John the Baptist Halling
Church’s One Foundation is Jesus Christ Her Lord.”
“Egbert, King of
Kent, with the consent of his nobles and princes, gave ten ploughlands
in Halling, with all their appurtenances, together with the fields,
woods, meadows, marshes, fishing and hunting and fouling belonging to
them to Bishop Doran and the Church at Rochester.” (Edward
Hasted – History of
in his Perambulation of Kent,
William Lambarde wrote: “Halling in Saxon palinz, that is to say, the
holsome lowe place or meadow.
A Chartre of Ecbert (4th christened King of Kent) by
which he gave to Dioran tenne ploughlands in
of the charter is said to be 765 AD. It may be assumed that the first
Church was built in Halling
not long after this date.
Further evidence of an early Church is given by Halsted. “Halling does not seem to have
remained long in the possession of the Church at
Rochester, being wrested
from it during the Danish Wars in this kingdom. However, by 1042,
Halling was again in the possession of the Bishops of Rochester because
we are told that during the reign of Edward the Confessor (1042 –1066)
Halling was taxed at 6 sulungs. Also, as shown in
the records of the Cathedral, Haling was charged the full fee of 9d,
known as the Chrism Fee, the Holy Chrism being consecrated oil used in
Bptism and distributed at Easter to churches in the Rochester
Diocese. The fee of 9d
showed that Halling possessed a Church, a Chapel being
Everett in his book Continuity
“seems to allow the possibility that Halling may be an early
foundation because dedications to St
John the Baptist and St Lawrence are the most
frequent on drove ways.”
(The fact that the site is adjacent to a track leading to a river
crossing indicates that this could have been a drove way.) He goes on, “While falling short
of proof these are indications of a pre-existing settlement at Halling
at the time of Egbert’s grants.”
William I to Victoria
Book of Kent states: “The same Bishop holds Hallinges In
the time of King Edward it answered for six sulungs and now for two and
a half, there is arable of seven teams, in demesne, there are three
teams, fifteen villeins with nine borderari have six teams. A church there and two slaves an
thirty acres of meadow and
wood of five hogs.
In the time of King Edward and afterwards it was worth seven
pounds, now sixteen. What
Richard holds in his lowry is worth seven
Gundulf, who was Bishop from 1077-1108 built the
first stone church. For the
next 800 years the vicissitudes of the Church reflect in some instances
the history of England.
There were periods of neglect and periods of recovery. It was recorded that Bishop de
Glanville (1185-1214) did
great deal of restoration as did Bishop Haymo Hythe
(1319-1352). At times when
the Black Death ravaged the country there were frequent changes of
clergy, some of which could be attributed to this cause. The list of clergy during the
Sixteenth Century also reflects the changes in the national church. Henry VIII broke away from
Rome and his son, Edward VI, was an ardent
Protestant. Between 1515
and 1534 there were four clergy.
Did they still adhere to the Catholic faith and so resign or were
removed? Mary I, an ardent Catholic, came to the throne in 1553 and in
that year Thomas Bedlowe was deprived of the living, but on the
succession of Elizabeth I, Protestant, he was restored. In 1670 the Census showed that:
“In Halling there are no papists and no non-conformists.” The first registers begin in
1735. It is thought there
had been earlier ones but they had been lost or destroyed. BY the middle of
Victoria’s reign the village had begun to change
resulting in the restoration and enlargement of the
Throughout the Middle Ages, the Reformation and
later years the population of Halling remained stable. In 1801 the population totalled
248. By 1881 this had
increased to 1,273. The
Church was not large enough.
The Vicar, Rev. Frederick Goldsmith and the Churchwardens
contacted Hubert Bensted, Architect, of Maidstone.
In March 1886 he submitted an estimate to widen the two aisles,
put a new roof on the tower, erect a chancel screen, make new pews and
execute other work for £2,100.
This would make accommodation for 314 persons in the nave and 30
in the chancel. Rev F.
