Trials,Tribulations and Happy Moments in my busy life

Sunday, 10 February 2013

St Mary's, Lower Higham.

Hi folks,

as promised here is a quick look at the other Church in Higham that outgrew itself, note the spire.

Around the back you can see the original church with the spire and the other section added later.

This church now retired from active service and is looked after by the Churches Conservation Trust who have carried out some essential restoration work in recent years.  It is thanks to them that I am able to give you this information

Brief History, well worth a read.

In 1148, Mary, the daughter of King Stephen, was granted the manor of Lillechurch, next to Higham, to build a nunnery and she became its first Prioress in 1151. The nuns bought the neighbouring manor sometime around 1205 and soon began building a new home, they moved in about 1280.

Perhaps it was the use of St Mary's by the nuns which led to its being enlarged with a new aisle which turned out to be as big as the original church. We know the Priory received a Papal Indulgence in 1357 to raise money for repairs, this meant that anyone making a donation over a set period of three years received forgiveness of his or her sins. Mary's thus doubled in size and began to look more like the building we know today.

The nuns seemed to prosper, Henry III granted them the right to hold a market and they were responsible for the upkeep of the causeway and bridge leading to the ferry. There was a dispute with Gravesend over the rights to ferry people and goods across the Thames but the service was still operating in 1474, when the Prioress hired a replacement boat from Rochester. By this stage however, the reputation of the Priory was not what it had been. The rumours were such that the Bishop of Rochester was prompted to order an inquiry and he paid the nuns a visit in 1513. He found only four in residence and two of them had been made pregnant by the new vicar of Higham, this fact  must have made the decision to close the place fairly straightforward. This finally happened in 1522. All the possessions of the Priory were transferred to St John's College, Cambridge.

Higham's most famous resident was Charles Dickens who moved here in 1859 after buying the large house on Gad's Hill, his daughter was married here in St Mary's, his Parish Church.

The church ceased to be in the centre of the village as the population spread and almost doubled between 1821-1861 so the Rev'd Joseph Hindle who was vicar of Higham from 1829-1874 paid for St John's church and the vicarage to be built at the cost of £2,674.  This was the church I told you about yesterday.

This church trusted to the Redundant Churches Fund, now known as The Churches Conservation Trust, in 1987. 

The Churches Conservation Trust was established to look after parish churches which have been declared redundant. Currently there are 325 churches in the Trust's care. It has an active programme of repair, maintenance and long-term conservation, as wall as providing access, publications and encouraging occasional services. Events are held in many Trust churches. The Trust has joined with English Heritage to establish an education service.

Below, detail of the main door perhaps to keep the nuns in and the vicar out.

Door ajar showing how thick it is.

This addition part the south aisle was added in 14th century

Details of the Pulpit

15th century screen that divides the North Aisle from the Lady Chapel. Note the wood burner on the left, they had them even back then.

Detail of the very old Lectern.

Lastly, a view from the road showing the lynch gate

I hope this showed an insight into this churches fascinating history.

Thanks for taking the time to look.

Best regards, Mike.


  1. Thanks Mike.. I enjoyed reading this .. Super interesting post.. just my sort of thing.
    great pictures as always too ... more like this please
    E xx

  2. Wonderful stuff Mike......I wonder if they could have been
    'Immaculate conceptions'.....maybe not.....naughty Vicar
    I'd say ! Great history info too, cheers Mike !!!
    Chris and Dave R

  3. Thanks for the history lesson.Lovely church with the steeple in the middle.
    naught nuns and vicars.