The Lovelace Chapel of St.

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The Lovelace Chapel of St. Margaret's Church in Bethersden, Kent, England




The following was sent to me by Kevin Brooks, a Lovelace descendant who visited Bethersden, England on his honeymoon. Click here to go directly to the information concerning the Lovelace Chapel.


This part of Kent, the Weald, was settled late in the Saxon period. The earliest reference to a place in Bethersden apparently concerns Old Surrenden which is mentioned in an early eleventh-century charter.
That there was a pre-Norman church of wood or stone at Bethersden seems clear. In the Domesday Monachorum, a manuscript written shortly after 1100 and preserved in Canterbury Cathedral Library, is a list of churches in Canterbury Diocese accustomed to pay money to the Archbishop at Easter. The church of Baedericesdaenne owed 28d.; this had been so ‘before the coming of the Lord Lanfranc,’ who became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1070.
A denn was an area in the Wealden forest where swine could be pastured; such denns were often attached to upland manors some distance away. The place-name Bethersden therefore can be interpreted as ‘the denn belonging to Baederic (or Beaduric).’
It appears that the denn, i.e. estate, of Bethersden belonged to the See of Canterbury, for Archbishop Lanfranc, having in 1084 or 1085 founded outside the Northgate of Canterbury the Priory of St. Gregory, in 1086 or 1087 bestowed upon it as part of its endowment ‘the church of St. Margaret of Beatrichesdenne with the dwellings and wood of that denn.’ By this is meant the patronage of the church with land and houses, the tithes (Tenths of the tenants’ produce rendered in kind or in money) and the woodland which, in the Weald, was not subject to tithe. This early reference to the dedication to St. Margaret shows that Bethersden’s patron is St. Margaret of Antioch, Virgin and Martyr, and not St. Margaret of Scotland (died 1093).

Successive Archbishops and Popes confirmed the Priory’s endowments, and the charter of Archbishop Hubert Walter mentions (1193-9) in addition to St. Margaret's Church, Bethersden, ‘the chapel of Heccisdenne.’
This place is Etchden, where until recently a wooden farm building of late medieval construction still retained the form of a tiny chapel consisting of nave and chancel. This building has lately been converted to modern iving accommodation but retaining and preserving a king post of great antiquity.
Etchden was a denn belonging to the manor of Boughton Aluph. In the reign of King John (1199-1216), Sir Alulph de Bocton endowed this chantry chapel by giving to St. Gregory’s Priory the tithes from Etchden, Snode (hill) and three other denns. It was agreed that (i) if Sir Alulph or members of his family should die at Etchden, they might be buried at Boughton Aluph, but the first mass for the dead should be celebrated at Etchden, (ii) if Sir Alulph’s servants or tenants should die at Etchden they must be buried at St. Margaret's, Bethersden, (iii) the Priory would allow divine service to be celebrated at Etchden on three days a week and on the Apostles’ feast-days, and (iv) if Sir Alulph should happen to be at Etchden at Christmas, the Purification, Easter, Pentecost or St. Margaret’s Day, he would come to church at St. Margaret’s. The Prior of St. Gregory’s must confirm the appointment of the chantry chaplain.
Little else is known about Etchden Chapel, but a bequest in the will of William Widirdene of Bethersden in 1471 implies it was dedicated to St. Mary.

No trace of the early parish church can be seen today, but it was probably quite small consisting simply of a nave and chancel.
The church was enlarged and reached its present proportions apparently in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. It is built mainly of Kentish ragstone which has weathered badly on the outside, and much of the stonework was severely restored with Bath stone in 1873.

We enter the church by the South Porch. This was somewhat drastically treated at the Victorian restoration, when it seems almost to have been rebuilt and a sun-dial formerly above the outer door disappeared.
On the floor of the porch and inside the church are some fine slabs of Bethersden ‘Marble.’ This stone, quarried near Tuesnoad in this parish, is not a true marble but a limestone filled with fossil shells of freshwater snails. Like the better known Purbeck Marble it takes a fine polish and was used extensively in church building, tombs and in private houses for ornamental chimneypieces.
Inside the porch to the east of the door into the nave is a Holy Water Stoup, to hold the consecrated water used by worshippers on entering and leaving the church.

Inside the church we notice first the Font. Some of the eight columns supporting it are medieval, perhaps Early English work (i.e. thirteenth century), but the top is a restoration. The font once stood at the west end of the central aisle.

