The Church of All Saints, Boughton Aluph
A short history (CURRENTLY UNDER REVISION)
The origins of the church at Boughton Aluph can be traced back to Anglo-Saxon times, when Bocton, as the area was then known, was held by Earl Godwin and his son, King Harold.
After the Norman Conquest, in 1066, it became one of the manors of Eustace, Earl of Boulogne. This was confirmed in the Domesday Book of 1086, which went on to describe how Boltune - formerly Bocton - lay in the lathe of the men of Wye and in the hundred of Wye. The land was rated for taxation purposes as having seven and a half sulungs, a sulung being what would be called today a family farm. There was land requiring thirty-three teams of oxen, with eight oxen to a team, for its proper cultivation. The lord of the manor had three teams, while the villeins or feudal tenants, who numbered sixty-seven, together with five bordars or cottagers, had among them thirty teams. There were seventeen slaves, who were probably criminals. There was a church and two mills that were either water- or animal-driven, with an annual rental value of seven shillings and two pence. There were twenty-six acres of meadow, which were presumably beside the river, while the woodlands of the manor had sufficient acorns and beech mast to support two hundred pigs
Some ancient cellars under the farmhouse near the church and traces of masonry that have been found in the grounds probably mark the spot where the Earl’s steward lived, although the actual fabric of the building is thought to be of later date.
By 1210, the manor had passed to Alulphus of Boctune. He is believed to have replaced the Anglo-Saxon church, which would have been largely constructed out of wood, with the building that is the present day north chancel. Alulphus is still remembered for the fact that he gave his name to this manor nearly eight hundred years ago and the parish has been called Boughton Aluph to this day.
The manor passed in due course to Stephen de Bokton and on his death in 1288 it was divided between his three daughters. By 1310 however, it had been reunited under Maud de Burghersh, grand-daughter of Stephen. She first married Sir Walter de Paveley, and then, in about 1329, Sir Thomas de Aledon who was Yeoman at the court of King Edward III.
Sir Thomas was a well-known figure in Kent at that time. Amongst other things, he was responsible for building a wall and dyke to protect tenants’ lands in Wittersham, Rolvenden, Iden and Peasmarsh from encroachment by the sea. During his tenure of the Manor extensive enlargement of the church took place. The presence in the windows of coats of arms, some of which are known to have been there 300 years ago, suggests that he received financial aid for his grandiose schemes from the Royal Household and from holders of other manors with whom he was connected as King’s Yeoman.
The arms of Edward the Black Prince, John of Gaunt and Lionel, Duke of Clarence, who were all members of the family of Edward III, are still there in the windows.
The figures in the centre of the east window are supposed to represent Edward III and Queen Philippa. The head of a woman in the south-east corner of the chancel is said to be that of the Fair Maid of Kent, wife of the Black Prince. There is another bracket, with the carved head of an angel, on the east wall of the vestry.
The original south transept window was damaged during the second world war and subsequently bricked up in 1957; it was reputed to have borne the coats of arms of many noble and notable people of the time. How this window has now been completely rebuilt is described at the end of this booklet.
Painted glass in the west window, north transept window and east window of the chancel is ancient – the Coats of Arms of the Black Prince, Edward I, John of Gaunt and Lionel of Clarence are all depicted. In the British Museum there are two manuscripts concerning the glass in All Saints. The first, dated 1620, states that nearly all the windows were adorned with painted glass, but that by some eighty years later, most of this had disappeared. This change was presumably brought about by the depredations during the Commonwealth.
The construction of the present day church started well before the Black Death ravaged England in 1348, when there must have been still a consid- erable population dependent on the four local manors. It is evident from the differing styles of building that the major work was undertaken in at least three stages. The first phase was the original church, which now serves as a vestry, and the second phase, the present chancel, followed soon after. The south wall of the original chapel was pierced and an arcade was built to allow access from the original church into the newly constructed chancel. Three circular columns supported the arcade, each having different capital mouldings. All this building was completed in the 13th Century. The main body of the present church was built in the 14th Century, being interrupted by the Black Death.
The vestry is separated from the north transept by a carved wooden screen dating from the 14th century. In the vestry are the oldest and only remaining original windows, on the north side - two lancet windows, one on each side of the doorway, and two two-light windows.
In the earlier years of the church’s existence, the Decorated style was already in use. The small window openings of that period with their beautiful tracery should be noted; the walls were dominant and the window openings were subsidiary, as can be seen in the chancel. After the time of the Black Death, alterations were made: the windows now became dominant
and the walls no more than a framework to support them. Traces of the original windows are still visible, most notably the one on the south side of the chancel next to the pulpit. This was blocked off when the outside staircase to the new tower was built. In about 1820, however, most of the large windows were reduced in size and brick mullions and tracery were inserted, as can be seen from outside the nave, particularly on the north side.
Several features survive from the Catholic Middle Ages: the aumbry (a recess in the wall next to the altar, for church vessels), three pisca- nae (or stone basins), a sedile (or priest’s seat) and outside, a pedes- tal on the gable end of the chancel, which probably held the figure of a saint.
POINTS OF INTEREST
The wall painting in the north transept, which was conserved in 1997, dates from about 1440 and depicts the Holy Trinity. During the Commonwealth, it was whitewashed over and a wall monument in memory of Capt. Robert Moyle was placed in front of it. In 1893 the monument was taken down and unfortunately broken in the process and it now lies on the floor, awaiting repair, until other more essential restoration work has been completed.
Unusual features are the step down from the level of the nave into the chancel, and a few encaustic tiles in the floor of the vestry, which are similar to some found in Canterbury Cathedral.
