A brief Guide to St Peter and St Paul Church - Dymchurch - Kent

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The church of St Peter and St Paul was built about the middle of the twelfth century. It has no damp-proof course as modern buildings have and we have to care for it bearing in mind its age and condition. For example we use a special paint inside so that the walls may breathe and not retain moisture.

The main Norman arch dividing the nave and chancel is interesting for its size and the fact that it has dropped slightly on the right hand side. The zigzag decoration was intended to indicate light; St Anselm (c1033-1109) wrote about God in terms of light. The decoration outlining the arch would have been painted gold to indicate that the chancel, the most holy part of the church, was filled with light and the spirit of God.

As time went on, Christ's humanity was emphasised and a rood screen would have been installed at the chancel step in the 13th century. You can see the site for this: look for the holes in the chancel arch. Images of Jesus and Mary his Mother, and possibly John the Baptist would have decorated the rood screen. A good example of a rood screen, separating the chancel and the nave, may be seen in Burmarsh church.

The arched recess to the right and behind the pulpit is thought to have been a specially holy place dedicated to a saint. The south and the west doors have Norman arches, below which the tympana of cross-hatched tiles were the foundation for a plaster base on which a picture or wall painting would have been painted. The subject would possibly have been Christ in Glory.

The font, symbolically placed at the entrance to the church, is thought to be mediaeval: Archbishop of Canterbury Edmund Rich sent out a decree in 1236 advising that all fonts should be fitted with lockable lids so that holy water could not be stolen by witches. The two opposing spaces which accommodated the hinges may clearly be seen. At that time the font would have been lined with lead and the water blessed at Easter each year. It is very possible that the font was thrown out of the church by the Lollards, of whom there were many in Kent, protestant dissenters who felt that as we had all been baptised in the blood of Christ there was no need for fonts.

The font was rescued from a dyke in the 15th century, retooled and reinstated in the church. The present oak lid was made by Raymond "Click" Smith to match the oak pews which were installed during the incumbency of the Revd J H Edinger in the 1950's.

The stained glass windows tell bible stories and remind us of old friends or former residents of Dymchurch. Look for some birds: a pelican, symbolic of sacrifice, piety and charity; a dove, symbolic of peace. Look for the Visit of the Magi to the Holy Family; Christ in Glory; St Elizabeth of Hungary; and our newest window, dedicated to St George. There is one Victorian window, the oldest and the smallest on the south side. The coats of arms of Canterbury and of St Peter and St Paul are in the chancel. 

On the north wall hangs the coat of arms of George III dated 1778; you can compare it with the royal coat of arms in the Court Room in New Hall, or with any other Romney Marsh church. A coat of arms was the only form of decoration allowed in churches after the reformation. It is placed opposite the main door so that it is the first thing one sees on entering the church, a reminder that the monarch is head of the church in this country.

Alterations and enlargements were made to the church in 1821. The former symmetry of the church was lost as the north wall was moved out several feet; there are two mason's marks to look for outside, one high on the south wall near the tower and the other on the north wall, also high up. At the time the population of Dymchurch increased with the crackdown on smuggling and the arrival in the village of Revenue Officers and as well as the re-alignment of the wall, the gallery was installed and the tower rebuilt. The weather vane on top of the tower was replaced in the 1980's; the previous one had been constructed after WWII using metal rods from war time sea defences.

There is a little hole on the right of the south door as you enter the church. Known as a scratch dial, in mediaeval times the Rector used to place a stick there so the parishioners would know what time the next service was. That was before the porch was built. There is another further along the wall towards the road, presumably set up later.

We hope  you enjoy looking round the church and feel some of the age-old mystery of this church which has been used in praise and the worship of God for about 850 years

 

 

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Priest in Charge  The Vicarage, North Street, New Romney TN28 8DR - Tel: 01797 362308

 

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