Tour the inside of the church

Church nave and chancel 2022

The interior of Lyminge Parish Church, looking east (©Rob Baldwin)


The main entrance to the parish church is via the 16th Century porch on the south side.  You reach the porch by following the path from the main gate off Church Road by the church car park.  When you open the door, the steps inside are worn, so do take care as you enter.  There is an alternative entrance for those with restricted mobility on the north side.  Just follow the path round by the tower.

Upon entering the church, the immediate impression is that this is quite an unusual interior.  The walls of medieval churches are more commonly found covered in white plaster.  The walls at Lyminge are bare stone, revealing more clearly than usual the many changes that have been made to the church fabric over the years.  The plaster, like the render that used to cover the outside, was scraped off by the Rector Canon Robert Jenkins in around 1860 as part of his exploration of the archaeology of the church.  He left the bare walls as a monument to his researches.

Although much changed over the years, the area of the nave where you now stand is essentially that built by Archbishop Lanfranc in the last years of the 11th Century.  True the north wall of Lanfranc's nave was demolished in the 1480s to allow the insertion of the arcade that now separates the nave from the north aisle.  Also, large windows were inserted in the south wall in the early 14th Century and at the east end around 1400.  But you can still see some of the small round-headed windows, both in the nave and the chancel, that were part of Lanfranc's church.  These were blocked, probably when the large windows were inserted, and they were then rediscovered and unblocked by Canon Jenkins.  The brick arches to these windows are formed of Roman bricks.  It used to be thought that these bricks came from Roman buildings in Lyminge, but no such buildings have ever been found despite extensive excavations, so it seems more likely that these bricks were brought from ruined Roman buildings elsewhere. 


Maker's mark on a pewMaker's mark of Thomas Edgar Eldridge ('TEE')who made one of the pews in 1905, working for the Lyminge building and joinery firm of A Clayson (©Rob Baldwin)

The sturdy oak pews were made by craftsmen in the village from oak brought from the estate at Broome Park near Canterbury.  They were installed over a period of years at the beginning of the 20th Century.

To begin your tour of the interior, walk into the nave and turn to walk towards the altar in the chancel at the east end of the church.  As you pass the large early 14th Century window on your right, you may notice a brass plate fixed beneath it.  This marks the spot where Canon Jenkins believed he had located the tomb of Queen Ethelburga.  In fact we now think he was wrong about this and it is more likely that you were in the area of her tomb when you entered the church and walked down the steps.

The strange indent in the wall just to the left of the brass plate is another legacy of Canon Jenkins.  In searching for the tomb of Queen Ethelburga, he seems to have demolished part of the nave wall.  When this was rebuilt, he created a structure inset into the wall within which he placed the priest's chair that is now in the chancel.  This is where he sat during services, so he could easily reach the pulpit that used to stand nearby.  This pulpit had to be removed in the early 21st Century, the victim of extensive woodworm.  The structure Canon Jenkins built for his chair was removed around 1900, leaving the strange indent in the wall you see today.

The recess for the priest's chair created by Canon Jenkins (© Rob Baldwin)

nave c1896 showing pulpit and priests chairThe nave shortly before 1896 showing the pulpit and beside it the structure housing the priest's chair

Just before the chancel arch, in the nave wall on your right is a niche with a glass door, now used as an aumbry (to hold the chalice and consecrated wine for Communion).  The door was fitted in 2006.  Canon Jenkins uncovered the niche in 1860 when he had the plaster scraped from the walls. 

The niche is formed of Roman tile, set into a blocked doorway. This probably gave access to stairs that led to the rood loft, the space above the wooden screen that once lay across the mouth of the chancel arch. In the medieval church, this screen separated the nave, used by the people, from the chancel, the sacred space used by the priest when he conducted services. The squared blocks of stone in the wall above the doorway and a little to the left probably block the access from the stairs on to the rood loft itself. All medieval churches had a chancel screen, with a rood loft above it.  Fixed here so that it was visible to everyone in the nave was the rood itself, a carved image of Christ on the cross. Roods were removed from churches on the orders of King Edward VI in 1547, and many chancel screens were also taken out around this time. The blocked doorway thus cannot be earlier than 1547, and the niche could have been made at the same time. Perhaps it was a secret place made to hide a few precious church treasures during this difficult period of the Reformation when all around the country much of the rich decoration in medieval churches was being destroyed or removed?  If so, it is quite likely that they were retrieved when King Edward died and his Roman Catholic sister Mary became Queen, restoring the Catholic faith temporarily to England.  This may explain why nothing is recorded as being found in the recess when it was rediscovered in 1860. 