The arches, which on the north and south divide the nave and aisles, on each side rest on two columns of the Decorated period (fourteenth century). Masons’ marks may be seen on the bases.
Much of the window masonry was renewed in 1873. With the exception possibly of the windows at the west end of each aisle and over the door leading to the vestry, the nave windows are square-headed of three lights and belong to the Perpendicular period (early fifteenth century). At the east end of the south aisle is a partly blocked niche which seems to be the remains of a Decorated piscina or drain. This would imply the existence there of an altar, perhaps thejesus Altar, before the south chapel was built.
Apparently, then, the church reached its present width by about 1360, but the upper parts of the walls were largely rebuilt when the Perpendicular windows were inserted. The Rev. A. J. Pearman, Vicar 1857-66, noticed outside the church a difference between the upper and lower courses of the masonry which is still visible on the south side.

This stands in a striking position and commands a good view of the surrounding countryside. A fine example of a type of tower common in this part of the county, it was probably built (at any rate the lowest stage of it) around 1420-30, because above the west door is carved a shield bearing a cross engrailed, the arms of the Hautes of Surrenden who died out about 1430. The register of wills proved in the Canterbury Archdeaconry Court begins about 1450, but so far no bequests towards the cost of building the tower have come to light.
In the 1939-45 War there was an observation post on top of the tower, continuing the practice of using church towers to warn against invasion.

The present chancel seems to be of the fifteenth century. The east window is comparatively modern; a watercolour sketch in the British Museum shows the earlier window to have been square-headed like those in the aisles. The corbels of the chancel arch are carved, one with an angel supporting a blank shield and the other with an attractive grotesque figure. The inventory of the church goods in 1552 mentions that there was an alabaster tablet or panel, which presumably was above the altar.
The floor of the chancel and sanctuary was originally level with the nave floor, but was raised early this century.

Before the Reformation the chancel and the two side chapels were separated from the nave by a wooden Rood Screen. Above it was a loft approached by the spiral staircase in the south chapel. On a beam beneath the chancel arch stood a large Rood (i.e. Crucifix) flanked by statues of the Virgin Mary and St. John the Evangelist. There were also on the Rood Loft thirty brass candlesticks. In both the main Chancel and the South (Lady) Chapel there were images of Our Lady, and one of these was a statue of Our Lady of Pity (what is known now as a Pieta), i.e. the Virgin Mary mourning the dead Christ.
After the separation from Rome, these figures and that of St. Margaret (which stood in the Chancel) were in a neglected state. However, under Queen Mary 1, Archdeacon Harpsfield at his Visitation in 1557, ordered that they should be repainted before All Saints' Day. The Parish had therefore to spend E2. Is. 6d. involving a visit to Ashford and the services of one Gyllam, and "the paynter of Assheforde to paynte the Roode, Mari andjohn and the patron of the churche". All the Archdeacon's instructions were so costly that the churchwardens had to tax the 105 householders in the parish, according to their means, amounting to @23. 5s. 6d.

This chapel, now almost entirely filled by the organ, is in the Perpendicular style and probably dates from the early fifteenth century. There is a piscina south of the site of the altar, which was dedicated to St. John, apparently St. John the Baptist.
The chapel belonged to the owners of Frid Manor; in that case it may have been built by the Darells of Calehill. In the late sixteenth century Frid came to the prominent Bethersden family of Gibbon one of whom, Lidia, married in 1608 Edward Chute of Old Surrenden. For the next century the North Chapel was the Chute Chapel, and Old Surrenden was known as Surrenden Chute to distinguish it from Surrenden Dering.
Lidia died in 1631, aged 46, and a small brass on the wall of the Frid Chapel commemorates her “the dearely belooved wife of Edward Clint of Bethersden Esq.” Edward was the grandson of Henry VIII’s StandardBearer, Philip Chute, who acquired Old Surrenden in 1553. Edward Chute (or Choute) was in his time described as a “right worthy gentleman”; he took a prominent place in Kentish affairs, in 1635-6 was High Sheriff of the county and died in 1640.
The Bethersden Choutes became extinct with the death in 1721/2 of Sir George Choute, whom Charles II had made a Baronet in 1684. In the Frid Chapel there is a handsome monument to him erected by his heir Edward Austen, and at the foot of the chancel steps, removed from its original position in the Chapel, is a fine ledger-stone with the Choute arms. This once covered the grave of the Baronet and his father Sir George Choute, Kt. (died 1664).
In recording the latter’s burial in the Parish Register the Vicar, the Rev. Robert Cole (to whom Sir George had left �2) broke into verse:

“Goe sleepe Sir George. Where’s such another
Can equall thee? or th’ Squire thy brother?”

