Twist of the Collar - Clerical Memoirs by Rev. L. E. A. Ehrmann
VIII - LYNSTED AND THE SECOND WORLD WAR
[p30] Lynsted! What thoughts arise in my mind after having been Incumbent for 20 years! I naturally think much of what has been done, and also of much that has not been done for various reasons. As I look back and remember what Church and Parish were like twenty years ago, and what they are now, with the still war- damaged Church, and the several new houses that have been built, as well as the knowledge of so many fellow-worshippers that have passed to their rest in my time, many of them very devout Christians, I feel a thrill of joy that I have been permitted to minister here a long time. This time has now come to an end, largely due to the difficulties of a large Vicarage without substantial help, and partly to the fact of my advancing years, though I am sometimes considered younger than I actually am.
The Bishop of Southwark (Dr. Garbett) now Archbishop of York, very kindly wrote to me in 1927 "I am very glad to hear that you are happy in your work. May you have every blessing in it."
Well, I must now turn to a more historical point of view.
The Archdeacon of Canterbury (the Ven. E. H. Hardcastle) who had heard of me through the Rev. H. F. Lord, Vicar of Bapchild, and probably also from Canon H. Bartram, offered me the Living of Lynsted after I had visited that parish, and which I accepted. It was a great undertaking, and as I could see clearly was one with many difficulties. The income, for instance, was £220 net, according to the Archdeacon's own reckoning, due to a former Incumbent, the Rev. T. J. Sewell, having a claim of £90 pa. on me, which lasted 3½ years.
Archbishop Davidson instituted me in Lambeth Palace Chapel on 22nd October, 1927, and I was inducted in Lynsted Parish Church by Archdeacon Hardcastle the same afternoon.
The Vicarage was large and spacious, and I could not have accepted the Living, but for the help of my wife and my sister in household affairs. One of my predecessors, the Rev. John Hamilton, was a hunting parson and wealthy. He had the Vicarage enlarged and kept a retinue of servants and horses. He was Vicar for about fifty years and was very much liked. During the greater part of his Vicariate he kept an Assistant Priest.
[p 34] After the Rev. T. J. Sewell's 30 years at the Vicarage, the Rev. S. B. L. Skelton became Vicar, but his incumbency only lasted for nearly three years. He was ostensibly offered the living so that he could effect considerable restoration of the Vicarage, and many outside buildings such as stables. etc., were removed. Both he and his wife were generous people and made good use of their money.
A good deal of Church restoration had also been carried out up to this time, but the Church in 1927 when I came there was filthy and high pews persisted from a time when deal was looked upon as good for the Church. Moreover, young people had inscribed their initials. etc., on the pews, and altogether the appearance of the interior was very dismal. The people were almost entirely hidden from view.
The north Chapel had been used as a clergy vestry, and the choir vestry was under the tower. There was also another chapel on the south side, of which more will be heard a little further on.
One of the first jobs we had to do was to supply new Gurney stoves to warm the Church at a cost of £110, and Archdeacon Hardcastle, in his amusing manner told me, "Get the people to dislike the pews." This took time, and at first he suggested that we should cut down the existing ones, but this found no favour. Then, as a temporary measure, we had large curtains set up around the Choir, which could be drawn across when needed so that the Choir could be used as a chapel on weekdays, and especially in the cold weather.
More than once I approached the present "owner's of the south or Roper Chapel for permission to use it for services, I undertaking to leave her rights and privileges in it untouched otherwise. This chapel contains a monument by the celebrated sculptor, Epiphanius Evesham, regarding which Mrs. Esdaile wrote an account in The Times. (See Appendix). My entreaties were rejected, and so I turned to Captain the Hon. Michael Knatchbull for permission to use the north or Hugessen Chapel, which also possessed some very beautiful monuments. By return of post, he (afterwards Lord Brabourne) gave me personally full sanction to use it and said in his letter that that was his wish long ago.
I at once laid the matter before our Parochial Church Council and a faculty to place an altar with suitable furniture there was soon granted. As the P.C.C. had so much to do with restoration in the near future, I undertook to furnish the chapel at my own expense.
