Hayes, West Wickham and Keston in old picture postcards

Hayes, West Wickham and Keston in old picture postcards

:   Muriel V. Searle
:   Greater London
:   United Kingdom
:   978-90-288-4694-4
:   80
:   EUR 16.95 Incl BTW *

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Fragmenten uit het boek 'Hayes, West Wickham and Keston in old picture postcards'

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39. Though West Wiekham Church is virtually timeless as a building, the surroundings look rather different today. The little pond, once grown with reeds and yellow irises, was filIed in and grassed over, and much ofthe approach land behind the righthand trees taken as a carpark. Many of the big trees feil during the 1987 hurricane. The roots of a younger tree (not even planted when this postcard was sent in 1908) dragged up the lychgatc's side supports as it feil, causing the whole ancient structure to collapse. Behind the tree second from right is hidden the Lennard Chapel. Wh en in the 1960s Evensong was attracting increasingly large congregations, before the total universality of evening TV, and also of fear of walking to lonely churches at night, the interior vestry was removed to take extra pews, set sideways. A new upstairs vestry was built above the chapel, consecrated by the Bishop of Croydon. A Rector of the 1950s was the last regularly to patrol his parish on horseback.

40. A romanticised 'Oilette' type card postmarked 1906, including the lost church pond. Other churches have c1early occupied this site before the present church of 1490, for plaques inside list Rectors back to 1293. More unusually, parish clerks' names are also recorded. Past Rectors included the customary 'painful minister' , meaning painstaking rather than a penance 10 listen to. Within, the chance! structure is noticeably out of line with the cruciform nave and transept; a deliberate distortion representing the drooping of Christ's head on the cross; another very distinct example is the Quire of Canterbury Cathedra!. A sanctuary brass commemorates John Lang, a Rector, placed there in 1619, four years before his death. 'At least he was sure of a worthy rnemorial,' wrote a 1960s church officer. Tbc precious encaustic tiles in the sanctuary, of fleur-de-lys pattern, we re laid in 1827, being rediscovered 'loose and neglected'. Estimates of their date range from 14th century to Roman. On a more modern note: St. John's beils were recorded somc years ago by the BBC for introducing Sunday morning broadcasts. Their very distinctive timbre was easily recognised by locals whenever they were played over the air.

41. Winter at West Wiekham in about 1914. The church has since changed little, but its surroundings quite a lot. The rough path has been made up for motor vehicles, though it still ends at the church; and the pond has gone. In its latter days it became considerably overgrown, as rushes, reeds and water irises took hold.

42. West Wiekham Iychgate was dragged down when this tree feil during the 1987 hurricane, and demolished. When the writer's father Noel Searle was parish clerk, from Coronation Year 1953 to 1971 (as is inscribed on his grave) one of this tower's old beIls doubled as a Sanctus bell, which he toIled three times, twiee over, during the Consecration at Eucharist. Being dedicated to St. John the Baptist, entry is down steep steps from the tower porch into the nave, eommemorating John's prophecy of diminution for himself: 'He must decrease as our Lord inereased.' This is seen in many St. John's churehes. But Noel Searle's researches showed that the original dedieation might have been to St. Mary Magdalene. A charter of 1318 allowed a loeal fair on her feast day, 22nd July, instead of St. John's Day, 24th June; and fairs nearly always happened on or near the loeal church' s patronal festival. But in 1400, only 82 yearsafter, money was left fora picture of St. John to be installed, suggesting perhaps a new dedieation after some rebuilding or refurbishing work.

43. An undated card of St. John's showing the linenfold carved screen and Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) reredos. As it stood beside Wiekham Court, home of Anne Boleyn's aunt, it is assumed that Anne oceasionally worshipped here. In 1490 the owner of the Court, Sir Henry Heydon, 'did build a right fair manorplace, and a fair church, by Lewisham in Surrey towards Croydon'; such was the widespread local geography of th at time. This and previous churehes are believed, by now, to have occupied the site for over 900 years. St. John's bells, too, span a longperiod, from those cast in 1624 and 1640, through to one of 1939. One cracked bell was melted down and reeast in 1958. The process was watched at Whitechapel Bell Foundry by some of St. John's staff, one ofthe loeal ringers being a director of the works.

