“On behalf of the Parochial Church Council, may I say how grateful we are for this unique opportunity to join with the Marden History Group in securing the heritage of Marden for the future.
We are very proud of our ancient church and its lovely features. Standing at the heart of our community, it is the focal point, not only for those who worship there regularly, but also for weddings, baptisms and funerals and is worthy of our continued attention to its upkeep.
With a building as old as the church, there are, inevitably, occasions, such as following the Quinquennial (five yearly) inspection or unexpected damage, when repairs have to be carried out. Sometimes we have had to raise money for repairs at short notice. These place a great burden on the regular income of the church and appeals have, in the past, been made to meet these costs. We are engaging in works needed to bring the church up to a modern standard of amenities for the benefit of the community, whilst retaining its heritage, by having installed a discreet but very useful servers, we are slowly replacing radiators to make the heating system more efficient and intend to install an accessible toilet.
Some people think that the upkeep of a church like ours is, or should be, paid from Church of England central funds. The Church of England does hold assets centrally, but these are fully committed paying for the ministry of the church, especially the clergy pension fund. This means that all other costs have to be met by the local community and church members.
The formation of the Friends of Marden’s Heritage will enable some, if not all, of these costs to be met by a wider community interested in preserving the heritage of Marden and its church.
Your support for this venture is greatly appreciated.”
The current building is the second church in Marden; the first being listed in Domesday Monachorum of c.1084, the survey of church property carried out after the Conquest. It was the daughter church of St. Mary’s, the parish church of Maidstone at the time. It was probably built of timber and presumably burnt down, like many others.
Marden was part of the great forest of Anderida and started its commercial life as a pig pannage area for the men of Milton Regis, near Sittingbourne, in about the 7th century. Milton belonged to the Kings of Kent and, therefore, the common land in the Weald was also Royal, so Marden remained a crown possession until James’ I reign.
In 1178, the ownership of Marden Church was given to the new Lesnes Abbey, Belvedere as financial support. Later, Cardinal Wolsey took it to help found his Cardinal College (now Christ Church, Oxford). The church came back to the Crown in 1550. however, when fire burned down the Chancel in 1554, it took fifty years for money for a new roof to arrive.
It was built of Kentish ragstone, sandstone and a little crowstone. The Chancel arch is said to be the oldest part, dated c. 1200. The north aisle was added in the early 14th century followed by the south aisle (the windows are 19th century) and the Lady Chapel. The Perpendicular style North Chapel dedicated to St. John, was added in the first years of the 15th century.
The flat roofs of the north and south aisles are 14th century and the crown post roof of the Nave is mid-15th century. The pillars are mixed; round and octagonal. The identity of the figure of a man with a mitre and his hand the wrong way round, on one of the northern pillars, is not known. In 1738, a false ceiling covered the Nave, possibly to try to create some warmth. It was removed in 1966.
This was made in 1662 and has a handsome Jacobean hood. The initials JB and EM were the churchwardens of the day; John Bell and Edward Maplesden, a well-known clothier.
The East window is by Patrick Reyntiens and illustrates ‘Christ in Majesty’. His hand is raised in blessing and beside him are the Archangel Michael (to reflect the Church’s dedication) and the angel with a trumpet from the book of Revelation. The side lancet windows are striking; they each have ten green eyes. Other windows were made in the workshops of William Morris and Whitefriars. Their logos can be seen in them.
THE LADY CHAPEL
This was refurbished in 1953 in memory of Alice Day. It has an unusual frieze of apples, cherries and hops, reflecting the importance of these crops to the village for a couple of hundred years.
The Lady Chapel houses the remains of the 13th century tomb of Richard De Luci, The Lord Chief Justiciar at the time of Henry II – a position that brought him considerable wealth and power. He was a friend of Thomas Becket but took the King’s side in the subsequent argument over the struggle for supremacy between Church and State. After Becket’s murder he was filled with such remorse he relinquished his Justiciarship and became a monk. After his death, his remains were dug up and were brought to Marden secretly to be interred half in and half out of the church beneath the tombstone.
THE WAR MEMORIAL
Standing at the western end of the South Aisle, the memorials commemorate the village lives lost in the two World Wars, including, in the Second World War, civilian casualties.
THE CHOIR VESTRY AND THE CLERGY VESTRY
The glass doors at the west end of the Nave lead to the Choir Vestry and, through it, to the Clergy Vestry on the left. This was built at the time of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Anniversary (funded by Lord Cornwallis), but controversial; it stands on the remains of an ancient building of whose history is unknown.
To the right is the staircase leading up to the Tower, which dates back to the 13th/14th century, and the ringing chamber with its wooden “snuffer”, housing the peal of eight bells, recast and added to in 1909. Two new bells were cast in 1745; one was inscribed:
“Thomas Lester made me in 1745
At proper times I will raise
And sound to my subscriber’s praise.”
BACK IN THE CHURCH
To the left of the Vestry door is the long list of Vicars, going back to the 13th century. Above the front part of the Nave is the 18th century chandelier, candle lit on special occasions. On each side of the Chancel arch can be seen the ledges where the Rood Screen rested. Just by the North Chapel is a small door that houses the stairway to the top of the Rood. The organ is in the North Chapel, a splendid and powerful asset.
There was, at one time, a gallery, probably for musicians, over the Vestry door; another is mentioned in the south wall. There is a room over the porch, used perhaps for storage or meetings. Vestry notes show that meetings often adjourned to the comfort of the Unicorn public house.
THE MAIN DOOR
This is a medieval linenfold door.
Outside the church stand the old parish stocks and many gravestones, the oldest that is legible is that of Thomas Turner who died in 1663.