Ruins of Reculver Church, Herne Bay, Kent, UK.


London, United Kingdom

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Reculver Church, Herne Bay, Kent, UK.
Nikon D700 with 28-300mm Lense.

Captured on a flat and overcast day.

Information from Wikipedia

Monastery and churchAfter the Roman occupation of Britain ended in about 410, Reculver became a seat of the Anglo-Saxon kings of Kent. King Æthelberht of Kent is said to have moved his royal court there from Canterbury in about 597, and to have built a palace on the site of the Roman ruins.20 While excavation has shown no evidence of this, and the story has been described as “probably no more than a pious legend”,21 Anglo-Saxon kings were peripatetic,22 and the Roman remains at Reculver would have been “the only substantial building for miles around”.23 A church was built on the same site in about 669, when King Ecgberht of Kent granted land for the foundation of a monastery there.24 This foundation “illustrates the widespread practice [in Anglo-Saxon England] of re-using Roman walled places for major churches”.25 Ten years later, in 679, King Hlothhere of Kent presided over a council at Reculver, attended by Archbishop Theodore of Canterbury, at which he granted the monastery lands at Sturry, about 6.2 miles (10 km) south-west of Reculver, and in the western part of the Isle of Thanet, across the Wantsum to the east. In the original, 7th century charter recording this grant, Reculver is referred to as a “civitas”, or “city”.26 In 692 Reculver’s abbot, Berhtwald, a former abbot of Glastonbury in Somerset, was elected Archbishop of Canterbury. Bede, writing no more than 40 years later, described him as having been “learned in the Scriptures and well versed in ecclesiastical and monastic affairs.”27

This view from 1800 shows the church towers topped by spires.
Reculver towers in the early 20th century. The Trinity House wind vanes have long since been removed, but otherwise the ruins remain in a similar state today.Monastic life had ceased at Reculver by the early 10th century, though whether or not this was due to the attentions of Vikings is unclear.28 The minster subsequently became St. Mary’s parish church of Reculver: a charter of the mid 10th century records its gift by King Eadred of England into the possession of Canterbury Cathedral, at which time the estate included the later parishes of Hoath and Herne, land in Thanet, and land “at Chilmington for the repair of the church”.29

According to Domesday Book, in 1086 the Archbishop of Canterbury had an annual income from Reculver of £42.7s. (£42.35): this value can be compared with, for example, the £20 due to the archbishop from the manor of Maidstone, and the £50 due to him from the borough of Sandwich, both of which he also held.30 Included in the Domesday account for Reculver, as well as the church, farmland, a mill, salt pans and a fishery, are 90 villeins and 25 bordars: these numbers can be multiplied four or five times to account for dependents, as they only “relate to adult male heads of households”.31

Reculver remained an unusually large and valuable parish in the late 13th century, when it included chapels of ease at St. Nicholas-at-Wade and All Saints,32 on the Isle of Thanet, as well as at Hoath and Herne: in 1291, the “Taxatio” of Pope Nicholas IV put the total income due to the rector and vicar at about £130, and this wealth led to disputes between lay and Church interests, over control of its benefice.33

Over time, the church gained structural additions: principally, the towers were added in the 12th century, and, according to local legend, they were topped with spires “in the early years of the 16th century”,34 since when they have been known locally as the “Twin Sisters”.35 The addition of the towers, and the extent to which the church was enlarged in the Middle Ages, suggest that “a thriving township must have developed nearby.”36 However, the church retained many prominent Anglo-Saxon features, and, on a visit to Reculver in 1540, one of these raised John Leland to “an enthusiasm which he seldom displayed”:

In 1927 archaeologists discovered the base of the cross, which has been dated to the early 7th century and thus predated the monastery. This may originally have been an open-air preaching cross like the Ruthwell Cross, around which the monastery was later built.37 In 2000 the surviving fragments of the cross, now at Canterbury Cathedral along with the base, were used to design a Millennium Cross to commemorate two thousand years of Christianity. This stands at the entrance to the car park and was commissioned by Canterbury City Council.38

Loss to the sea Recording his visit to Reculver in 1540, Leland wrote that it was then “withyn a Quarter of a Myle or litle more of the Se Syde [and that] The Towne at this tyme is but Village lyke.”39 A map of about 1630 shows that the church itself then stood only about 500 feet (152 m) from the shore,40 and the village’s failure to support two “beer shops” in the 1660s has been taken as “a clear indication of the dwindling population at the time.”23 The village was mostly abandoned around the end of the 18th century, and a new church was planned a little to the west and further inland, at Hillborough. Consequently, the old church was no longer required:

Trinity House intervened to ensure that the towers were preserved as a navigational aid. In 1810 it bought what was left of the structure, and built the first groynes, designed to protect the cliff on which it stands. A storm destroyed the spires at a date prior to 1819, and Trinity House replaced them with similarly shaped, open structures, topped by wind vanes.42 These structures remained until they were removed at a date after 1928.43

The demolition of this “shrine of early Christendom”, and exemplar of Anglo-Saxon church architecture and sculpture,44 was otherwise thorough, and it is now represented only by the minimal ruins on the site, some fragments of the cross which had enthused Leland, and the parts of two massive stone columns. The cross fragments and column parts may be viewed in the crypt at Canterbury Cathedral.45 The vicarage was abandoned at the same time as the church.46 When the Hoy and Anchor Inn fell into the sea, the redundant vicarage was used as a temporary replacement under the same name,47 until a new Hoy and Anchor Inn was built. The vicarage soon followed the original inn into the sea, and the new inn was re-named as the “King Ethelbert Inn” in the 1830s. It was later extended, probably in the 1880s, into the form in which it stands today.

Bouncing Bombs Bouncing bombs
Prototype bouncing bomb recovered from Reculver in 1997, on display in Herne Bay Museum and Gallery. Reculver towers can be seen in the background of the accompanying artist’s impression.During the Second World War, the Reculver coastline was one location used to test Barnes Wallis’s “bouncing bomb” prototypes. Different, inert versions of the bomb were tested at Reculver, leading to the development of the operational version known as “Upkeep”.51 It was this bomb which was used by the RAF’s 617 Squadron in Operation Chastise, otherwise known as the “Dambuster raids”, in which dams in the Ruhr district of Germany were attacked on the night of 16–17 May 1943 by formations of Lancaster bombers, led by Wing Commander Guy Gibson, for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross. On 17 May 2003, a Lancaster bomber overflew the Reculver testing site to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the exploit.52

On 6 June 1997 it was announced on the BBC World News that four of the prototype bouncing bombs had been discovered at Reculver. Each weighing approximately 4 tons (4.1 tonnes), attempts were made to salvage them, as a result of which, one prototype is displayed in Herne Bay Museum and Gallery, a little over 3 miles (5 km) to the west of Reculver.53 Others are on display in Dover Castle and in the Spitfire & Hurricane Memorial Museum at the former RAF Manston, on the Isle of Thanet.
Information from Wikipedia

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