The Old Church

The Old Church

The first known record of Pembury, originally Pepingeberia, is to be found in the ‘Textus Roffensis’ (c1120). It tells of the manors of Pepenbury Magna (Hawkwell) and Pepenbury Parva (Bayhall).

The Advowson was granted by Simon de Wahull to Bayham Abbey c1239. (Advowson is the right in English Law of presenting a nominee to a vacant parish. In effect this means the right to nominate a person to hold a church office in a parish).  The current Patron is Christ Church, Oxford University.

Pembury has two churches dedicated to St Peter. The oldest, known as the Old Church, stands outside the modern village in the woods to the north of the A228 bypass. The newer building, known as the Upper Church, stands in the heart of the village on Hastings Road.

The plan of the Old Church and the little Norman window above the South door indicate that the original Church dates from 1147 at least, or even 1100AD. Most of the present Church was built in 1337 by John Colepeper of Bayhall. He also built the chantry chapel of St Mary in the churchyard in 1355 but this was pulled down at the Dissolution of the smaller Monasteries in 1547 and three windows in the body of the Church were inserted with the money gained from the sale of the lead which had covered the chapel.

The most notable feature inside the Church is the roof of the nave. It is said to be one of the best specimens of the tie-beam and kingpost type in the country.

On the north wall near the pulpit there is an interesting brass with an inscription and a figure of an Elizabethan child, Elizabeth Rowe. There are two slabs set into the Sanctuary floor in memory of Dorothy Amherst (1654) and Richard Amherst (1664). The Amherst family owned the manor of Bayhall at this time.

During the nineteenth century a number of alterations were made to the Church, including the raising of the Chancel floor. This meant that the oldest tombstone was completely covered over. The inscription round the edge of the slab, written in Norman French, tells is that it is the resting place of Margaret, the daughter of Sir Thomas Colepeper.

Among the other memorial tablets there are several of the Woodgate family, three of whom were vicars of Pembury in the nineteenth century. Under the tower is a memorial to Lord George Spencer-Churchill.

The Organ, which has one manual and a pedal-board, dates back to 1877. It was made by Hill and Son, London, and cost £130. The organ was fully restored to its former glory in 2006. There are four bells which are now fitted with a chiming apparatus so that they can be rung by one person.