Above and to either side of the arch are two funeral hatchments, belonging to members of the Honywood family, who acquired Sibton Park, now the Holiday Property Bond holiday complex, in 1786.  These hatchments were created for display at the funerals of two members of the family, the blue griffins on each shield being the arms of the Honywood family itself and the other half showing the deceased's other family connection.   

The aumbrey and blocked doorway.  Above the candle is the recently commissioned artwork Two Saints.  Below the candle is a reproduction of a 21st Century icon of St Ethelburga (© Rob Baldwin)

Memorial window to Helen Rigden, set into a new window knocked through Lanfranc's chancel c1400 (© Rob Baldwin)

If you walk through the chancel arch, you enter the chancel, the holiest part of the church where you find the altar behind a rail.  In the medieval period, the altar would have been made of stone.  Now it is a wooden table.  Photographs show that the elaborate hangings on the altar only came into use in the 20th Century, and before that the table was kept bare.

The whole chancel was remodelled around 1400 when the new large east window behind the altar, the large windows and door on the south side to your right and the large chancel arch, replacing an earlier and smaller arch, were all inserted.  The small fragment of decorated stone set into the wall by the doorway is late 12th Century and may come from some earlier element of the church that has since been demolished.  It is likely that it was found during Canon Jenkins' excavations in or around the church.

Beneath the memorial window to Helen Rigden is a brass plaque recording that the church was built by St Dunstan.  This was a view held by Canon Jenkins in the belief that the round-headed windows were Anglo-Saxon in style, and also because Archbishop Dunstan is recorded as working to restore much of the damage caused to churches by decades of Viking attacks from the end of the 9th Century.  In fact scientific analysis of the mortar used in the chancel of the standing church shows without doubt that it was begun a hundred years later than Dunstan and thus it can best be attributed to Archbishop Lanfranc.  

Memorial window to Rev'd Ralph Price, his wife Mary and brother Charles inserted after Ralph died in 1863 into the east window that was knocked through the east wall of Lanfranc's chancel c1400 (© Rob Baldwin)

Dominating the chancel is the great memorial glass window, put up at the request of Ralph Price who was Rector in Lyminge 1811-54 and who died in 1863.  The style of the window is so counter to that of the rest of the church interior created by Canon Jenkins that one can imagine installation of the window must have been a condition of sale when Jenkins bought the living from Price.  The window was made by the highly-regarded firm of Alexander Gibbs, then based in Bedford Square in London.  The glass design was by the celebrated architect William Butterfield.  Elements of this window design are repeated in a number of windows designed and made by Butterfield and Gibbs for other churches, including their well-known work at All Saints', Margaret Street in London.

Beneath the east window is the reredos, a carved screen installed in 1915 to commemorate the life of John Howard who lived at Sibton Park. The reredos was designed by the great architect Sir Ninian Comper, famous for his Gothic-revival work. This area was significantly more austere in style and less decorated in the days of Canon Jenkins.  The removal of the choir-stalls in 2006 has opened up this area and made it much more useful for performance.  It is fair to say that this space has changed radically in appearance over the past 130 years. 

Painting of nave c1890 by HE HarleyThe east end of the church, as known by Canon Jenkins, with its old organ, a simple altar table and pews in the chancel, painted by HE Harley c1890 (From the collection of Lyminge PCC, image © Rob Baldwin)

 Canon Robert Charles Jenkins 1815-96 (© Rob Baldwin, from a photograph in the collection of Lyminge Parochial Church Council)

Memorial to Canon and Mrs Jenkins (© Rob Baldwin)


Around the chancel are five wall tablets all relating to members of Canon Jenkins' family.  Helen Rigden, commemorated in the window on the south side was one of his five daughters.  There are tablets for each of the four of his seven sons who pre-deceased him.  Canon and Mrs Jenkins are themselves commemorated on a fifth tablet. 

The Canon's mother was a second generation Lutheran immigrant from Germany, who traced her ancestry back to the celebrated Valentin Alberti, Professor of Theology at the University of Leipzig 1672-97.  His Scottish father was a professional dancing master, who had amongst his pupils Princess Charlotte, daughter of the Prince Regent.  Later as a property developer, he was responsible for building in the rapidly expanding London of the 1830s and 1840s in Paddington, Kensal Green and in the Ladbroke Estate off Portobello Road.  Jenkins' father-in-law was a moneyer at the Royal Mint and a major landowner in Willesden Green, London.  Purchase of the living at Lyminge followed the death of Jenkins' father, so it seems he was left very comfortably off.

Written in stone is the story of a not-so-untypical Victorian family. Two sons died serving in the army, one in New Zealand and the other in The Gambia in West Africa. Ernest's death at the storming of Tubabakulong on the River Gambia was recorded in a painting, now in the Penlee House Art Gallery in Penzance, Cornwall.  The other two sons commemorated died in Australia, one an engineer in a quarrying accident in Sydney, and the other from strychnine poisoning working as manager on a sheep farm.  Helen Rigden stayed at home to look after the Canon and his wife, but within weeks of his death she had married a farmer Harry Rigden and she went to live locally in Etchinghill. 