Goldsmith left for Australia in 1888 leaving his successor, Rev G. P. Howes
to oversee the work. The
Church was closed during 1887-8 for the work to be done and reopened
with a special service in February 1888. Soon afterwards a new porch was
added together with the organ chamber and vestry. Photographs exit showing the
interior of the Church before the extensions were
The Twentieth Century
The Great War (1914-18) and the Second World War
(1939-45) were the most far-reaching events of the Twentieth
Century. One look at the
War Memorial will indicate how many local families were bereaved. As the village grew, the number
of church-goers dropped. To maintain one priest for one parish was
becoming less and less viable so that when Rev. George Adams retired in
1976 he was not replaced.
Instead Halling and Cuxton were joined to become one
ecclesiastical parish and Rev. Graham Lacey was appointed as the first
Rector of the united benefice.
The building again needed some considerable maintenance work so
that, in 1983, under the leadership of Rev. Alan Vousden and
Churchwardens Joan Charlton and Gladys Stevenson, a Mediaeval Fair was
held. Necessary repairs
were carried out, the south aisle adapted for a meeting room and toilet
and kitchen facilities were added.
The village is still growing in 2004. The difference now is that the
new residents are not mainly employed in local industry but commute to
London and other towns.
What of the future? At present the congregation
is small. Our little Church
has been a witness to God’s love for some 1,200 years and if it is His
Will it will continue for many years to come.
There are six bells. Five date from 1695 and were
made in the foundry of John Hodson and his son, Christopher. In 1919 the five were recast and
a sixth, the treble, was added.
The work was done by Alfred Bowell of Ipswich who engraved the new bell Alfred Bowell made me and hung us
all. The bells were
dedicated by the Archdeacon of Rochester on 6th April
1920. To cover the cost the
Churchwardens, Thomas Lingham and George Couchman made an appeal:
“Inhabitants of the Parish are almost all of the labouring class and we
therefore appeal for your help for funds outside the Parish and trust
you will be able to help us.”
The Church magazine also pleaded: “This is a matter which the
Non-conformists might be expected to support. A fine peal of bells is
something for all inhabitants of Halling to be proud of. They are rung on many occasions
which have nothing to do with Church Services.”
What a colourful and light place the early
church would have been. Not
only would much of the walls be covered with paintings depicting
biblical scenes, but there would have been statues dotted around, each
with its lighted candles.
Wills of C14, C15 & C16 give evidence of money or goods being
left to provide lights (candles) to burn beforeL the High Altar, the
Rood, the Blessèd Virgin, St John the Baptist, St John and St
Peter. For example, in 1515
a cow is left “to provide alight to burn on the rood from the second
peal to matins and till high mass is done and from second peal to
evensong.” To the
worshippers it must have been a place of mystery and reverence, every
word of the mass being in Latin must have made it more so. IN the early 1940s the
previously uncovered wall painting above the chancel arch (8) was
cleaned and repaired by Mrs Baker A.R.C.A. It is thought to date from C12
and is attributed to Michaelis although probably a number of monks from
Rochester were involved. It is part of a Passion
Series. On the left can be
seen The Crowning of our Lord
with the Crown of Thorns an on the right The Washing of the Feet and
lower down The Last
The four stained glass windows are all the work
of C. E. Kempe one of the best designers and colourists of the late
Victorian period. His work
can be identified by the device of a wheat sheaf.
The lancet window in the north wall of the
chancel (11) is dedicated to St Barnabas in memory of Rev. J. Nalson
Vicar for 33 years (1852-85).
The East Window, with three lights, (12) Nativity, Shepherds and Kings,
was erected in 1892 in memory of Rev. Francis John Lambert who died aged
25 only three weeks after his ordination. In the south wall of the chancel
the lancet window (14) is dedicated to St John the Baptist in memory of
James M. Formby. The West
Window, with three lights, (20) was provided by a bequest in the will of
Rev. C. P. Howes, Vicar from 1888-1889. He oversaw much of the Victorian
restoration work, was very involved in village life and was particularly
interested in work with the children of the parish. The lychgate (24) was built at
his personal expense.
Both of the Halling brasses have unusual
features. That of John
Collard, 1491, (9) shows no effigy but has as its centrepiece a graphic
depiction of the five wounds of Christ – a much favoured mediaeval
symbol. John had been a
clerk of the King’s exchequer.
