Shapsnots: St Rumwold’s Church
The thing about this corner of England is not that there are wonderful old buildings about — that, you would expect. The astonishing thing is that there are so very many wonderful old buildings. They can afford not to be precious about them. There’s nothing the least unusual about an 18th Century home, a 15th Century pub or a 12th Century church. In fact — at least as far as churches and pubs are concerned — there seem to be more from those particular centuries than any other. Perhaps it was a fad, like hoola hoops or the environment.
Kent and Sussex are dotted all over with little churches with their distinctive squat steeples. You see the square outlines poking out all over, surrounded by quaint villages, being squeezed by vulgar modern cities and way, way out by themselves in the middle of sweet nowhere at all. They have many structural features in common, not least of which that they always stand unlocked. Point of religious principle, I suppose.
We’ve turned the latch and stepped inside many of these empty little churches (and we haven’t been struck by lightning or nuffink). They all feel heavy with the passage of time. More by the passage of time, certainly, than any great burden of religious piety. These aren’t great and ancient cathedrals; they’re very old, very small churches for small and rural people. Generation after generation of ‘em. Somehow, I have a more vivid sense of the flirtations that have surely taken place inside than of the prayers.
Maybe that’s just me.
Anyhow. This one is St Rumwold’s. As usual, there is a list of past rectors posted in the entryway. The first was S. deWeston in 1286. That, children, is what you call very fucking old. Though, as usual, chunks of it have been replaced and repaired over the years. More of this one than most, actually — the stone tower has, at some point, been replaced by a wooden one, and the steeple by lead one (early Nineteenth Century, that…I could read the dedication from below).
St Rumwold, I discovered, was a 7th C saint who only lived three days and fell out of the womb preaching sermons. Hey, I don’t make this stuff up. People 1,400 years ago made it up.