Esther and I stayed in Tenterden, Kent, because of its central location for
much that we wished to do. On Sunday morning, July 30, we drove 90 minutes
to St. Peter’s, arriving just before the 9:30 a.m. sung communion services
began. A very gracious man from the Vestry, Mr John Cox, saw us arriving
and not only greeted us, but upon learning of our Sackett search took us
under his wing for the whole morning. We found the members extremely warm
and welcoming, eager to help us in any way they could.
The flint built parish church, St. Peter the Apostle, has a glorious history
going back over 1400 years. In “A Short Guide” to the church by John Cox
who greeted us, he writes:
“597 A.D. St. Augustine landed in Thanet and founded his monastery in
Canterbury. The monks spread their faith to Thanet, building a church in
Minster. St. Peter the Apostle was founded in Saxon times, but the earliest
surviving work and recorded history starts after the Norman conquest. In
1128 the church in Minster together with the chapels of St. John, St. Peter
and St. Laurence were listed as owing allegience to St. Augustine’s
monastery. The present towns of Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate have grown
from the communities served by these chapels. St. Peter’s church was
enlarged in about 1180 and the size of the building gives evidence of the
importance of the community at that time.”
“The nave is separated from the north and south aisles by five Norman arches
which date to 1180 when architecture was undergoing a transition from
Romanesque to the Early English style. Some of the columns on the north side
have stone carvings of curious animals at the base and the capital of one of
the columns has two carved human heads."
"The exquisite chancel is Early English. The 13th century pointed arch which
leads from the chancel to the Lady Chapel has dog tooth carving on its
northern edge and nail-head decoration on the southern. There is evidence of
a rood-screen that would have supported the great wooden crucifix or rood. A
new pulpit was put up in 1753, “and no expense spared to adorn it with
elegant workmanship.” This pulpit with its immense sounding board was
opposite the present postion. The size and importance of the parish made it
necessary to build galleries at the west end of the nave and in the south
aisle. The first organ was installed in the nave gallery in 1815 and the
choir would have sung from this position. The beautiful marble baptismal
font was given in 1749 by John Dekewer of Hackney who was an important
benefactor to the parish and whose altar tomb is nearby."
"The tower at the west end of the north aisle is a prominent feature of the
surrounding countryside. It was used as the signalling station by the Royal
Navy during the Napoleonic wars and St. Peter still claims the priviledge of
flying the White Ensign in recognition of this connection. To the north of
the church is a well equipped modern church hall opened in 1972 by Edward
Heath when he was Prime Minister. Mr Heath was born in St. Peter’s and sang
in the choir.”
The sermon this Sunday was delivered by Canon John de Sausmarez, a retired
Canon of Canterbury who now lives in St. Peters. The church sanctuary is
beautiful in every way and the members are justly proud of it.
After walking from the church to Viking Bay in Broadstairs and having lunch
at the back of the“Charles Dicken’s House” overlooking the English Channel,
we drove out to the “Sackett Hill Farm.” By the grace of God we drove into
the private lane just as another car pulled in. We introduced ourselves and
told of our Sackett search. The driver and his wife both said, “Do you wish
to see the old ruins of the original Sackett home?” With enthusiam we
followed our gracious guide through brambles, berry vines and nettles to the
falling-down remains of the old house, its courtyard walls and out-buildings.
The ruins were unsafe to enter, but we could look into an upper bedroom, in
through the front door, and follow the contours of what was once a proud and
happy home. We were told that since the home is listed on the Register that
the County of Kent would require it to be restored. That would be glorious!
With nettle stings and berry bush scratches, Esther and I then followed our guide
a few more yards to the little cottage with the dating “1633” over the doorway .
This delightful cottage is currently occupied, but we were disappointed that the
roof has been modified from thatch to tile. There is even a ghost story attached
to the cottage’s history!
That evening we happily drove back to Tenterden knowing that we had been in
touch with a vital part of our Sackett family history, just as we had a month
ago when we found the Newtowne Marker in Cambridge and its history of Simon
Sackett as one of the founders. We were sure that we had walked and
worshiped where Simon did before he summoned the courage in 1631 to embark to
the New World.
August 7, 2000
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