High Halstow Church, Kent

Like most of the churches on the Hoo Peninsula, St. Margaret’s at High Halstow began life in the late Saxon period. It actually stands at the highest point on the Peninsula and were it not for the surrounding housing would afford sweeping views of the Medway and Thames Estuaries … a place for a castle not a church!

There isn’t an actual reference to the church until 1080 when there is record of a payment to Rochester diocese. It seems that the church began life as a chapel to Hoo St. Werburgh, but it is possible it pre-dates this, as this is not recorded until 1274.

The nave is Norman in period, but the aisles and chapels were not added any earlier than 1200.

There seem to be no specific records for construction of the tower, although one can assume from general patterns that it would be late 13th-early 14th Century. Much of the interior fixtures date to after the Reformation and so give no real clues.

The area was influenced greatly by the Lollard rebellions, and Sir John Oldcastle of nearby Cooling Castle (the inspiration for Shakespeare’s Falstaff) was eventually burnt at the stake for his support of the Lollards. As early as 1618 the Minister of High Halstow, William Palke, is depicted on a brass wearing Calvinist clothing.

As ever the Victorians were responsible for some renovations at the church, but they don’t appear to be too obtrusive in this case, leaving an attractive if unspectacular country church.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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