St Mary's church by the lake at Eastwell
St Mary's church collapsed after the last war following serious structural damage caused, it's said, by the movement of tanks and other heavy vehicles in Eastwell Park. The site is now cared for by the Friends of Friendless Churches who kindly provided the following text. Please visit their website here to discover more of their wonderful work.
Eastwell church in Kent was once a place of great importance. Royals were regulars. Queen Victoria enjoyed being pulled across the frozen lake there in her sledge-chair. And in the churchyard, are the remains of Richard III’s illegitimate son, Richard Plantagenet…
It’s believed that Richard III fathered three children out of wedlock, and it’s widely accepted that this Richard was one of them. For many years, Richard worked as a bricklayer at Eastwell Park for Sir Thomas Moyle. In his late 70s, he was seen reading a book in Latin (a language reserved for the highly born). It was only then that Richard revealed his secret.
He told Sir Thomas that growing up, he didn’t know his parents. He had been brought up by a schoolmaster and was assisted by a gentleman who paid for his schooling and was interested in his well-being.
He said that aged 16 he was taken to Bosworth Field, where he met his father – the king - on the eve of battle. Here, he was told ‘I will provide for you as befits your blood.’ The king told him that, if he won, he would acknowledge Richard as his son. If he lost, he told the boy to conceal his identity forever.
The next day, Richard’s father and benefactor were killed. Richard retreated to London and found an apprenticeship with a bricklayer. He kept his father’s confidence until 1546.
Richard died in 1550, aged 83. He was buried in the churchyard at Eastwell. The church registers record his death, “Rychard Plantagenet was buryed on the 22. daye of December 1550”.
Over the past few months, we've been repairing the ruin: re-pointing the stonework, replacing eroded masonry and rebuilding weathering details. We've also lightly repaired Richard Plantagenet's tomb: re-pointing the chest and resetting the capstone:
It's a beautiful spot, and once a year in June - Covid permitting - the clergy and congregation meet to celebrate Morning Prayer in this the most tranquil of settings imaginable. This year it is likely to be on June 20th or 27th, but details will be published here when confirmed.