR GOD"
Religious subjects often grace church windows. In this way, parishioners are reminded of religious aspects in a colourful, yet dignified way. In these two Victorian windows, six of the saints provide the pictorial theme.
Here, from left to right are:
Saints James, Bartholomew and Jude.
Here, from left to right are:
Saints Simon, Andrew and Matthew.
(Saint Andrew carries the diagonal cross which characterizes the Scottish flag.)
The time has come to leave these fascinating links with England's past. A walk in England's green and pleasant countryside awaits. A last look at the nave and the church porch and then we head towards the Pilgrim's Way, itself steeped in history going back to Chaucerian times.
A last look at the nave ...
... before we reach the porch ...
... with its statue of Saint George proudly facing the 21st century world.
These pictures were taken by me on Sunday, 4th September 2016, on one of
Ralph's fine CLOG walks from Borough Green to Otford, to whose web page you might return from our visit to Saint George's Church. Thank you Ralph for suggesting and leading this walk. Thank you all for your good company on this walk.