In its delightful setting reached through the Gate House, the church on the lawn at Lullingstone Castle is sometimes mistaken for a private chapel. Although the history of the church is entwined with the descent of the Peché-Hart-Dyke family, it is also the parish church of Lullingstone. The regular congregation comes not only from Lullingstone but beyond, drawn by its regular Sunday morning services according to the 1662 Book of Common Prayer with lessons taken from the King James Bible.
The idiosyncratic exterior tells something of the changes to the church over the centuries. The church we see today was built around 1349 in the Decorated style; the nave of square cut knapped flints with consistent joints and the chancel of regular flints with thick, irregular joints.
The North Chapel built in the early 16th century as the bequest of Sir John Peché to accommodate his tomb, is of brick.
In the 18th century Percyvall Hart (the fourth of that name) had thirteen courses of brick added to the nave to heighten the roof to accommodate an ornate plaster ceiling. His initials and the date 1723 were carved into one of the roof beams.
He also added the rendered porch which is the entrance to the church. It is probable, though not recorded, that the rest of the outside walls were similarly plastered at this time. Another curiosity is the roof; slate on the southern aspect but hung with clay tiles on the north. This side of the nave was retiled in 2010.
Among the many treasures inside the church which were the gifts of Percyvall Hart are the tiny early 18th century marble font enclosed in a tall wooden case which stands by the door;
and the moulded plaster ceilings (circa1723).
The early 16th century carved rood screen,
the gift of Sir John Peché, is decorated with the pomegranate badges of Katherine of Aragon, sometimes combined with Tudor roses,
and peach stones carved with the letter “e” to pun the name Peachey, the pronunciation of the name Peché.
The balustrade above was a later addition.
To the north of the chancel is the beautifully carved tomb of Sir John Peché d 1521. Above the arch on the chancel side are carved Tudor roses to the left and the pomegranates of Katherine of Aragon to the right.
On the north side the decoration is, to the right, of peach trees with a bird pecking at fruit and to the left, peaches, pomegranates and the Peché forked tailed lion and motto.
The full length figure wearing plate armour is carved in exquisite detail down to the veins of his hands. The family motto “Prest a Faire” [Ready to act] is carved on his surcoat.
The south wall of the chancel is dominated by the painted tomb of Sir John Peché’s nephew and heir, the first Sir Percyvall Hart b.circa 1496 d.1580. Trompe l’oeil figures of naked boys stand on either side of the inscription.
He and his wife Friedeswide, hold up their hands in prayer.
In the North chapel is the chest tomb of Sir Percyvall’s son, Sir George Hart and his wife Elizabeth Bowes. Their painted effigies show them holding hands. At their heads stand figures symbolising labour “LABOR” and resurrection “RESURRECTIO”
At their feet are rest “QUIES” and death “MORS”.
The handsome monument to “PERCYVALL HART Esqr. the munificent Repairer and Beautifier of this Church”, who died in 1738, takes up the whole west wall of the chapel.
Next to it on the north wall is a memorial to his only child, Anne, whose marriage to Sir Thomas Dyke marked the start of the Hart Dyke line which possesses Lullingstone Castle to this day.
Twentieth century additions to the church include the 19th century organ, the oak altar rails, incorporating original balusters, made by Sir Oliver Hart Dyke and the tall candlesticks by the altar which commemorate him.
The final year of the century was commemorated in the millennium wall hanging, made from the wool of sheep grazed on the Lullingstone estate, which was worked by members of the congregation.
The most recent additions to the church are the double glass doors, each etched with a cross, at the entrance to the porch.
The church is particularly rich in glass. Some from the 14th century is now in the north window of the chapel. 16th century windows of the Anglo-Flemish Southwark school donated by Sir John Peché are now to be seen on the south of the nave. The three panels depict [left to right] the bloody martyrdom of St Erasmus, St John the Baptist and St George and the Dragon.
Sir John also gave the figures in the east window of the chancel; [left to right] St Agnes, with her symbols the lamb and the sword of her martyrdom, St Anne teaching her daughter, the Virgin Mary, to read and St Elizabeth of Hungary.
There is more 16th century glass in the south window of the chancel; four roundels including one illustrating the legend of the bishop St Nicholas of Myra, who in a time of famine, restored to life boys who had been killed, cut in pieces and pickled.
In the 18th century Sir Thomas Dyke employed William Peckitt. His designs include the figures of St Botolph and St Luke and a depiction of the Ascension surmounted with the name of God in Hebrew, Greek and Latin and a riot of cherubs.