The Buildings

St Margaret's, Darenth

St Margaret’s is a grade 1 listed building thought to have been built around 940AD. It is said to be the 6th oldest church in England and the 3rd oldest church in Kent and is mentioned in the Doomesday Book.

It is lucky to have an exceptional Norman font which is still in use for baptisms today and some interesting medieval wall paintings. The bells date back to the 15th century and are still in use athough they are no longer able to ring changes.

The building itself has a wide cross section of archtectural features which reflect the great age of the building. With a little perseverance reused carvings can be found built into the wall together with what are believed to be reused Roman roof tiles from the nearby Roman villa.

The churchyard contains some interesting graves including several war graves, a large number of Polish army graves and an uncommon grade 2 listed grave board.
The churchyard is available at all times however if you wish to visit the church outside the service times please contact the Vicar on 01322 227153 or click here and he will arrange for the Church to be opened for you. There is also guidebook to the Church available. 

Monuments

The church has numerous monuments that bear witness to 1000 years of village life. There are several small brasses including one to John Crepehege and his wife, who leased the Manor of Darenth from the Prior and Monks of Rochester in the 15thcentury.

Among the plain tablets is one to Algernon Fleet, who was churchwarden for 37 years and one to Thomas Tristram, churchwarden for 25 years. A modern addition in the choir, where he sat for many years, is tablet to the memory of Percy Widdows. A plaque on the book-case also commemorates Elsie Pankhurst.

These people may not have been famous in the modern sense but they devoted their lives to this ancient church and to the glory of God. So many times they must have sat in his house of God and admired that beautiful view towards the altar. We hope you also will be able to join in the peaceful beauty of this place of worship.

Edmond Davenport was a generous donor to the Church in the 1680's, the coat of arms of Charles II displayed in the Church was his gift, he also gave a chalice and paten to the church in 1682 but unfortunately both were stolen in the late 1970’s. His monument is built into the chancel steps.

It is believed that the pulpit was given to the church by William Lee, Surveyor of the Navy in the reign of Queen Anne, who lived in Gore House in the parish. Originally the pulpit was part of a three decker pulpit, the lowest level for the clerk, who led the responses; the next where the priest would sit; and the highest the preaching level. It has been moved several times since it was frist given to the Church which has resulted in its door currently being next to the wall!

The three windows at the east end of the sanctuary, one of which is pictured below, have stained glass in memory of Catherine Seager who died in 1848. They were installed by the well known Victorian church restorer William Burgess and are thought to be the work of his designer Albert Saunders

The glass in the large window at the east end of the south aisle is to the memory of Alexander Hassell and his wife, placed there in 1889. The stonework of this window was replaced and the glass re-leaded exactly 100 years later.

The Bell Tower

The bell tower, erected in the 13th. Century, has no structural staircase to reach the lower stages. There are three bells, one of which has no inscription but it is thought by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry to date from Circa 1400. The second one is inscribed ‘Stephanus Swan’ and dated 1609. The third was made by C&G Mears in Whitechapel in 1856.

The mounting for the bells, which had become unsafe, has since been repaired and strengthened. The bell ringers may thus again summon the faithful to prayer without fear for their own safety!

The room in the base of the bell tower was for many years used for storage, however it has been recently converted into a 'Lady Chapel'  dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and St John The Divine. This dedication is in part due to the fact that much of the materal used to furnish the chapel came, came by kind permission of the Bishop of Rochester, from the now disused Church of St John The Divine in Chatham. The room is small and peaceful and a perfect place just to sit and be silent, to pray and of course to light a candle. 

The chapel was formally blessed and dedicated by James Langstaff,  Bishop of Rochester at our service on Sunday 26th August 2012. The view below is taken through the door of the chapel and also displays the way in which the excess Laudian altar rails were used in the past to make a screen door for the tower space.
 
 

The Font

For a video tour of the font courtesy of Hannah at the Friends of Kent Churches click here

At the rear of the church, the most interesting feature is undoubtedly the font. In fact it is one of the most interesting fonts in Kent. It is Norman and made of Caen stone in the second half of the 12thcentury. It is 2’ 3” height and its outside diameter at the top is 2’9”.


It is decorated on its sides by eight semi-circular arcades and there has been considerable variants in the identification of the subjects.

A tale is told of an Archbishop in the reign of King Stephen being asked to consecrete the new font. He naturally asked for details and was told that the villagers had an excellent carver of stone who had created scenes both spiritual and pagan. This obviously alarmed the Archbishop although on hearing that one scene depicted a baptism he became less alarmed.