In 1460 licence was given to William Goldewell and Thomas Elyot to found a chantry chapel in the chapel of St. Mary the Virgin at “Bederisden” to pray for the souls of William Lovelace and John and Joan his parents. The present chapel was apparently built at that time. In the south wall the door for the chantry priest is blocked.
William Lovelace, “Gentilman”, Citizen of London, died in 1459 and was buried in the chancel. His brass, removed from its slab now in the central aisle, is on the wall of the north aisle. The inscription is a re-used brass of 1441 to a Citizen and Brewer of London, John Thomelyns and Joan his wife.
The Lovelaces are Bethersden’s most famous family; William Luvelaz is the earliest recorded member and occurs as witness to a Bethersden deed not later than 1247. The family prospered in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries in industry and commerce in the City of London and by marriage with at least one heiress; they settled in various parts of Kent and in Berkshire.
In Elizabeth I's reign the head of the Bethersden branch was William Lovelace, Serjeant-at-Law, who bought the ancient site of the Grey Friars in Canterbury. A highly successful lawyer, Serjeant Lovelace (died 1576/7) was a well-known figure in Kent and to him was dedicated the earliest printed treatise on growing hops: A Perfite Platforme of a Hoppe Garden (1574). The Serjeant’s younger son Thomas (died 1591) has a small brass also on the wall of the north aisle. Sir William Lovelace, the heir of Serjeant Lovelace, lived partly in Canterbury and partly in Bethetsden where he was buried in 1629. Sir William outlived his only son, also Sir William, who had been killed in Holland in 1627.
The younger Sir William’s eldest son was Richard Lovelace the Cavalier poet, courtier and soldier. At the end of April 1642 Lovelace, “reputed the handsomest man in England”, in company with Sir William Boteler of Teston near Maidstone, presented to Parliament the ‘Kentish Petition” for the restoration of the Anglican Liturgy, the maintenance of the bench of Bishops and ‘a good understanding between King and Parliament.’ As a similar petition by Sir Edward Dering (of Surrenden Dering) and the learned Sir Roger Twysden had three weeks before been declared seditious, and had then been burnt by the Common Hangman, Boteler was committed by the House of Commons to the Fleet Prison, and Lovelace to the Gatehouse Prison, Westminster. While there he wrote the poem “To Althea, from Prison,” containing the famous lines:

Stone Walls doe not a Prison make,
Nor I‘ron bars a Cage;
Mindes innocent and quiet take
That for an Hermitage.

Lovelace petitioned the Commons for his liberty, and late in June 1642 was released on personal bail of �IO,000. Unable, without forfeiting his bail, to fight for Charles I, he instead supplied his brothers with money. Lovelace is known to have been at Bethersden at various dates between 1642 and 1647, when he was selling his property there piece by piece to Richard Hulse of Great Chart. In 1645 and 1646 he was in the Low Countries, serving apparently as a Colonel in the French army, and was wounded at Dunkirk in 1646. After his return to England, he was among the Royalists defeated and captured by Fairfax at Maidstone in 1648. Once again he was imprisoned in London; he died aged less than 40 in 1657 and was buried at St. Bride’s, Fleet Street.
During the Commonwealth the poet’s three surviving brothers - William having been killed at Carmarthen - Capt. Thomas, Col. Francis and Capt. Dudley Posthumus Lovelace went to America, and after the Restoration Francis Lovelace was Governor of New York 1669-72.
The new owner of Lovelace Place, Richard Hulse (or ‘Captain Hulse’ as the Parish Records call him), in his youth travelled extensively (and perhaps fought) on the Continent. He settled in Kent and married first Clara Toke of Godinton and secondly Mary daughter of Sir William Clerke of Wrotham, one of the sureties for Richard Lovelace in 1642 (Clerke was eventually killed, together with Sir William Boteler, at Cropredy Bridge in 1644.) Hulse died in 1685/6 and the helmet in the Lovelace Chapel is probably part of his funeral achievement. The strange-looking crest is the remains of a stag's head with a sun between the antlers (now lost). The helmet itself is a cuirassier's helmet probably made in the Netherlands about 1630.
On the south wall of the chapel, partly blocking the piscina, is a Bethersden Marble tablet with a charming inscription to Cicely Hulse who died in 1679/80, aged 9.
Two more recent monuments commemorate the Haywards and Camerons of Low Wood.
The Lovelace Chapel was re-dedicated and again fitted up for services in 1955 at the expense of Bernard Prance in memory of his mother Annie Rosalie Prance.