The recently re-opened south porch contains a feature, which is believed to be unique and may be attributable to the church’s historic position astride the Pilgrims’ Way. The porch was adapted as a shelter for wayfarers by the building of a beautiful Tudor-style fireplace with herringbone hearth and backing. It is said that on the last stage of the journey from Winchester to Canterbury, pilgrims rested here until
there were enough of them to brave the onward road through King’s Wood, which was known to be infested with robbers.
A list of the priests of the church of All Saints hangs on one of the pillars in the nave. The first recorded name is William de Cirencester, circa 1260, in the reign of Henry III.
Mention was made earlier of Maud de Burghersh, grand-daughter of Stephen de Bokton, and it is interesting to note that Robert de Burghersh, her brother, was Rector of All Saints in 1308.
An inventory of parish churches in Kent dated 1552 refers to the steeple of the church in which bells were hung. This may have been altered or increased in height later as there is indication in the fabric of the tower of additional work being done in 1640. It is thought that there were five bells, the largest being ‘Gabriel’; all were sold after a fire in the tower and the story is that ‘Gabriel’ was melted down for tokens to commemorate the Festival of Britain in 1952. The bell frame still remains in the tower.
In front of the altar rails there are known to have been two monumental brasses. One of these was certainly of a priest but both have long since disappeared. The church registers, which date from 1558, include this note – “February 18th, 1723. The Church Clerk broke the brass effigies of a minister off the gravestone in the south chancel. He was turned out of his place for this crime.” It is presumed the other brass was removed some time before this date.
Two other references in the registers are to vandals breaking into the church in 1552 and 1700. On the first occasion some vestments and altar cloths were stolen, but on the second “they were disappointed of their prey.”
In the mid-fifteenth century the manor of Boughton came into the hands of Sir Walter Moyle, who bought much land in Kent, including the Eastwell estates. Until his mansion was built in Eastwell Park he lived at Buckwell, still to be seen half a mile from the church. Sir Walter’s eldest son inherited the Eastwell Estates and his descendants became the Earls of Winchelsea. The second son retained Buckwell, where his descendants lived, but in 1699 the heiress married a man named Breton. The Moyles and later the Bretons were the lay rectors and sometimes vicars of Boughton Aluph until the mid-nineteenth century. The earlier chancel in the north east of the church (now used as a vestry) is known as the Moyle Chapel and here many of the Moyles are buried. There are two interesting monuments with fascinating epitaphs; to Sir Robert Moyle, who died in 1661, and to his sister, Amye Clarke, née Moyle, who died in 1631. The carving of the shroud on the latter memorial is considered to be very fine and is believed to be the work of William Wright, who worked near Charing Cross. Some of the heraldry on the tomb is also found in the funeral hatchment on the wall of the Moyle Chapel.
The memorial to Thomas Austin on the east wall of the chancel, behind the altar, is thought to have been carved by Garret Christmas or his sons, John and Mathias, who were carvers and monumental masons at Chatham Dockyard.
In September 1940, the church tower was set on fire by incendiary bombs and considerable damage was done to the fabric of the tower, both inside and outside, before the fire brigade was able to bring hoses to bear. Weather hastened deterioration of the building over the following years until, in 1951, the church had to be closed owing to the danger of collapse of the main tower and general disintegration of the exterior fabric. There is a memorial of the fire, designed by John Ward, on the north wall of the nave.
Not until 1954 had sufficient funds been collected to enable the satisfactory repair of the vast tower. Essential repair work was still far from completed when a heavy attack by death-watch beetle was discovered in 1966. Experts were called in and their recommendations carried out at some considerable cost.
Since the early 1990s, the restoration effort has been redoubled, with over £200,000 raised and spent on further repair and renovation work. This began with the re-plastering and painting of the walls and ceiling in the chancel. The next task was the re-rendering of the south wall, repairs to the ceilings and roofs of both the north and south aisles and the opening up of the south porch to the interior of the church. This now gives wheelchair access to the church from the south side. The wooden floors in the nave have also been replaced. French drains have been dug to take the roof water away from the north side of the church.
The organ in the north transept came from Brent Church, near Faversham, and was installed in 2003.
In the churchyard, surrounding the ancient yew tree, is the Millenium Seat – itself made from yew and oak, designed and made by Alun Heslop of Bridge. The Stour Valley Project planted some native trees in the churchyard and the current graveyard is only partially mown during the summer, to be more wildlife-friendly.
This church, dating back as we have seen to pre-Conquest days and taking its present form in the fourteenth century, is still a magnificent building, a dominant feature in the countryside.
The major repairs in recent years have been made possible by grants and donations from English Heritage, Stour Music Society, The Friends of Kent Churches, The Historic Churches Preservation Trust, Bretts, Ashford Borough Council and many others, to all of whom we are very grateful. Of course, there have also been many local fund-raising initiatives, which have come to play an important part in community life. The on-going fund-raising effort is expected to become increasingly dependent on private donations and personal legacies, owing to the nature of the conservation and repair work still to be carried out.
There are two ways in which you are able to support the continuing work of restoration: firstly by joining the Friends of All Saints, for a minimum annual subscription of £10, and secondly by means of a legacy. Information on both of these is to be found here.
We would like to acknowledge the following contributions:
The late Hilary Strachan, for words and a drawing Barbara McAdam Seth, for drawings Charlotte Fraser, for editing Donald Sykes, for photographs
Léonie Seliger, for her description of the Alfred Deller Memorial window and permission to use her photograph.