Of the Jenkins' other children, one was a mining engineer during the South African gold rush of the 1890s.  One of his daughters emigrated to Canada, and another married an army engineer and spent much of her married life in India.  Through his family, Canon Jenkins in rural Lyminge had connections reaching literally all around the world. 

Memorial to Ernest Jenkins (© Rob Baldwin)

Memorial to George Jenkins (© Rob Baldwin)

Turning away from the east window to your left, on the north side of the chancel is a recess into which is placed the priest's chair.  This is the chair mentioned earlier that Canon Jenkins placed in the recess under the window on the south side of the nave.  It is an odd piece of furniture, apparently containing some old carving, but probably constructed from fragments relatively recently, perhaps to Canon Jenkins' design.

As you leave the chancel and turn right to enter the north aisle, you will see a grave slab cemented to the wall.  It is apparently medieval in date, but nothing is known of its history or where it was found.  The photograph of the church from around 1896 shown above reveals that this slab was not placed there by Canon Jenkins, but it had been installed by 5 October 1902, as it appears in a photograph of that date illustrating the harvest festival. 

Display in north aisleArchaeological display unit in the north aisle (© Rob Baldwin)

Evidently various stray pieces of carved masonry have turned up in the churchyard from time to time.  You can now see in the archaeological display, housed in a unit at the east end of the north aisle, that a number of carved markers have also been found.  Though these are often called grave markers, and they are probably of medieval date, it is possible that they were actually boundary markers, perhaps used along the boundary of the churchyard before the existing western boundary wall was built.    

Take time to look at the archaeological display and to explore the interactive features of the touchscreen. The programme will help you to understand more about how Queen Ethelburga's 7th Century church may have looked, and also how the current church you are standing in has evolved over time.

Example screen showing how you can pan around the reimagined interior of Queen Ethelburga's church, and drill down to get further information (© Rob Baldwin) 


The north aisle in its present form was added to the church in the 1480s.  There is a record of this in a will of the period.  The roof is original.  There used to be an altar dedicated to St Lawrence in this aisle, but this was probably removed at the time of the Reformation in the mid 16th Century.

As you walk west along the length of the aisle, you pass first the font, then the north door which was adapted in 2020/21 to provide step-free access to the church for the first time.  The door alongside leads to the church office and vestry, built in 1971.

The organ was paid for by subscription to celebrate Canon Jenkins' 40 years of service to the parish, completed in 1894.  Sadly, he died only a few days before the service of dedication in March 1896.  The organ seat belonged to the previous organ that was located where the archaeological display now stands.  The seat bears a dedication to Mary Stanhope, another of Canon Jenkins' daughters, who played the organ for 12 years until she married Edward Stanhope, (a retired civil servant with the British East India Company and later with the Indian Civil Service), and moved to live with him in Ealing, West London.

On the side of the organ is the Ethelburga Quilt, one of the recently-commissioned artworks in the Pathways installation. 

The organ bought by parishioners in 1896 to celebrate 40 years of service by Canon Jenkins as Rector of Lyminge (© Rob Baldwin)

The tower was added as part of the extensive remodelling of the church at the end of the 15th Century.  It contains a ring of eight bells, with dates of 1631, 1727, 1759, 1785 (two), 1810 and 1904 (two).  The bells were tuned and rehung in 2004.

If you stand facing the great west door, to your right you will see on the wall two black panels written in gold displaying a record of the terms of the Bedingfield Trust, established by the will of Timothy Bedingfield in 1691.  A copy of the estate map showing the Bedingfield lands in Lyminge is on the wall by the south door.  This trust still exists today.

Note the boards in the tower set up to commemorate various feats by the bell-ringers.  Being apparently of traditional mind, the bell-ringers persisted in calling the church by its ancient name of St Mary and St Eadburg long after the Rector had changed the dedication in around 1897 to the current St Mary and Ethelburga.  Follow the link to read more about this controversial change.

Hanging to the south side of the tower arch is Eternal Source, another of the artworks in the Pathways installation.

Before leaving the church either by the south or by the north door, take a moment to look at the roof,  This was extensively repaired in 1898-1900, and the new timbers are easily distinguishable.  But many of the old timbers from the late 15th Century do still survive, including some fine 'king post' roof trusses supported by corbels set into the wall 


The west end of the church showing a 15th Century king post and two late Victorian queen post roof trusses (© Kate Beaugie)

This page is managed by Lyminge Parish Council Historic Environment Working Group