I’ve loved some of New York’s historical offerings this year, from the Morgan Library to the Frick Collection. But while I’ve tried not to be a history snob, I also know they’re relatively young compared to what’s here in the U.K., so today I got a fix of something a little older – a 1,000-year-old church.
St Margaret’s Church in West Hoathly is close to my family’s home – in fact, it’s opposite a pub I worked in throughout the summers of my school and university days. And while I’ve been to the graveyard and gardens around it, I wasn’t too sure if I’d actually been inside. When I went there today, it was not at all what I remembered or expected, making me realize that perhaps I’d never been in after all, even though it’s so close.
Gel and I headed there this morning and the church, which is Anglican and now a Grade I listed building (i.e. of ‘great national importance’), is just so quaint. When I worked in the pub, we would gather on the steps to cheer and admire brides and grooms after their lovely summer weddings. Unfortunately today was a little gloomier, but we still oohed and aahed at the church’s history, stained-glass windows and colouful, aged bricks.
Building started on the church in the 11th century, and by 1090, a single room stood on the little mound. By the 15th century, a number of medieval expansions had doubled it size and apart from floor and roof restorations in the Victorian ages, it’s pretty much the same today. The building has documented its changes, such as the ‘March 31 1626’ date emblazoned across the south door.
Both inside and outside the building, there are lots of monuments, plaques and tombstones noting the local men who fell in the World Wars. West Hoathly is only small so it was pretty shocking to see how many men had been killed. It’s heartbreaking to think of a little village almost wiped out of fathers and sons.
Outside in the cold, we wandered around the graveyard, admiring the turning leaves and the views. I liked how the headstones were placed along tiered land, as if they were looking over the fields below – land that’s known as the Weald.
With our feet soggy, we headed back to the car, but not without a final glance at homes in this twee little village. Yes, apart from a handful more houses, a post office and a tiny garage, this is pretty much the extent of it…
A little prettier and older than some parts of New York, but a little less bustling, I reckon.