He was however less pleased with a scene that depicted a dragon until he was told that it was a scene from the legend of St. Margaret of Antioch who encountered the devil in the form of a dragon, whether it actually does or not remains open to interpretation.

A third panel depicted an archer which, it was pointed out, was the badge of King Stephen. Other panels depicted a lion, a griffin, a king with a harp (possibly King David), a figure with long hair and a crown and creature in mythology.

All in all the Archbishop was pleased with the font and promised to consecrate it. It is now a most important piece of Romanesque art.

 
 
 
 

St Mary's, Horton Kirby

The Parish church of St Mary the Virgin is situated in Horton Kirby and serves the villages of South Darenth and Horton Kirby with a population of some 3,350. It is a Grade II* Listed building, completed circa 1225 in a larger form than we see today. The church was built at the same time as Rochester Cathedral as both buildings share a stonemason's benchmark. In the 1970s the pews at the rear of the church were removed and replaced with chairs providing a flexible space which is normally set out in a cafe style, unless all 120 seats are needed for occasional servcies. In recent years we have provided tea and cake on Tuesday afternoons and in July and August we have served cream teas to raise funds and provide fellowship for the community.

We have a very small Mothers' Union branch which meets regularly and contributes to the work of Mothers' Union worldwide. We look forward to welcoming the new incumbent.

Following an electrical inspection at the request of Ecclesiastrical Insurance we have raised the funds to rewire St Mary's and provide new heating and lighting. We are planning to launch the 'Friends of St Mary's' during 2017 with the vision of providing funds for the upkeep of the fabric of the church.

We are very proud of the recently reinstated Ascension West Window. It was removed in 1938 as there were no funds to repair it and stored in the tower for 70 years. In 2011 a group of villagers decided to raise funds to reinstate it. The window also bears a dedication to Queen Elizabeth II's Jubilee in 2012, an example of how the villagers value the building.

There are 8 lovely bells at St Mary's and we ring for Sunday services and weddings and occasionally for funeral too. We are a happy band of ringers and after practice on a Thursday evening we adjorun to The Bull, our local hostelry. The ringers feel very much a part of the church community with members of the band being part of church projects. We look forward to meeting the new incumbent and welcoming them to visit the tower; although we'll admit the spiral staircase is a bit of a challenge.

Flowers play an important role in helping to make the interior of St Mary's vibrant and attractive to congregations and visitors. They are arranged weekly, where possible reflecting the seasons of the year. We hold a triennial, themed flower festival. All the arrangements are created by local volunteers and sponsored by local businesses and individuals.

 

St John the Baptist, Sutton-at-Hone

Our parish lies mainly on the west side of the river Darent, with some 4,250 residents. The first church was erected pre-1066 and was rebuilt in the early 14th Century. After a fire in the thatched roof in 1615, the building was restored. Much of the present day woodwork, including the pulpit, dates from that time. Charred timbers still remain in the old floor of the bell ringers' chamber. The stained glass windows were installed in 1862. The east window was damaged in the Second World War and restored using the original glass. The church has twelve hatchamnets (diamond shaped funeral panels) dating back to 1760, which are among the finest in this part of the country.

Within the church there is an impressive monument to a 16th Century resident and local benefactor, Sir Thomas Smythe. The monument was recently refurbished and the Skinners Company were most helpful in obtaining funding for this. The monument was rededicated on Advent Sunday 2014 by the Bishop of Riochester, The Right Reverend James Langstaff.

St John's is large enough to accommodate the School's 400 chirldren and can be reconfigured to host local choirs and other performers. We have also hosted Dartford Concert Band, Jazz evening and "The Benefice Has Talent".

The church owns Sutton Court, a large house with meeting rooms, a hall, small chapel, and a residential flat, set in extensive grounds, with parking. This plays a vital part in our village community life. It is home to our Messy Church which meets once a month and our weekly Carer and Toddler group. It is also used by a Senior's Tea and Chat club, Slimming World, Yoga Club, and Model Railway enthusiasts. It is often used for birthday parties, quiz nights and even wedding recepions with a marquee in its splendid grounds.

Sutton-at-Hone has a small library with a cafe which is a meeting point for all ages. There is an active Scout and Guide Troop and activites exisit for older people with an Acvtive Retirement Group and a Seniors Club