Many churches in Kent are well known for their yew trees but St. John the
Baptist at Barham is noteworthy for its magnificent beech trees.
The Church guide suggests that
there has been a Church here since the 9th Century but the present
structure was probably started in the 12th Century although Syms, in his
book about Kent Country Churches, states that there is a hint of possible
Norman construction at the base of the present tower. The bulk of the
Church covers the Early English, Decorated and Perpendicular periods of
building. Many of the huge roof beams, ties and posts are original 14th
Century as are the three arches leading into the aisle..
In the Northwest corner is a small 13th Century window
containing modern glass depicting St. George slaying the dragon and
dedicated to the 23rd Signal Company. The Church
also contains a White Ensign which was presented to it by Viscount
Broome, a local resident. The Ensign was from 'H.M.S. Raglan' which was also commanded by Viscount Broome. The ship was sunk in January, 1918 by the German
light cruiser 'Breslau'.
The walls contain various mural tablets.
Hanging high on the west wall is a helmet said to have belonged to Sir
Basil Dixwell of Broome Park. The helmet probably never saw
action but was carried at his funeral.
The floor in the north transept is uneven because some
years ago three brasses were found there. According to popular
medieval custom engraved metal cut-outs were sunk into indented stone slabs
and secured with rivets and pitch. In order to save them from
further damage the brasses were lifted and placed on the
walls. The oldest dates from about 1370 is of a civilian but
very mutilated. The other two are in good condition and dated
about 1460. One is of a woman wearing the dress of a widow
which was similar to a nun. The other is of a bare headed man
in plate armour. These are believed to be of John Digges and
his wife Joan.
At the west end of the church is a list of Rectors and
Priests-in-Charge - the first being Otho Caputh in 1280.
Notice should be made of Richard Hooker (1594), the author of the Laws of
Ecclesiastical Polity. The tiles
incorporated into the wall were originally in place in the Chancel about
1375. They were left by John Digges whose Will instructed that
he was to be buried in the Chancel and "my executors are to buy
Flanders tiles to pave the said Chancel".
The 14th century font is large enough to submerse a baby
- as would have been the custom of the time. The bowl is
octagonal representing the first day of the new week, the day of Christ's
resurrection. The cover is Jacobean.
The Millennium Window in
the South Transept was designed and constructed by Alexandra Le Rossignol
and was dedicated in July 2001. The cost of the project (approximately
£6,500) was raised locally with the first donation being made by the
then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey.
The porch contains two wooden plaques listing the names
of men from the village who were killed in the Great Wars - among them
being Field Marshall Lord Kitchener of Broome Park.
Something which might be
of interest to genealogists is the fact that, particularly during the time of
the Napoleonic Wars, the Church was frequently used for the marriages and
baptisms of the troops that were in the camps on the Barham Downs. The Kent
History and Library in Maidstone holds over 600,000 records that may help
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