Westerham (Oistreham) is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, and a board in the church records the names of every vicar of St Mary’s since 1278. The earliest parts of the present building date from the 14th century and it has been added to and modified many times over the years.
The building was extensively restored in the mid nineteenth century. It lost a music gallery and a three tier pulpit but gained an unrestricted view of a fine roof, an east window, a reredos and a Lewis organ (the latter two in memory of members of the Warde family of Squerryes Court). The Archbishop of Canterbury re-dedicated the Church in 1883 after the restoration was completed.
Within the church there is a display showing the evolution of the church over time.
The bell tower boasts a fine fourteenth century spiral staircase – one of only two of this age to turn to the left. On the walls nearby hang three Royal Coats of Arms, those of Edward VI, George III and Elizabeth II. The Edward VI coat of arms is the oldest known example of his reign. It is being restored as one of the Heritage Trust’s current projects (link). Elizabeth II’s coat of arms was added during the Silver Jubilee year.
The Church registers record the baptisms of General James Wolfe (the victor of Quebec who was born in the Old Vicarage) John Fryth, who worked with William Tyndale to translate the Bible into English – and was martyred for his work, and three of Sir Winston Churchill’s grandchildren. All were baptised in the 14th century font, as have been as many thousands of local residents.
Find Out More…
St Mary’s in 10 Objects » highlights the major items of interest in the church
Go to the Visit Westerham website for much more to see in Westerham