Ashford Part 1: Churches of Brook,
Brabourne, and the Saxon Shore
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St Mary's Church Brook, is in the tiny parish
of Brook, one of eight Kentish parishes to make up the Ashford ward
called the Saxon Shore, the other seven being Aldington, Bilsington,
Bonnington, Brabourne, Hastingleigh, Ruckinge and Smeeth. The Saxon
Shore Way is the Roman-inspired connection between Gravesend and Rye
and onwards. It used to connect the Roman forts which existed along the
coast. Brook gained its parish church in the eleventh century.
The Early Norman church lies approximately five
kilometres (three miles) north-east of Ashford, on The Street in
Brook, a village with a population today of a little over three
hundred. It was consecrated in about 1075 and contains space for
about 160 parishioners. The tower contains three bells, and when it
was struck by lightening in 1896, part of the north-west corner was
destroyed. The damage was restored in 1899.
St Mary's Church Brabourne is in a secluded
village which lies at the foot of the North Downs. It dates mostly from
the late twelfth century. Among features of special note are the unusually
lofty nave and chancel; the monument (built around 1600) to members of the
local Scott family that is also the high altar (see below); and one window
with original late twelfth century stained glass. The massive west tower
was left unfinished so it rises only a little higher than the nave roof.
The name Brabourne derives from the Saxon 'Bradde
Burne', or broad stream. The hamlet was mentioned in AD 846 as
'Bredeburna'. The Norman church was built around 1140 on the site of
an earlier Saxon church. It originally had four bells, and four more
were fitted later. During the later Napoleonic Wars the fields between
Brabourne and Smeeth were used by the military, who erected barracks, a
hospital, prisons and a mortuary. The area is still known as Hospital
Four photos on this page contributed by Arthur