This chapel has proved to be a great boon for week-day services and Confirmation Preparation Classes, etc., and has been used on Sundays when the nave of the Church was not available, owing to restoration work and during part of the 1939.45 Great War. It contains now a fine Candelabrum given to me by the late Rev. Edward Smith, Rector of Longfield.
Then came the Magnum Opus of restoration. Here I had at first [p 35] considerable opposition, for when I spoke of the subject, it was thought that I wanted to "romanise" the Church. Such a thought never entered my mind, for I have never had any leanings to Rome and my upbringing at the Church of the Ascension taught me the beauty of English worship without having to resort to what Archbishop Benson called "The Italian Mission." That Church, in its best days with Canon Wallace, was always my model of the English use as far as I could carry it out both at Abbey Wood and here.
At length, a faithful worshipper, Miss Frances Busbridge. left to me in her will £50 for church restoration. A rather inglorious attempt was made at a P.C.C. meeting to compel me to hand over this sum, which naturally I declined to do on the ground that I should be unfaithful to the donor who had left the money in trust to the Vicar and not to the P.C.C. But I allayed all suspicion afterwards when I stated that I would gladly submit to the Council what I proposed to do with the bequest, and this was the result:
- Provide new oak Choir stalls on the north side, with oak platform over a concrete floor.
- Provide two clergy stalls, for none existed then.
- Provide a Lectern in place of a rubbishy desk for reading the Lessons.
- Remove the Pulpit from the side of the Choir to its proper place in the Nave.
It is remarkable that I got all this done for about the above sum. Not only did the Church Council fully approve, but, as in the case of S. Paul who saw the people ‘change their minds,' so here - all in a moment - when our folks saw what had been done in the Choir, remarked. "Now we must have the whole Church like it." That meant that there was no more serious opposition, and we advanced steadily in having new oak pews in the Nave and chairs at the sides. A fine linenfold design appeared on the sides of the pews. This part of restoration was effected in 1933 and cost approximately £300.
Alongside of our efforts to make this Temple of God more worthy of worship of Him, we had one or two discordant notes. It was ever my custom first to explain what I intended to do. I had informed the P.C.C. in 1930 that I should in future wear the Eucharistic Vestments ordered by the Ornaments Rubric and also use Wafer Bread as the best and purest bread obtainable. I had only one or two objectors, and this has become the normal custom ever since. On the whole, I must say, the people were very good when I had explained to them clearly any change I desired to make. A few other matters may be mentioned here.
In 1931 the English Hymnal was introduced for the Sung Eucharist and for Children's Services. The walls of the Church were colour-washed, and a Fellowship of Youth inaugurated. A Children's Missionary Society had been the first thing started in 1928, and was well attended for some time.
[p 36] In 1932. the Sung Eucharist as a separate service was celebrated henceforth each Sunday at 10.30 am., and here I must bear testimony to the broadmindedness of Mr. Bridges Dixon, churchwarden, who had a long conversation with me on the subject, and the foregoing was the result. I had not ventured hitherto to embark on such a scheme, but I always found the laity a real help when they saw the true position. When I first came to Lynsted the usual Sunday services were according to the Church Book: Morning Prayer and Sermon. 11 am.; Evening Prayer and Sermon, 6.30 p.m.; with Holy Communion about once a month at 8 a.m.
In that year (1932) Palm Crosses were distributed and a procession before the Sung Eucharist. This has never failed since except when unobtainable. In 1933 the grand old Porch was in use again, and in 1934 the Church Clock was overhauled, only to be blitzed in 1940. Musical evenings were held at the Vicarage and Men's Social evenings organised.
Archbishop Lang, I heard, took a special delight in visiting country parish Churches on a Sunday evening when time permitted. I wrote to His Grace in 1935, some months in advance, inviting him to preach, which he did for our Harvest Thanksgiving on 13th October. We always kept the first Sunday in October free for the Feast of Dedication. On this occasion Archbishop Lang dedicated a new High Altar, given by Mrs. Roper-Lumley-Holland. It is dignified, though rather too large.
