HISTORY OF ST GILES’ CHURCH, KINGSTON
In the early years of the Saxon settlement, when Kent was an independent kingdom, Kingston was one of the villages that belonged to the King. This is shown by the early form of the name, ‘Cyningestun’ – the king’s manor, and also by the rich finds in the nearby Saxon burial ground, including the Kingston Brooch. Once the Kingdom of Kent ceased to exist, the village seems to have sunk into obscurity, as it is not mentioned in the Domesday Book, apparently being included with one of the neighbouring villages.
However, it seems likely that there was a church here at that time, and that much of it remains in the present building. On the evidence of five original quoins (stonework at the angles of the building) which are of flint rather than dressed stone, two authorities have dated the walls of the nave and part of the chancel as 11th Century or Saxo-Norman. The original chancel was square, but was lengthened by about ten feet in the 13th Century. The eastward extension is just visible from the outside through the plaster on the north wall of the chancel. The tower is also an addition, having been built onto the west end, probably in the 14th Century. The church is built of flint, as this was the only building stone available in the area and only in the later parts of the building is imported stone used to strengthen the angles and openings. The walls themselves are about three feet thick.
The church is usually entered by the north door, to the right of which is a well-preserved holy water stoup. The porch was rebuilt in 1813, and it is worth noting that the inside walls are of shaped chalk blocks. The interior is well lit by several deeply-splayed windows. They are of various styles and periods, mainly 14th Century and all fairly simple. Most attractive are the pair towards the front of the nave. These are in the Decorated style (early 14th Century) and the original east window was very similar but with a rose in the upper section. This was removed in 1897 and replaced by the present window, given by the Rector in memory of his mother.
During earlier restoration work in 1846, when the church was thoroughly repaired and redecorated, the gallery and chancel screen were removed, a new floor was laid and new pews were put in. To pay for the pews, the parish had to borrow £100 which was paid off in four yearly instalments. The present pews date from 1886 when the entire church was again re-floored and re-seated. In 1873 the lath and plaster ceiling were removed, exposing the roof timbers. The two carved angels in the chancel roof also date from this time. The roof itself is a king-post construction of very plain and archaic type. Parts of it appear to have been removed, but most of the timberwork is probably early 14th Century.
In the south wall of the chancel are the piscine, originally used for washing the communion plate, and the sedilia, a seat for the priest. Opposite, in the north wall is the aumbry, a cupboard in which was kept the reserved sacrament to administer to the sick. The carved door and iron hinges are very old, but not original to the church, having been given by the Rector in 1928. The pulpit is also of carved oak with smaller decorative hinges, and is Jacobean or possibly Elizabethan.
In the base of the tower stands the font, which has a rather interesting history. It dates from the beginning of the 13th Century and at some time during the 18th Century it was removed and discarded because it was damaged. After being used for some years as a feeding trough by a local farmer, it was rescued by Brian Faussett, who was curate of Kingston and a well-known antiquary. He kept it in a summerhouse at his home in Canterbury, from where it was eventually returned to the church and re-consecrated in 1951.
The tower contains 3 bells, but unfortunately the largest and oldest is cracked and unusable. This was probably made by William le Belystere in about 1350. The other two are hung for chiming only. The smallest is blank and the second is inscribed ‘ Joseph Hatch made me 1610’.
Outside, the church is surrounded by its graveyard, with all the headstones still in their places. The oldest are closest to the door, dating from about 1740. The burial ground is still in use, and the churchwardens and villagers work hard to keep it in good order. The church building, too, requires constant care and vigilance so that it may stand as a place of worship for another thousand years.
THE LEGEND OF ST. GILES
St Giles was a hermit, who lived in the 8th Century in a forest near the River Rhone. He lived on the wild plants of the forest and drank the milk of a doe which he had tamed and which lived with him in his cave.
The king of the Franks, Childebert, used to hunt in the forest and on one occasion the dogs chased the doe until she reached the safety of the cave. A huntsman shot an arrow into the cave, and when the king entered, he found Giles with his arm around the doe, and is hand pierced by the arrow, which he had warded off from his pet.
The king was greatly moved by this action, and often visited the hermit afterwards. Eventually he gave the land around the cave and built a monastery on it, of which Giles became the first abbot. He prayed that his wound would not heal so that he might learn to bear pain as his Saviour before him.
St Giles is the patron saint of cripples, and many churches and hospitals throughout Europe have been named after him.
Margaret Smith (1990)