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The Ancient Parish Church of East Farleigh
is known to be dedicated to St Mary. The village of East Farleigh
(Great Farleigh in some older reference works) is situated about two
miles to the south-west of Maidstone and lays on high ground on the
south bank of the River Medway. The river used to be tidal at this
point until locks were installed further down. Noted in Domesday
Book as Ferlaga, the name is Saxon, denoting a crossing point over
While the church itself, which stands at the east
end of the village, claims to have been founded before AD 96, this
seems to be based more on enthusiasm that fact. Its origins are
probably Saxon, and in 961 the area was given by Queen Ediva, the
mother of Saxon kings Edmund and Eadred, to Christ Church,
Canterbury. It remained a church possession, free of all secular
service save the building of bridges and castles, being held directly by the
archbishop until the Reformation.
The church certainly existed by the time of
Domesday in 1086 and, in about 1120, the Normans rebuilt it. All
that remains of the original building are some small areas of tufa
stonework on the outside of the north-west corner. The tower was
added at the same time, with a short spire steeple on top. There
also seems to have been a dependant chapel nearby. It is mentioned
in the Textus Roffensis (the Book of the Church of Rochester) which
names it 'Liuituna capella Anfridi'.
The patronage of the church of East Farleigh was
part of the ancient possessions of the crown, and remained so until
it was given to the college or hospital for poor travellers in
Maidstone which was founded by Archbishop Boniface (1245-1270). In
about 1314, Archbishop Walter Reynolds appropriated the church for
the use and support of the hospital. The collegiate church of Maidstone
was dissolved by Edward VI in 1546, and its property taken by the
The main body of the church consists of
two isles and two chancels. The one on the south side (shown here)
belongs to the local manor, Pimpe's Court, and was repaired in 1704
by Dr Griffith Hatley, who had married the widow of Mr Browne, and
had gained Pimpe Court as a result. In the rector's chancel are
several memorials of the family of Amhurst, and within the altar
rails there are two more for the Goldsmiths.
On the north side of the chancel is an altar tomb
for one of the Colepepers, most probably Sir T Colepeper, who lived
during the reign of Edward III. The aisles and pews were added in
1835. The village's first school was in the church porch, but in
around 1820 a National School was established next to the Old
Vicarage where it remained until 1846. A new school was built next
to the church, but this was re-sited in 1930 and the school building
became the current church hall seen here.