Harty Church

The Church of St. Thomas the Apostle was built in 1089. The many different types of stone, mainly Kentish ragstone, that have been used to build and restore it have been checked and dated. Thus coming to the conclusion that parts remain from the Anglo-Saxon era, AD 1200, early 13th century and the 14th century. The church was re-furbished, re-pointed and partly refaced during the Victorian era.

Initially the church would have been a two-room building consisting of the Nave and Chancel, these being separated by the Chancel arch. It is believed this is how it would have been during Saxon times as the walls are very thin in this part of the current church, which is a characteristic of Saxon buildings. Also a small flint and hand axe were found when a trench was dug into the south wall to make room for the building of the new Lady Chapel screen.

The Chancel arch was removed at a later date and the Nave and Chancel are now divided by a rood screen made of carved oak. It is believed the screen was made during the 14th century. At the top left hand side of the rood screen are the blocked rood stairs, they would have been used by the churchwarden when he read the gospel. These have now been blocked.

There are four Norman windows within the church. Two have been moved from their original places to the East end of the 13th century Chancel, the other window is quite high in the original north wall. They have been dated by the use of tufa stone in the window, which was rarely used after the 11th century. The fourth window has been blocked within one of the inner walls.

The original Norman Chancel was re-positioned in the south wall when the Lady Chapel was constructed. There is a date inscribed in the Norman wall (AD 1089), which is believed to have been part of an original structure that was desecrated by the Danes when they invaded.

The north isle was constructed in 1200 and the south door, which is now blocked, was built slightly later. The doorjamb has a very early sundial engraved into it; this was used to start mass on time. It was used by inserting a pencil through the hole and the shadow of the pencil would move over the grooved surface, the grooves would represent the time.

Harty church has a bellcote at the western end, it only has one bell inside which is inscribed “Lester & Peck of London Fecit 1760”.

The western wall and windows were damaged during WWII by a bomb that fell on Sayes court, adjacent to the church. The wall and glass from the window were restored in 1996 at a cost of nearly £30,000, the new windows incorporate some original medieval glass that remained from the damaged windows.

One of the most interesting artefacts in Harty church, is the beautifully sculptured oak chest. It is believed to date from the 14th century and either German of Flemish in origin. The chest is one of four similar chests that are in southeast Kent. It was restored by the late Harold Studd. It is not known how the chest came to be in Harty but has been regularly lent to museums in London for exhibitions. The chest was once stolen in the 1980’s and offered for sale at an auction, luckily it was spotted and returned to the church.

The church is without running water, electricity or gas, wick oil lamps light inside, the church is open once a month for services and Christmas Eve.

Designed & built by - Kevin Ali