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THE PILGRIMS WAY IN KENT

 

 

June 2015

 

Doug Chapman, a chartered surveyor who had worked at Canterbury Cathedral, spoke to the Society on 19th June on the Pilgrims Way in Kent. Named for its use by medieval pilgrims from Winchester to Canterbury, the Pilgrims Way is in fact much older, dating from prehistoric times (ancient monument nearby include the Coldrum Stones and Kit's Coty House). It follows a route along the North Down skirting between the wooded hillsides and the boggy lower ground. As Chaucer wrote in the Canterbury Tales, April is the ideal month for pilgrimages - the ground firm, the path not yet overrun by brambles - but this was not the track used by Chaucer's pilgrims, who would have come from Southwark by way of Watling Street.

Passing quickly by the familiar stretches from Chevening and Otford to Kemsing and Wrotham we come to the lost village of Dode and its small Norman Church, deconsecrated and once falling into ruin. Chapman purchased the church in 1990 and set about saving it, a long and dedicated project of restoration, so that today it can be used for civil marriages and other civil services.

Next the pilgrims had to cross the Medway exactly where is uncertain, but one possibility is the causeway still surviving just beneath the water near Snodland. Then we come to the lovely Burham Old Church, redundant but restored, and then to Boxley where the monks of Boxley Abbey charged the pilgrims to venerate the famous Rood of Grace. At the Reformation Thomas Cromwell had the Rood taken down and burned at Paul's Cross in London. Passing through Detling and Thurnham we come to Charing with its Archbishop's palace, and then to Wye and Chilham and the valley of the Stour. Now the Pilgrims Way veers northwards to Harblesdown, where pilgrims could pay to see a buckle from Becket's shoe (the pilgrimage was becoming expensive). Finally the pilgrims reach their destination, Canterbury Cathedral and Becket's shrine in the Trinity Chapel with its radiant Miracle Windows.
Chapman's description and photos of the church he had restored at Dode were so interesting that we made Dode the Society's September outing.

Shoreham And District
Historical Society
Affiliated to
The Shoreham Society
The Kent History Federation and
The Kent Archaeological Society

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Last Updated

March 24, 2016

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