The church contains several good mural tablets of the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries. Those to Bethersden's ancient yeoman family, the Witherdens of Wissenden, and to the Whitfields of The Thorne and the Wilmotts, rich clothiers who lived at Low Wood, are worth noticing. Special mention may be made of the tablet in the north aisle to the Rev. Jonathan Whiston, Vicar 1669-97, who at his own cost in 1676 built the old Vicarage (now Whiston House) to replace its predecessor destroyed by fire in 1669.

Weever’s Ancient Funerall Monuments (1631) records that Bethersden church contained the arms of Surrenden twice singly and once impaled with Crouch. No trace of this glass survives, but it commemorated a marriage which took place about 1400.
Frid Chapel: N. Window. Fragments of medieval glass.
Nave: E. Windows of N. & S. Aisles. Good fifteenth century canopy-work.
Chancel: E. Window. Christ (crowned) on the Cross, flanked by St. Augustine of Canterbury and St. Margaret of Antioch. Emblems of the Passion are in the tracery lights. Given in memory of Samuel Bright Hyland (died 1912) and Herbert Bright Hyland, 2nd Lt. Machine Gun Corps, killed on the Somme, 1916.
Lovelace Chapel: E. Window. Our Lady and Child, a modern family, a farming scene in Kent and Bethersden church. Given in 1969 by Mrs. (Amelia Frances) Ring as a thank-offering for her 41 years as Organist (1916-57).
S. Aisle: S. Window. This is the most recent of the windows and commemorates Arthur William MacMichael M.A., 1885-1960 Canon Emeritus of Canterbury Cathedral, his wife Elizabeth Helen Royale (nee Newboult) M.B., B.S., 1899-1983, and their son Nicholas Hugh F.S.A., 1933-1985, Keeper of the Muniments of Westminster Abbey. The centre panel depicts Christ ascending, over the arms of the Diocese of Canterbury with the flanking panels carrying the Arms of Trinity and Magdalene Colleges, Cambridge, The Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine, London, and Westminster Abbey, all displayed with a hop bine motif The Window was given to the church by Mrs Elizabeth Moss surviving daughter of Arthur and Helen MacMichael.
S. Aisle: W. Window. Scenes from the childhood of Christ. Given by Gertrude Lilian Roots in memory of (i) her husband William George Roots, 49 years Parish Clerk and sometime Churchwarden and Secretary of the Parochial Church Council and (ii) her son William Charles Roots, L/Cpl. Royal Tank Regt., died of wounds in Egypt, 1941.

The present organ was made by J. W. Walker & Sons, London, erected in 1909 and paid for by parochial subscription. Its predecessor stood at the west end of the north aisle. The 1552 inventory mentions 'a bass pair of organs’.
The present brass lectern was given also in 1909 by George Arthur Beazley. The tower contains a peal of six bells and a Sanctus Bell. (For a fuller account, see J. C. L. Stahlschmidt’s Church Bells of Kent [London,1887].) The fourth bell is medieval and is inscribed:

‘May the bell of John ring out for many years!’

It was common in the Middle Ages to call bells after saints; this bell was perhaps cast in the London foundry of Piers de Weston who was at work between 1328 and 1348.
The second, fifth and Tenor bells were cast in the seventeenth century by the Ulcombe founders Joseph and William Hatch. The Sanctus Bell, or ‘the Tingler’ (or Tinkler) as it was called, originally was medieval but was recast by William Hatch in 1662.

Silver Flagon. Given by Thomas Sharperey in 1631. Made by a London goldsmith whose mark “P.B.” between two crescents is found on other plate. London date-letter for 1631-2.
Silver Paten. Initials of Thomas Witherden and Thomas Wilmott, Churchwardens, 1726. London date-letter for 1726-7.
Pewter Alms Plate. Bought, it is said, in 1735.
Silver Communion Cup and Silver Paten. These were bought in July 1765 and together cost �3. 2s. 9d. London dateletter (on the cup only) for 1765-6. (They were exchanged for a silver Cup and Paten Cover which bore the initials of the churchwardens of 1621.)
Baptismal Shell. Silver and mother-of-pearl. Given in 1934.
Silver Chalice. Given by Gertrude Lilian Roots in memory of her husband and son, 1953. Assayed in Sheffield.



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Last modified: February 12, 2007