History of St Peter’s Church
The church of St Peter’s Ightham overlooks the group of ancient buildings at the centre of the village. It is recorded in the early 12th century and it was probably preceded by a Saxon building. Early Norman features survive – 2 little blocked windows high in the east wall and remarkably thick chancel walls. The present church was almost entirely rebuilt at the turn of the 14 – 15th centuries, and so it has remained, apart from the north aisle which was rebuilt in typical mellowed brick in 1639. The first Rector was presented to the benefice by Henry III in 1232.
There are various features of interest in this treasured church:
The oak wagon roof with its well moulded principal and embattled cornices. The south aisle has arched trusses and two quaint carved human heads: In the porch, the arched braced roof displays impressive workmanship.
The heavy oak entrance door with locally wrought nails and fittings was put in place in 1552.
The Cawne monument, in the north side of the chancel, dated about 1374. Sir Thomas built the great hall in Ightham Mote. He is exquisitely carved in full armour, bascinet with attached mail, the knightly belt and gauntlets. It is contemporary with a similar tomb of the Black Prince in Canterbury Cathedral. It may be that both were carved by the same sculptor. The window above – the oldest in the church – was willed by Sir Thomas.
Lady Dorothy Selby monument (1741), alongside the east window. The bust at least in this important sculpture was carved by the Master Mason to the Crown. Another occupant of Ightham Mote, her various interests -music, books, needlework, flowers and, being childless, the poor children of the Parish – are depicted around her.
On the south wall of the chancel a monument to two more Selbys, both Sir William’s. The lower figure never married (1611), the upper, his nephew, was married to Lady Dorothy (1638). They combine to offer another large memorial in the ornate Stuart fashion.
Beneath a carpet, the brass of Jane Dirkin (1626) in typical Jacobean costume and a small brass on the floor in front of the altar of Sir Richard Clement with some original enamel still in place. He provided the chapel in Ightham Mote.
Hatchments. St Peter’s has twelve – only 4 churches in Kent have more. They represent the three senior houses in the Parish – Ightham Mote, Ightham Court and St Clare (now in the Parish of Kemsing): and three hatchments from Rectors.
Six church bells, two of which were cast c: 1430.
A set of Jacobean box pews from the James family of Ightham Court. Rich carving includes the family crest- a chevron with three mill-rinds (the iron centre of the mill wheel for grinding barley): brewing was the principal source of the James’ wealth.
Over the centre aisle hangs a graceful double tier, 24 light, brass chandelier, dated 1579
In the St Catherine chapel, memorials to Ightham’s two VCs: Bugler William Sutton (1857) and Riversdale Colyer-Ferguson (1917 posthumously).
In the west wall of the south aisle, the mutilated gravestone of Jane Lambarde, first wife of William Lambarde, eminent Elizabethian lawyer and antiquarian. She lived at St Clare, married at 17 and died of smallpox 3 years later.
In the churchyard, adjacent to the chancel, an elaborate Victorian tomb for the Bailey Family. It was designed by the Victoran gothic revivalist architect William Burges.