Then came the six disastrous years, 1939-45, of the second world war. On 15th August, 1940, the beautiful Church, which is dedicated to SS. Peter and Paul received a direct hit by a bomb, and though others fell close by in the Churchyard and the village, nobody was killed or even severely injured. That morning the Holy Eucharist had been celebrated at 10 a.m.
No break in the Church services occurred, for on the following Sunday the services, including the Sung Eucharist, were held in the Vicarage Chapel - our large dining room - which had been equipped the day before by my wife and myself. This arrangement was promptly sanctioned by the Archbishop.
I may add here that, although the Church was full of debris, with large holes in the pews and other furniture from bomb splinters, the Blessed Sacrament, which was reserved in the North Chapel, was untouched. The amount of dust and broken plaster and pieces of wood all over the Church, the broken organ case and open roof, were enough to make anyone very sad.
I was visiting in the parish when this episode of the Battle of Britain occurred, but I was soon on the spot. The Special Police were there and at first refused to let me enter the sacred building, but when I explained that I had to report at once the damage, they agreed. It was, of course, only for safety's sake that they tried to stop me. I was not an A.R.P. warden then. For days afterwards pieces of plaster, etc., fell from the damaged roof. The bomb must [p 37] have exploded (a 50 kilo one) as it struck the roof, for no crater was made below.
It was often noticed in the first World War that Crucifixes on the Continent along the roads were left untouched by bombs or shells. Here in our Church, the figure of the Christ-Child stood calmly there after the explosion on the Altar of the Children's Corner, though that Altar had received a nasty hit from a fragment of metal. The monuments in the Chapels were, fortunately, scarcely damaged. There was an ancient metal helmet in the Church, which afterwards I took over to the Vicarage for careful custody. It is said to be worth a good deal.
While the war went on its course, Lynsted was not inactive. In 1941 A.R.P. work was fully organised and Fire Watchers appointed. I was asked to be Post Warden, and later on became Head Warden for the Lynsted area and also Head Fire Guard. I had at this time to pass the test for poison gases, which required some care. Whenever raids occurred, except when I was ill. I was always on the alert out of doors, and especially at night. Often others would join me.
When Triumvirates were formed for Village Government in case of places being cut off from the rest of the country through invasion by the Germans, I was chosen as Civil Representative, whilst there were also representatives from the Police and Military, who would have to "govern" the village.
These were, indeed, difficult and dangerous times, not knowing what would happen next. Men on the farms were drafted into the Home Guard, which proved a most serviceable force to the nation. Looking back, this war was marvellously well organised, in spite of mistakes here and there, and our nation as a whole was wonderfully plucky throughout. Even I had lost my nervousness.
At the beginning of hostilities we had several evacuees, chiefly children from Chatham, but when it was found this part of Kent was in the danger zone they were removed to Wales, etc.
On 9th July, 1944, our Vicarage and several houses nearby, came in for a nasty shock: a flying bomb crashed into a tall plum tree in an orchard at the back of the Vicarage, which did heavy damage and shook the roof, smashed all the windows and ripped up the doors breaking several of them in pieces. My wife was in the kitchen and saw the "doodlebug" and bent low, turned her back to the window and was unhurt. I was not far away, near a little window listening (according to instructions) for the engine to cease - it crashed instead. My head and face were badly cut by glass fragments and my spectacles had in all forty cuts, but the marvel was I was not blinded, as my friend, the A.R.P. Officer in Sittingbourne - Mr. G. W. Goodwin - was.
Parishioners were extraordinarily kind to us, and Mr. and Mrs. Ching at once invited us to stay at "Aymers" for several weeks until the Vicarage was again habitable. I cannot refrain from [p 38] mentioning too the valuable help Mrs. A. J. Nicholls and Miss Joyce Nicholls gave us in clearing away much of the debris in the house and cleaning it. Some damage was also done to the Church on this occasion, and the Vicarage Chapel was again in use. The last local disaster was the explosion of a rocket near the village, but damage was comparatively slight owing to its fall in a valley.
