Popped in to see St Mary the Virgin in Fordwich after doing that traditional Sunday activity of visiting the DIY shop. This is one of seventeen Kent churches entrusted to the care of the Churches Conservation Trust, a charity who sole function is to ensure that the historical and material aspects of local Churches is maintained and that they can remain open to the public.
Fordwich sits comfortably and sleepily on the banks of the Stour as it winds it’s way to the sea. The present town bears very little relation to the buzzing place it must have been when it served as the main port for the arrival of Caen stone from France during the Norman reconstruction of the nearby Canterbury Cathedral in 12C and 13C. Nowadays it’s main claim to fame is that it is the smallest place in the country to have a Town Council and it also has two fine pubs one of which is conveniently opposite the miniscule Town Hall!
Having negotiated my way past innumerable gravestones I arrived at the Church door. The church itself is very much more substantial than the Romney Marsh building I visited last Sunday and the setting is no where near as unique but that said it does have some interesting features. I guess from an historical point of view the sarcophagus (that supposedly once contained the remains of St Augustine of Canterbury) is of note. dating from 1100, it is carved with columns and with fishscale tiles on the sloping top making it look a bit like a Greek temple but but beyond that the thing itself is pretty featureless.
The painting (1688) above the tympanium represents the Royal Arms of William III and Commandments but the best thing about it is the way it exactly follows the shape of the chancel arch below and so serves to emphasise the architectural structure of the building as well as to remind us to be good and pious.
And then there is the fine hand-pumped organ with a large lever protruding from the rear which, no doubt, someone who didn’t pay enough attention to the commandments above the Chancel Arch was obliged to pump up and down until given the signal to stop from the organist.
And finally, the crowning glory has got to be the curious bully-beef tin hooked on the side of one of the pews. It certainly never had the honour of holding any relics but what a fantastic piece of folk art – and I have no idea what it was made to hold!