Romney Marsh has got to be one of my favourite places in Kent. The silent and bleak desolation is contrasted only by the endless groups of sheep nibbling at the grass and the plaintive bleats from the new lambs. Yesterday was a gloriously sunny day so it was a perfect time to visit St Thomas a Beckett Church near Fairfield. Apparently (according to Simon Jenkins) this is one of Kent’s most visited churches and it is in a wonderful location so one can easily understand why but if you strip out the setting, the building itself is rather plain and uninspiring.
The church now sits isolated and alone amongst the sheep and the steady trickle of visitors most of whom seem to park on the road, walk to the church and then back to their cars to drive off without stopping. I found the atmosphere there quite compelling and was really struck by the amazing silence that surrounds the place.
The sign on the gate says that the Church key is available at the nearest house. I was very happy to find the large key hanging next to the back door of said house. No security, just a small note saying to please replace the key after use – wonderful. And it was a fine looking key too!
There has been a church on this site since the 13C but all the associated houses have long gone. The existing church structure was restored in about 1910 after it had become virtually derelict so all the exterior brickwork and roof is from that date which gives it quite a early 20C feel but the interior has certainly retained some of the original timbers. It also has some marvellous (and very recently painted) box pews, a fine split pulpit and a lead font but I guess even taking these into account the best thing about this church is without doubt it’s location which is utterly unique.