The Parish Church of St Mary Westwell

 

The Church of St Mary is a Grade 1 listed monument situated in the centre of Westwell village. The oldest part of the church dates from the 13th Century. It has many unique features, including a Norman font of Bethersden marble and a 13th century Tree of Jesse window: this depicts the descent of Christ from David, and is one of only a handful in parish churches.

 

From Easter until Harvest the church will be open to all visitors from 10.30am - 4.30pm, and on Sundays from 12noon - 6. At other times of year the key is available from The Vicarage, or from Court Lodge, next to the church. 

Services are under the ministry of the G7 Benefice team, in conjunction with 6 other local churches: please see separate tab.

(Access to the church tower can be arranged on request. Please contact [].)

Another window on the north wall still contains some mediaeval glass.  The arms of Richard II are shown in glass dated to 1397.

On the north wall of the sanctuary the head of a king (carved in the 13th century) probably Henry III, can be seen.  Opposite on the south wall is the head of a queen, possibly his wife Eleanor.

   

In the South Chantry (now used as the Vestry) remains of carvings over niches can be seen:

Views of St Mary's church interior can be seen below:

     

To mark the Millennium a new stained glass window, designed by Alexandra le Rossignol and funded by friends of St Mary's and the residents of Westwell, was added to the south wall, above the font.  Another example of her work can be seen at St Mary's, Smeeth.

Extract from “Kent Churches”  by John E. Vigar

St. Mary,  Westwell

“A particularly rewarding church which throughout the Middle Ages belonged to Christ Church Canterbury, which spent large sums of money on it.  The chancel, by far the most elaborate part of the building, is separated from the nave by a screen of three trefoil headed arches supported on tall cylindrical pillars.  That this was not the rood screen may be seen by the notches cut into it that originally carried the wooden screen set at a lower level in between.  The chancel is vaulted in stone, held together by iron tiebars.  The sedelia, of three seats, set under battlements, are unusual in having the two easternmost seats on the same level , with just the third a few inches lower.  The east window contains some mediaeval glass depicting the Tree of Jesse, whilst in the north chapel is some heraldic glass of Richard II’s reign.  There are some plain poppy headed stalls in the arcaded panels.  In 1967 two gold flagons were sold to the Goldsmith’s Company to raise money for essential repairs to save the church from collapse”.



The NADFAS Report

The Victoria and Albert Museum has commissioned reports on the fabric and content of parish churches from NADFAS (National Association for Decorative and Fine Arts).

Local members of NADFAS (including Mike Jamieson) undertook a comprehensive survey of St Mary's, including the stonework, memorials, brasses, woodwork, stained glass, right down to the dusters in the cleaning cupboard!

Carried out over a period of 5 years, the preliminary report was presented to The Churchwardens (Kay Hooper and Teresa Scott) during the Family Service on Sunday, 6th December 2009.

The report will be available for viewing on request at a later date.

Several unusual features were noted in St Mary's, eg the alternating circular and octagonal pillars, the significance of which is unknown.

More down to earth is an example (above) of a 17th century graffito: a profile scratched into a pillar near the organ.  The date 1660 (?) is nearby, and it is thought that this may be the face of the incumbent scored into the stonework during the Civil War, when ordination of priests was prohibited.


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