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History of St. Martin's Church, Eynsford

THE LIFE OF ST. MARTIN OF TOURS 316-397

This winter, when you next see someone who looks both poor and cold, think of Martin of Tours. This monk bishop, born in Pannonia (now Hungary) became one of the most popular saints of the Middle Ages.

Martin’s father was a pagan officer in the Roman Army, and Martin was intended for the army as well. But from an early age Martin wanted to be a Christian, and felt that as a Christian he could not serve the Roman Empire. Martin was imprisoned for this early ‘conscientious objection’, and not released until 357, when he was nearly 40.

One day Martin met a nearly naked beggar at Amiens. He took off his cloak, cut it in half and gave the half to the beggar. Soon after this, he had a dream in which Christ appeared to him, wearing the half of cloak which Martin had given away.

Martin was the pioneer of western monasticism: he founded the first monastery in the whole of Gaul about 360. He was made bishop of Tours in 372 – by popular demand of both his clergy and his people.

As bishop, Martin continued his simple life as a monk, - and evangelist. Christianity had been largely confined to the urban centres of population, but Martin went further, and took Christianity to the pagani (country-men). For the next 25 years this greatly loved bishop travelled his diocese by donkey and by boat, preaching the good news of Jesus Christ, and helping his people to tear down their heathen temples and sacred trees. He was sought out for his healing prayers for the sick, and also his defence of the faith from heretics.

Martin’s emblem in English art is often that of a goose, whose annual migration is about late Autumn. ‘St Martin’s Summer’ in England is a spell of fine weather that sometimes occurs around 11 November.

For a more detailed account of his life click here.

HISTORY OF ST. MARTIN'S CHURCH, EYNSFORD

What follows is only a summary of the long and colourful history of the beautiful, ancient parish church of St. Martin in Eynsford. More detail is available in 'A Short History of St. Martin's Eynsford', which is published by the Farningham & Eynsford Local History Society (publication no 18) and is available from the church for £2.

In 1066 … when William of Normandy conquered the Saxons and was crowned King of England, he rewarded all the Norman Knights who had fought with him. He gave a knight called Unspac the lands of Eynsford. Ralf, son of Unspac built the castle out of the local Kentish flint and re-named himself William d'Eynsford out of respect for his king.

William d’Eynsford I then built St. Martin's church on the site of an old Saxon church, again using the local Kentish flint strengthened by Kentish ragstone.

The rounded arch which is now inside the entrance porch is Norman.

The door in the arch was added in the 12th Century, the arch here being early English in style. When Henry II and the Barons were in conflict with Thomas a Becket and the church in 1163, this same door was closed and barred by William d’Eynsford III against a new Rector appointed by Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury.

The west tower and then the porch were added in the 13th Century.

When the clock on the tower was repaired in 1904, a local benefactor, Elliot Downs Till, had the words of Robert Browning inscribed on the oak frame of the clock; 'Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be'.

The spire was reshingled in 1988. Local residents including the children in the Primary School at the time, each wrote their name on the underside of the shingles.

As the Lords of the Manor prospered improvements were made and the walls were plastered. The arches are still the Early English style of the 11th and 12th centuries.
Chapels were added either side of the nave to make the traditional shape of the cross. The chapel of St Katherine on the north side is now the vestry.

 

The Lady Chapel, originally dedicated to John the Baptist, on the south side, contains the only piece of stained glass. The lofty arch dates from 1280-90. In the end wall there is a sedile (seat for the priest) and fluted piscina (a basin for washing vessels after Mass) both early English.

Because the site of the old Saxon church was used and because of the rising land, the top of the chancel where the altar is situated does not face due east.

The steps into the chancel and into the Lady Chapel follow the gradient of the slope.

 
The lectern is very simple. It is a memorial to those men of the village who died in the 1939 - 1945 war.
The font is 15th Century and of Kentish ragstone. It was originally by the door where a font is traditionally placed but was moved to make space for an organ console in 1967. On the west face are the cross and crown of thorns, on the south face a tau cross representing baptism. On the east face is the pall from the arms of Canterbury. The other faces are carved with single roses.
There was once a gallery on the back wall. When was removed it was replaced by the coat of arms of King George III.
The church is dedicated to St Martin of Tours. St Martin was a 3rd Century soldier who shared his cloak with a shivering beggar. The banner is recent and was embroidered by a local lady.
The hassocks were created by members of the church. The illustration shows the dividing of the cloak.

The Lych Gate was erected in 1920 in memory of Mr Elliot Downs Till, a local benefactor who did much for the village.

In 1961 the churchyard wall and the lychgate were moved back 2.5 metres to make room for a pavement.

Till’s grave can be found in the churchyard.

Further interesting features:
The cross above the altar

The gilded coat of arms of King George III

Around the walls are numerous carved stone heads that date from medieval times
The roof timber architecture in the chancel
www.efl-churches.org
 
All Material © Eynsford Farningham & Lullingstone Anglican Churches 2014