44. Churchgoers have been known to nickname Gates Green Road as 'Holy Road', from the number of St. John's staff living in or near it. The old Reetory itself was originally the 17th century Coney Hall Farm, until the 1920s. The cloister-Iike outbuildings and wonderfuI old granary behind it, became St. Christopher's Chapel. Being so much used for Sunday School and other children's activities it, too, acquired an appropriate nickname: 'St. Kids' (instead of the usual diminutivefor St. Christopher , St. Kits). Inevitably the curate orlay reader in charge has therefore sometimes been unoffieially elevated as the 'Bishop of Coney Hall'.

45. Wiekham Court's intermingled history and legend are toa familiar to justify further repetition, but a few lesser known facts and fictions are worth recalling. Stained glass saints in the church next door are said to correspond to old Lennard family names: Anne , Catherine, Christopher. Dorothea. The roof was raised by two feet when in the 1920s it became a hotel, to make the attic rooms lettabie. Ta restare the exterior proportions, the turrets were then raised by ten feet, given new floors, and used for guest bathrooms. 18th century prints show na battlements, which had been removed, but they were restored by the hotel owners. Heraldic glass in one room includes the arms of Anne Boleyn as queen, and also her seal of a white eagle on a tree stump with Tudor rose; the latter was adopted by her daughter Elizabeth 1. In the central and now enclosed courtyard was a weil for supplying the inhabitants should the Court ever take the role of a castle and come under siege.

46. Rogationtide at St. John's, West Wickham, soon after the Second World War. Leaving only the verger behind 'to watch the shop', the congregation followed the cruciter and choir into the fields for this ancient service of blessing, during Evensong, singing hymns as the walked. One area of the churchyard is popularly called Killick's Corner, from the large number ofthis family's graves; in particular, Killicks have been local undertakers for many decades. And few men are more jovial off duty than an undertaker, as the writer's family weil knows, being close to one of Wiekharn's church officers. On the other side of the churchyard lies one of the most modest men ever to worship here, buried without any sort of stone or inscription. He believed hirnself unworthy to be outwardly remembered, compared with the church itself: and God would know where he lay, anyway.


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47. When this postcard titled 'Old Oaks on Wiekham Common, Kent' was issued, there was no town; just one straggling hamIet known as Wiekham Street, described in about 1875 as 'a pleasant quiet cluster of country cottages about a green, and along the raad to Croydon'. This was the same highway that is a madness of cars, lorries and Croydon-bound buses today. A massive tree at its crossroads was the centrepiece , but imagining how it looked, or picturing the general atrnosphere, is now very difficult. Ta gain some idea it is necessary to travel over to still-rural Downe, where a similar monster tree still is the hub of a erossroads, complete with seats wrapped around it. Befere suburbia existed, West Wiekham was separated from other parishes by open farmland. "The walks henee ... to Beokenham or eastward to Hayes Common, are very beautiful,' it was observed in the 1870s. Today Hayes ean still be reached aeross eomrnonland, but miles of houses lie between Wiekham and Beckenham. But even in the 1930s, the author's newlywed parents regulary walked to West Wiekham from as far off as Shortlands, entirely aeross open fields,

48. No rnock-Tudor suburbia mars this tranquil scene of about 1905, but the idyll was to last only another twenty years or so. But because the new wave of residents were so enamoured of country life - even though in the process of settling here they were actually destroying it - old style entertainments became very popular. Chief of these was the famousFlitch Trial, run from 1933 to 1941, and again from 1949. On trial were selected local couples whose plea was that they had lived together without one cross word for a year and a day. The winners 'brought home the bacon'. A huge flitch of bacon, weighing sixty pounds, was the 1933 prize, reduced by 1949 to a more manageable joint of bacon airmailed from Canada by a former Wiekham resident. Summoned to face trial by jury at the Court of Married Happiness in front of a judge, two counsel, and a jury of six bachelors and six spinsters, each couple was cross questioned in an hilarious spoof of a courtroom trial.

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