Helen Stephenson's Pictures of St Peter's Church, Ightham

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During the 2006 Heritage Open Days, Stephen and I visited Ightham Mote, and took the opportunity while we were in Ightham to run an errand to St Peters to photograph some Bythesea memorials for someone who lives too far away to do it for himself. It's a lovely little church and well worth a visit and I ended up photographing much more than the Bythesea memorials!

Note for those who haven't come across the name Ightham before: you pronounce it so that it sounds like item!

These pictures were captured using a Pentax *ist DS digital SLR camera.

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St Peter's is located in Fen Pond Road, at the north end of the Kentish village of Ightham. Ightham itself is about equidistant from Sevenoaks and West Malling, which are the larger towns in that part of Kent.


Here we see the view of the church which visitors entering the churchyard via the lychgate will get. The church has an extensive churchyard which extends a considerable distance behind the church.




Stepping quickly round to the rear for a moment, here are two views of the tower, complete with the St George flag being flown from the flagpole at the top of the tower.



Moving back to the front, here is the lychgate, and also the church noticeboard. The lychgate was decorated with flowers under the eaves of its roof on the day we visited.









I was lucky enough for my chance visit to St Peter's to coincide with a "Churches of Kent" cycle ride and church staff were present as they were offering refreshment to visiting cyclists and were happy for me to bring my camera inside.

The church is laid out with the tower at the rear. There is an entrance door under the tower, but access to the church appears to normally be via the side porch on the rear of the south side of the church.

The rear of the church consists of the tower area, which houses a peal of bells and also a fascinating clock which chimes the quarter hours in syncopated time! The rest of the interior is taken up by a nave with north and south aisles and a chancel housing the altar and the choir. There is a small side chapel in the south aisle which I didn't go into.

The view on entering via the side porch is across to the north aisle, which has some old box pews in it.




I enjoyed the floral decoration located at the rear of the north aisle. There was another similar flower arrangement at the north east end of the chancel, but I didn't photograph that.




I also greatly enjoyed the modern stained glass windows installed at the rear of the north aisle. These panels are a memorial to Monica Mary Saunders.








There was stained glass in the south aisle which caught my eye as well. The brownish colour of the window frame around the panels is due to exposing for the stained glass. The window frame is much lighter in colour than depicted here.




I have made some close-up exposures of sections of this window. It does take them out of their original context, but I think that these sections make good pictures in their own right as well as being part of a bigger whole.









Facing down the centre aisle, which boasts a blue carpet, you get the view down the nave and into the chancel. A chandelier was providing quite a bit of light, but not enough to balance the brightness of the window over the altar, for which very little detail shows on these pictures.





I did take some separate photographs of the stained glass over the altar.






St Peter featured in one of the panels over the altar in the big east window, and he is also to be found on the south side of the chancel.





The next picture is a bit confusing. I took it to show the tiles on the floor in the chancel. The light blue in the foreground is a cushion for kneeling on and the green in the back ground is the bottom of the altar cloth. The bit in between is the tiles!




The next four pictures show some of the memorials in the chancel area. The memorial containing two knights on their sides is in the south wall of the chancel; the single knight lying down is in the north wall of the chancel and is an effigy of Thomas Cawne; and the memorial depicted in the centre two pictures is on the south side of the east wall of the chancel. This last memorial is a bit macabre looking, as it includes a skeleton!





The next set of pictures are the ones I visited St Peter's to take - or at least I hope they are. I was looking for Bythesea gravestones in the churchyard, but simply couldn't find any, despite having directions on approximately where to look. Also, there were no Bythesea graves on the churchyard plan, which church staff kindly looked up for me. However, what I did find was some Bythesea memorials inside the church on the north wall of the chancel. These memorials are for a past Rector of St Peter's, and his mother, plus various other relatives of names other than Bythesea. I'm not sure if they are of any use to someone searching their family tree, as the poor Rector, who died young, left only one son, and he died while still a child.

I wondered whether I had the wrong church, but the church staff assured me that St Peter's is the only church in Ightham. There was a daughter church at Ivy Hatch, but burials wouldn't have taken place there.

As the Bythesea memorial plaque inside the church makes reference to a vault nearby, I think I've probably found the right place, but that the marker for the vault has disappeared in the intervening two centuries. There are gravestones in the churchyard which are too weathered to be legibile, so it could be one of those; or it could be a substantial grave overgrown with brambles, as those graves are all in what is probably the right part of the churchyard. Without the grave or graves appearing on the churchyard plan, even if they are there, it would probably take longer than a couple of hours and a quick visit to locate them.








Having exhausted the Bythesea possibilities, I faced the rear of the church and photographed the nave as seen from the chancel area. The church has recently undergone restoration and a panel which previously separated the nave and chancel has been taken down and moved to the rear of the church, where it now divides the area under the tower from the nave. One thing I didn't notice in the church was an organ. I don't think I would have missed a pipe organ, but there may be a smaller organ tucked away out of sight somewhere.




I admired the panels on the walls and ceiling and tried really hard to photograph some of them, but didn't have much success. The ceiling between the beams in the aisles really is a fairly bright pink colour, although I'm not sure whether I've got it quite right. The three panels depicted here are all from the north side of the church. The two with the pink and beamed backgrounds are on the north aisle ceiling, while the one on the light background is above a pillar separating the north aisle from the nave.




I hope you've enjoyed my visit to St Peter's Church in Ightham and that you agree that it's a lovely little church.


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Last Revised: 11th September, 2006.