Lyminge Church

The Church of St. Mary and St. Ethelburga

It is known that at one time a very large Roman Villa stood somewhere in the Lyminge area but the exact location is not known. It is possible that it was actually on the same site where the Church currently stands but this has never been proven. All that can be said is that the Church does have Roman tiles incorporated in its stonework although this is fairly common for churches in Kent. In addition to the Roman tiles there is some very unusual herring-bone stonework on the exterior of the South-East corner near to another unusual feature which is a flying buttress built in the late thirteen century across the path up to the door of the Church.

The actual Saxon charters relating to Lyminge are some of the oldest church documents in England and are, in fact, preserved in The British Museum. The rather unusual name of the Church, St. Mary and St. Ethelburga, relates to Ethelburga, the daughter of King Ethelbert and Queen Bertha of Kent. Christianity had come to Kent in the form of St. Augustine and as a consequence, Ethelburga was influential in converting her husband, Edwin, King of Northumbria to this new religion at York. When he was killed in battle in 633 A.D., Ethelburga returned to Lyminge in Kent where she had been given the land in the area by her brother, King Eadbald, who had succeeded his Father. The original construction here was supposedly a minster or convent which was used by both monks and nuns with Ethelburga becoming the first Abbess. When she died in 647 A.D. her remains were buried in the Abbey and having achieved the status of a Saint, the Abbey became a place of pilgimage. A stone tablet in the South wall of the Church gives brief details of the fact:

Perhaps, the stone should say, "the original burial place" because in 1085 at the time of Archbishop Lanfranc, the relics of Saint Ethelburga were moved to Canterbury.

In the 9th Century the area and the Abbey was overrun by the Danes The nuns left the Abbey at this time and the remaining Monks moved to Canterbury in 965 A.D. It is said that at this time the present Church was then rebuilt on this spot by St. Dunstan. There are parts of the Chancel and Nave that are late Saxon in origin. The present Church tower is a much later addition having been added in the fifteenth century although there is evidence from a buttress built into one of the walls that there was an earlier tower attached to the Church.

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