And once more I must bear witness to the kindness of our people. In the early days of 1943 I had to undergo a very serious operation - in two parts - at Canterbury Hospital. My wife was naturally very anxious during those eleven weeks. She came three times each week to see me. Physically I had almost everything against me, but the surgeon was extremely skilful. Also, I heard afterwards, the great amount of Prayer that had been offered to God on my behalf, Churchfolk, Nonconformists, Salvation Army, as well as my personal friends and relatives had taken part in this to say nothing of those who had been associated with me in other parishes in former years. Who will deny the efficacy of Prayer after this?
Much more could be written of this charming parish, but I must conclude with only a few remarks. In memory of my dear parents I gave the Church a Processional Crucifix and one of our most devoted workers gave her time to work a handsome Banner, which was inscribed "Christ the King." I handed over to the Church when I resigned in 1948, my complete sets of silk Eucharistic Vestments, three out of the four of which had been beautifully designed and made by devoted workers at S. Agatha's Church, Landport, which, became famous through the life and work of the late Fr. R. R. Dolling.
It was with great sorrow that I resigned the Living, for my health had considerably improved since my operation, but I was now 77 years old, and was entitled also to less strenuous work. When my successor was appointed, I was asked by my old friend, the Rev. E. H. L. Graham, Rector of Tunstall, Sittingbourne, to officiate there for three months to enable him to have the rest and change prescribed by his medical attendant. The weeks I spent there were very happy ones, as the Congregation was a most united and friendly one. Now I am endeavouring to use my remaining years as Hon. Secretary of the A.C.S. for the Diocese of Canterbury, as well as help any Clergy, when possible.
Just four things as an addendum to this Chapter I wish to state:
1. As a Christian, I have always felt that fox and stag hunting were cruel and unworthy of those who believe that Jesus meant what He said that even a bird did not fall to the ground without the knowledge of the Heavenly Father. I was asked to speak at a meeting organised in Faversham early in June, 1938. by the League for the Prohibition of Cruel Sports. It was a noisy one, and the opponents carded the day. Yet our stand for the sake of God's creatures must have done some good, for it made people think, and the chief speaker for the opposition paid me several visits [p 39] afterwards and was most friendly. He said he had been attracted by some remarks of mine. It is not generally known that foxes are bred specially for hunting, and it is all nonsense while this exists that farmers desire to be rid of them. This is called "sport," but it lacks everything of the nature of real sport, and is simply cruelty to animals.
2. In 1936. 1 started a Village Cinema and held the show in our spacious kitchen; for some years I continued to provide old and young with a 2d. and ld. show respectively. Films of Charlie Chaplin were the most popular, and on a few occasions, as in Lent, I had a Film Service in Church. The fame of these shows spread; the Church Times and London evening papers reported them, and in due course the news reached Australia and South Africa. These were very jolly evenings, but meant a great deal of work in fetching the films, and above all working the cinema, but it was worthwhile. I may say here that I have always endeavoured to look after the children and adolescents. I have been Chairman of the Managers for twenty years of our Council School, at first called Elementary, but now Primary.
3. Some years ago a prominent member of the congregation came along with the great news that the former Pulpit of Lynsted had at last been found in the Church at Kippington, Sevenoaks, and a photograph of it was shown to the P.C.C. It was a Jacobean production. Pressure was brought on me to secure it. I very much doubted whether it could be shown that the Pulpit was definitely the identical one from our Church. I was aware that Canon Thompson, a former Vicar of Kippington, was always on the lookout for antique furniture, and I heard he had bought the Pulpit and put it in Kippington Church. I felt it my duty to investigate the matter before running the P.C.C. into expense, so I paid a visit there and thoroughly examined the pulpit. It was by no means worth removing, as nails and portions of the wood were loose, and one side had altogether disappeared. Luckily I met the Vicar, and told him of my visit. He informed me that his P.C.C. would require substantial payment for the Pulpit, as he had two solicitors on the Council and, of course, there would be the expense of a Kippington Faculty for removal as well as one for Lynsted for placing the Pulpit there. I told him I had no intention to ask for it, but came chiefly to ascertain the facts and to assure the members of our P.C.C. that we need not trouble any more about it.
