A Grand Spell of Sunshine - The Life and Legacy of Francis FrithA Grand Spell of Sunshine - The Life and Legacy of Francis Frith

Sense Of History

A Memory of Eastry.

There is a sense of history by walking along Church Street with its deep guttering, for the times when and where horses were the transport and along to the Church, the Palace Of Eastry, Eastry Court and then Eastry farm and the C. of E. Primary School. Opposite the school was Lovers' Lane and a pretty walk between beautiful trees down to more farmland and little streams and waterways. To the right is the vicarage with a walnut tree and then there is the home belonging to some wealthy Dutch people and that reminds us that many Dutch people, protestants, came here a few centuries ago to avoid religious persecution. The view from the church tower is expansive and across broad flatlands towards the sea to the right, the east. It is also quite windy up there and it certainly feels like a sea breeze. This reminds us that the sea was much nearer 2000 years ago and when Thomas Becket hid here in about 1160 or so, he was close to a sea lane here which took him swiftly to France. It is possible that caves in the chalk hills originating in Eastry could lead him to Canterbury Cathedral, though that has not been proved. In Eastry palace or Eastry Court is where two princes were killed more or less in the time of King Egbert in 664 or so. Apparently there was a church here before Norman times. However, the Normans obviously recognised Eastry as being important, especially as it had a Roman Road through it leading from Dover to Eastry to Woodnesborough and on the Sandwich and Richborough. The burial memoriums in the church are very impressive and indicate some pretty wealthy people have lived and died in Eastry over many hundreds of years. Not far behind the photographer is the Cross and the Five Bells and opposite the church is a village green and so this was the typical village triangle of church, village green and pub. This was set on the hilltop and down in the meadows below was agricultural land for sheep, pigs, cattle and the very important ponds and brooks for water supplies. The signs of pebbles to be found on the local farm next ot the church indicate that there was once a beach below here a few thousand years ago. A thousand or so years ago Eastry was the local capital settlement and was either important strategically because of its location near the sea or regally because of its palace. The arrival of the Normans around about 1100 gave a new direction and an important church was built with a typical Norman Tower and a crypt and gargoyles on the exterior walls. In fact, Eastry's historical roots are substantial and a better person than me should do further accurate research. Thus, Eastry's history goes back to bronze age times, a paganist era and then came the Roman Road and then the establishment of a royal household, the development of Christianity, soon followed by the Norman church on that lot of foundations to be followed by Thomas Becket, the wars between England and France and the Cinque ports and then the development as a market village centre and coach and horses era. The meeting place at the Cross outside the Five Bells indicate this was an important centre for local people and those from far away. From Roman times through to the Napoleonic wars who knows who passed through or stayed in Eastry? My most impressive memory was about 1955 when lots of tanks roared through and many times over the years seeing large flocks of sheep being driven between one farm meadow and another. People either passed through or stayed at the four of five public inns. I would wager the Duke of Wellington had a drink here, perhaps Charles Dickens or even Caesar and his phalanx of centurions. The Anglo-Saxons farmed crops and livestock in Brook Street and the Lynch and dug wells here; and there may be burial grounds and barrows still waiting to be discovered at Heronden Hill, Updown, the Lynch or on the way to Woodnesborough and Ringlemere. Did Thomas Becket drink beer or the local water almost a thousand years ago? Were the local hop gardens here in those days?

With thanks to Michael Mitchell for this memory of Eastry

Added 06 February 2013


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