St Mildreds Church Tenterden

09/01/2023
Tenterden News
The church is open to visitors every day during daylight hours.
 
The Parish Church of Tenterden
St Mildred's Church 
Reproduced from an article about St Mildred's Church written in the 1950s 
 
This, the most interesting building in Tenterden is dedicated to St Mildred and has a lofty tower that can be seen for many miles across the Kentish Weald. The dedication is not a very common one. St Mildred was a very pious and revered lady who became Abbess of the Abbey at Minster in Kent. Buried originally in her beloved abbey her relics were later transferred to a shrine at Canterbury Cathedral.

A church was built on the present site in early times and it must have been to the tower of this building that the tale of the Goodwin Sands refers for the present tower was not built until the end of the fifteenth century. The existing church was built at the end of the twelfth century when the nave and chancel were constructed, to be followed in the next century by a south aisle and in the fourteenth by the north aisle. Thus only the tower was needed to complete the building as it stands today. An extensive restoration took place in 1864 when galleries and box pews were removed and the present seating was laid out. In 1930 the north chancel aisle was opened as a Lady Chapel when a new east window was inserted.

The tower was built from funds made available by the wealthy burgesses of the town and is constructed of local Bethersden marble. It stands on ground two hundred feet above sea level and is itself one hundred and twenty feet high. From its top the coast of France can be seen on a clear day, whilst the tower itself can be discerned by ships in the Channel. Formerly there was a beacon on the top and, according to local tradition this was lit during the alarm of the Spanish Armada. The tower is one of only six in Britain to possess twin west doors - a common feature in a cathedral.

The stained glass of the church is extremely lovely, though of no great historical significance. The nave roof is the only one in England to be covered with oak shingles­  - a most unusual material - whilst the barrel vault ceiling inside is of the fifteenth century and beautifully carved

A fourteenth century hexagonal font stands inside the south door and above the doorway of the old roof loft stairway is located a mutilated piece of alabaster carving of the Resurrection which was destroyed in 1864-it is of fourteenth century carving and of a design to be found in many churches and cathedrals in this country. The large Jacobean memorial in the north wall is to the family of Whitfield, who lived in the seventeenth century on the Woodchurch Road and who were attracted here by the iron industry. There are eighteen shields containing thirty-one different coats of arms on the tomb.  
 
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