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Churches of the British Isles

Gallery: Churches of Kent

by Peter Kessler, 4 October 2009

Maidstone Part 1: St Mary's Church, East Farleigh

St Mary's Church, East Farleigh, Kent

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 the river.

St Mary's Church, East Farleigh, Kent

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. In 961 the area was given by Queen Ediva, 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.

St Mary's Church, East Farleigh, Kent

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'.

St Mary's Church, East Farleigh, Kent

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 crown.

St Mary's Church, East Farleigh, Kent

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.

St Mary's Church Hall, East Farleigh, Kent

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 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.

All photos on this page by P L Kessler.



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