St Peter and St Paul Church, Upper Hardres
Upper Hardres is featured on the Kent Churches website. You can find out more about the Church, Service times and Contact details on its website: www.upperhardreschurch.co.uk
There has been a church at Upper Hardres for over a thousand years. A church features in the Doomsday Book (1084-1086), but the present church dates back from the 12th Century onwards, its date of consecration being, it is said, 1160. Of that original church, the tower with its two Norman pillars supporting the arch between the chancel and the Lady Chapel, and the Norman font remain to this day. The present sanctuary and the chancel would appear to be 13th century from its lancet windows, though, at the time it was built, the chancel, together with the small area westwards to the end of the tower, would have formed the nave, or the main body of the church, this being very similar to Hastingleigh church as it is to this day. In the 14th Century, the nave as we know it, together with the south aisle, was added and a western archway pierced into the tower base to gain access that way to the Lady Chapel beyond. Presumably at the same time, the fine Norman font would have been moved from its original position to its present place in the south aisle.
The Strete brass
One of the church’s most treasured possessions is the famous and unique John Strete “bracket brass”. It has great artistic merit and has been described as one of the most famous complete brasses in the country. John Strete was a former rector of this parish who died on 6 February 1405. He is depicted kneeling, with the patron saints of the church on a bracket above him. The words of his prayer in Latin, which entwine the pillar supporting the bracket, are translated at follows: “Keybearer of heaven (i.e. St Peter) and Paul, the teacher of the people, intercede for me to the King of Angels that I may be worthy”. A framed brass rubbing of this hangs in the Lady Chapel, made in the memory of Leslie Long, by his son Anthony.
A description of the Strete brass by the Monumental Brass Society can be found here.
The stained glass
The east windows contain the beautiful 14th Century glass which came from Stelling in 1791 together with some fragments of the 13th and 16th Century glass which were in the west window until it was shattered in the disastrous fire of September 1972. This glass was cleaned and restored by the Cathedral Glaziers at a cost of £6,500 in 1980. When Mr N E Toke wrote his account of the stained glass for the Kent Archaeological Society in 1935, he recorded that he had visited the church in 1918, accompanied by a friend who was a glass painter and archaeologist, a refugee from Lille, M Pierre Turpin. The stained glass in the east windows was so dirty that they obtained a bucket of water and carefully cleaned part of the glass. The result so surprised and delighted the rector, the Rev W A Newman, that the whole of the glass was then cleaned in the same way, revealing details and beauties hitherto unsuspected. Mr Toke goes on to say that the colouring of these two windows is so rich and harmonious and the drawings of the figures so delicate and artistic, that they rank among the finest specimens of glass paintings in the 14th Century, and are not exceeded in beauty by any other glass of this century in Kent. The restoration in 1980 has once again revealed the detail and the beauty of this stained glass. The modern stained glass window of the Annunciation in the Lady Chapel by Francis Stephens, is to the memory of Arthur Neame and his wife Margaret of Hardres Court, and was given by their son Richard in 1972, shortly before the fire. He also presented to the church the fine copy of Murillo’s Madonna and Child which had belonged to his mother and is now sited near the door. The original is in the Pitti Palace in Florence.
The Hardres family
After the Norman Conquest, Robert of Hardres was the tenant of Hardres Court, and there are many memorials in the church, mainly to the Hardres family, from the earliest brass of George Hardres, who died in 1485, to the last of that line, Sir William Hardres, Baronet, who was buried in 1764. Both of these memorials are in the Lady Chapel. On the south side of the high altar is the memorial to Thomas Hardres who died in 1628. This memorial, by an unknown artist, is of Bethersden marble, diapered with low relief carving, and said to be one of only six examples in the country. Three are memorials and three are chimney-pieces. On the north side of the high altar is the memorial to the Rev Davis Jones and his first wife Roberta. Despite his protestations on the memorial “Dear wife blest saint since thou are gone before, I’ll love heaven better to see thee once more”, nine months after her death he married the only sister to the last Sir William Hardres!
On the same side of the sanctuary, further west, is the fine memorial to Sir Thomas Hamon who died in 1684 and above the archway leading into the tower from the nave is the memorial to Richard Barham, 1795, the father of Thomas Ingoldsby, writer of the Ingoldsby Legends. The marble memorial to Mrs Elizabeth Denward is on the north side of the nave and it contains all the details of her building the school, the repair of both churches and a list of her charitable legacies, just as they are described on the painted wooden tablet in Stelling Church. The church has a silver flagon dated 1701, and a paten engraved with the arms of the Hardres baronets, identical to another belonging to Stelling Church. It has also a silver chalice bearing the date 1775 and a paten made in 1784 for secular use, bearing the date 1788, when it was presented to the church. There are three bells as at Stelling but only one is medieval and the other two appear to be recent recasts. The tenor bell, which weighs 8½ cwt, was made by William Daw of London in the late 14th Century and is inscribed with the words in Latin: “I am the resounding rose of the world call Katherine”. The second weighs 5¾ cwt and was made by Joseph Hatch of Ulcombe in 1609. The treble bell, weighing 3¾ cwt, was made by Samuel Knight of London in 1727. More info on the bells can be found here.
Adapted from the description written by Rev W H J Burt, Rector 1979-1984