Thursday, 30 July 2015

St Peter & St. Paul at Upper Hardres.

I made a short visit to the church of St. Peter & St. Paul last night, organised by David Eaves, a very knowledgable friend. The church dates from at least the 14th century and is in the hamlet of Upper Hardres, south of Canterbury. As is often the case nowadays, the size of even the small parish churches argues that the local population was greater many centuries earlier.

Cruck-type arch for the chancel.
Like many of the churches in this area it is built in flint but I was surprised to find that the chancel was supported by a wooden arch rather than stone. This appeared to my unknowledgeable eyes to have been constructed on the 'cruck' principle often used for rustic cottages. This was a system whereby in order to ensure that an arch was symmetrical, a curved tree trunk was split lengthways and the two halves joined together, one making the mirror image of the other.

Bracket Brass of John Street, 1405.
Set into the floor of the chancel David showed us a monument dating from 1405. It represents the vicar, John Street, kneeling to pray and the words of his prayer are fed on a ribbon upwards towards the two figures at the top who represent St. Peter and St. Paul – they being the saints to whom the church is dedicated.
David's rubbing of the bracket brass.
It is called a 'bracket brass' because the two figures are placed on a bracket at the top. This is a very English design; the contemporary continental practice, as often represented in our area by the Huguenots, was for the monument to be a solid rectangle of brass, usually carrying much more complicated and 'busy' decoration. Few of these bracket brasses now remain.

Luckily for us, David had brought along a rubbing that he had made of the brass when he was a teenager. The detail is far more apparent even if my photograph is a little blurred.

As I cycled back down the hill to the old Roman road, Stone Street, which leads back into Canterbury, over to my left I could hear the distant roaring of a combine harvester as it frantically combed the acres in advance of the coming rain.

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