4. In 1933 the Oxford Movement, as it is generally termed, had existed for 100 years. The centenary was observed very extensively, and I ventured to write a pamphlet on the subject. I endeavoured to give a clear idea of it, emphasising the real points of it without underrating the Evangelical Movement which preceded it. Both revivals did much good to the Church. I little thought that my simple words were to become known in many parishes, and I had requests for hundreds of copies from Canada (including one Bishop) and in one letter received from that country I extract the following :- [p 40]
"I have to thank you again for another batch of your pamphlets! They will be used well I assure you. Out here in the bounds of the Empire we appreciate your interest. It at least helps to make us feel one with the Church at home."
Little did I think my tiny little effort would have such an effect It only pretended to be an introduction.
In 1947 we had a most successful Summer Fete which was a record, the net proceeds amounting to £166. It also spoke well for the enthusiasm of our helpers.
My concluding remark must be one of gratitude to the kindness and steadying influence of the Churchwardens - Messrs. A. J. Nicholls and P. Mount. Their loyalty and co-operation were great for many years.
Looking back on the twenty years' work at Lynsted, I must say that in spite of some opposition at first, due largely to misunderstanding, and many difficulties to be overcome. I am most grateful to the dear fellow-workers for their help and, in many cases, affection. I have made little mention of the help of my dear wife, but that does not mean that I have not had much assistance from her. She has been unselfish throughout.
Major Colin R. Duggan (retd), who lived in our Village for several years, passed out of this life on All Souls' Day, 1948. He was difficult sometimes to understand, but was found to be a very true friend of those who knew him well. It would leave a blank historically if I did not mention the building of" White Chimneys," nearly opposite the Church, almost entirely by his own labours. He was also the architect. The edifice is most practically designed for labour-saving and comfort, and remains a monument of a genius of no small degree.
NINE MONTHS AFTER
It seldom happens to a retired incumbent to enjoy the friendship of his successor to such an extent as is my lot. In the first place my wife and I are living still in Lynsted, owing to the house problem, and we are both fortunate to be here amongst our friends. But two things I am delighted to mention.
The first is the excellent appointment by the Archdeacon of Canterbury to this parish. In the person of the Rev. J. D. G. Reeve we have a Vicar who is keen and active, and is a jolly good fellow and most friendly. I hope the people will value his work and good intentions.
The second matter is equally felicitous. He is most anxious to carry on the services and ministrations which it took me many years to build up. Now, I hope, the ground is clearer, and that he may be able to improve what I could only partially do - chiefly owing to the war and also because the congregation were not sufficiently prepared for great changes.
In a country parish one has to go very slowly. May the Vicar and Mrs. Reeve be abundantly blessed in all they undertake.
A Few Notes on Lynsted Parish Church, Kent
This Church, dedicated to SS. Peter and Paul, like all pre-Reformation Churches, testifies to the continuity of the Church of England. It was, as it still is, the Ecclesia Anglicana. and never was the Ecclesia Romana, although we know only too well how, in the Medieval Church there was, not only much influence exercised by Rome, but even interference. Against this, the people of England constantly protested. But the constitution of the Church remained intact, and it is worth noting that in the year 1826 the Roman Catholic Bishops in England stated:-
"British Catholics, i.e., ‘Papists' are charged with entertaining a pretended right to the property of the Established Church in England. We consider such a charge to be totally without foundation. We declare that we entertain no pretension to such a claim."
Yet, Romanists, who have visited this Church in order to take rubbings of brasses, etc., have sometimes told me that the Church really belonged to them!
When ministering in that Church, I always loved to feel the great sense of fellowship with all those dear souls who had ministered and worshipped in the past for several hundred years, for it is said to be a twelfth century building. It was this that, above all else, led me to restore the Holy Eucharist to its rightful place in worship, though it is true that there are many who do not yet realise the atmosphere and influence created by these Holy Mysteries.