Above the pulpit is a pitiful reminder of the
passing of a young mother, aged 33, who had borne six children. Her first husband, William
Dalison, pre-deceased her, the second one being the
Kent historian William Lambarde. Her twins can be seen in the
cradle beside her four-poster bed.
The War Memorial is on the north wall of the
nave (3). In the floor on
the north side of the altar is a plaque to the memory of Rev. James
Thomas Bartley Hollis Trimble (Vicar 1921-54), known as Baggy Trimble and still
remembered with respect by older parishioners. In the nave tablets in memory of
Mrs Peggy Towers, died 18th March
1831, and Frances
Comport, died 2nd October
1921. Also on the floor
two others which are too worn to identify.
The Bishop’s Palace
No history of the Church would be complete
without a reference to the Bishop’s Palace. Their stories have been linked
from the beginning. Gundulf
was Bishop from 1077-1108 and was responsible for many building projects
including a manor house at Halling and replacing the old wooden Saxon
church with a stone building as well as the Bishop’s Palace. In 1184 Gilbert de Glanville
entertained Richard, Prior of Dover and Archbishop of Canterbury, but
Richard died while in the palace, thought to have been poisoned. Hamo de Hythe was Bishop from
1319-53 at a time when the plague (Black Death) was ravaging
He is reported to have “lost out of his small household 4
priests, 5 gentlemen, 10 serving men, 7 young clerks and 6 pages. Not a single soul remained to
serve him.” So too must
have the rest of the village suffered.
The last Bishop to live in the parish was John
Fisher. He is reputed to
have entertained Erasmus, the eminent Dutch theologian, there. Bishop Fisher was executed in
1535 by Henry VIII as was his friend Thomas More.
The building was subsequently leased to Robert
Deane. After his death, the
property passed to his daughter, Sylvestre, who married first William
Dalison by whom she had two children and then, in 1583, William
Lambarde, but she died in childbirth in 1587, aged 33. (See Lambarde brass (6).) William Lambarde is remembered
for his Perambulations of
Kent and is reputed to have been a favourite of Queen Elizabeth
I. She deemed him a very handsome
The palace later became a workhouse and then a
farmhouse but finally fell into disuse and then ruin. The last fragment of the wall
can be seen on the eastern boundary of the churchyard (25). It was restored in
William Lambarde Perambulations
of Kent, Edward Hasted The
History and Topography of the County of Kent, C. H. Fielding The Records of Rochester, Kent,
Rev. A. I. Pearman Rochester
Diocesan Histories, Rev. Lambert Larking Domesday Book of Kent, Professor Everett Continuity and Colonisation, E.
Gowers and D. Church Across the
Low Meadow, County Archives Maidstone, Strood Studies
thanks to Philip Lawrence and Ted Gowers for advice and
Perambulation of the
the Plan (available to visitors in Church).
Entrance porch –
erected 1898/99 to give some protection from prevailing
Oil painting The Blessèd Virgin Mary Being Led
Away From Calvary.
War Memorial. Note the large number named for
a small village.
Record Book of gifts to
St John’s. Note he beautiful
Lady Chapel and Book of Remembrance. Note the pictures on the wall on
either side of the altar.
These came from the old ST Lawrence Chapel in Upper
Lambarde Brass 1539. See paragraph on
Wall painting C12
John Collard brass (Under
Memorial tablet to James Thomas Bartley
Memorial Window 1900 of St Barnabas to Rev.
Altar and East Window 1892 The Nativity in memory of Rev.
Francis John Lambert.
Memorial Window dedicated to
St John the Baptist in
memory of James M. Formby.
Organ chamber and vestry 1891 – now choir
robing room and kitchen.
Possible site of entrance to stairway leading
to Rood Loft.
Minimal remains of early Norman
Bell tower and access
to clock 1898 installed to commemorate Queen
Memorial window Children of the Bible added by a
bequest of Rev G. P. Howes recognising of his love of and work with
Norman and possibly the
earliest work in the Church.
Portrait of John Fisher, executed aged 77 by
Henry VIII, the last Bishop of Rochester to live in the
List of vicars and
Remaining fragment of wall of Bishop’s
Palace, restored 1983