The Church Times of 6th July 1928, reported the following :- Lynsted, Kent - The Church of SS. Peter and Paul, Lynsted. in Kent, observed its patronal festival on Friday last for the first time for many years. The new vicar, the Rev. L. E. A. Ehrmann, has restored the Holy Eucharist to its proper place in the services of the church, which is once more open daily for private prayer and meditation. On Sunday last the Holy Eucharist was celebrated at 8. 10.15 and 11.30 a.m.
The Church is in the Decorated and Perpendicular styles of architecture. It possessed (until blitzed in 1940) a few fine stained- glass windows, as well as some very modern ones, and there is a massive tower in the N.W. corner, the lower portion serving as a choir vestry. It was really marvellous how the walls and tower withstood the direct hit by a bomb on 15th August. 1940, which shattered almost everything inside.
There was a handsome Candelabrum in the centre of the nave. The porch, which is built of flint, has a sundial over the entrance with the words
Every moment well improved
Secures an age in Heaven.
The oak door still shows signs of Oliver Cromwell's soldiers' [p 42] bullet holes. There is also a priest's doorway on the north side leading to the Hugessen Chapel. The South Chapel, in which Epiphanius Evesham's work is to be seen, was formerly the Chapel of the Teynhams. John Roper, who was knighted in 1616 by James I, was created Lord Teynham on the same day. He built the present house of Lynsted Lodge and died in the year 1618. He was buried in the vault which he had constructed in the small chapel of the Parish Church. These words are significant, for all of my friends who have visited this Church in my incumbency, have assured me that that Chapel must have been part and parcel of the Parish Church.
Now, there was a Chapel of Our Lady also, and that appears to have been the one that eventually came into the hands of the Hugessen family, now called the north chapel. It had fallen into a bad condition and was repaired by the Will of William Apulden Field [sic], of Faversham, who had been a great benefactor to this Church. I am well aware that there is some doubt as to this being the Lady Chapel originally, but it seems most likely.
How the South Chapel was gradually "annexed" is difficult to say, but I will venture to give my idea, and it proposes to be nothing more than an idea. There used to be a private Roman Catholic Chapel nearly one mile from the Church, which in course of time became derelict, and it is likely that permission to have monuments in the chapel of the Church was granted by an amiable vicar or churchwardens. I have made enquiry at the Diocesan Registry at Canterbury, but nothing is recorded there. Those were the days before faculties were insisted on or inventories required by the authorities.
Some years ago Lynsted Lodge was purchased by Mrs. Caroline Lumley-Holland, since then called Lynsted Park. Her daughter became the last lady of the manor. In 1947 the house, once more called the Lodge, was purchased by Mr. Heaver, who resides there now.
The question at issue now is "to whom does this Chapel belong?" It was supposed to go with the house. But, I have seen no deed and can only hope that one day that chapel will revert to the Parish Church. As to the small Mausoleum outside the chapel, I believe it belongs to the Teynham family.
My notes are very skimpy, but this Church is full of interest. To visualise the grandeur of it hundreds of years ago, with its beautiful services, its Rood loft, as well as to think what historical events the walls could relate if they were able to speak! There are evidences of great alterations having been carried out at different times, and it is commonly believed that at some remote time the sacred building suffered greatly by fire. It is interesting to find that there were 235 Communicants in 1640, which number has not been reached since.
The small high altar which I found in 1927, is now in the north [p 43] Chapel, and the oak table I found in that Chapel, has been used as an altar in the Children's Corner. This latter altar became very useful during the 1939-45 war when the Vicarage Chapel Was used, and we had only 24 hours in which to furnish it for the following Sunday after the bombing of the Church.
Yet we can say with some justification that ours is the only parish in our Deanery with a Sung Eucharist each Sunday for many years past.
Lynsted Snowbound .............. Saint Michael and All Angels
Lynsted Church after Restoration ............. Lynsted Vicarage Cinema