Chesil Beach & the Fleet, Dorset

Chesil Beach & the Fleet, Dorset
Chesil Beach & the Fleet, Dorset

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Peculiar Romney Marsh, the lost parishes...

......or more correctly, Romney Marshes because the area known generically as Romney Marsh, actually comprises 3 enclosed and drained, or 'inned', marsh areas - Romney Marsh, Walland Marsh and Denge Marsh, each enclosed by 'walls' of raised ground, such as the Rhee Wall, which enabled the enclosed ground to be drained.
The enclosed ground is very fertile, and from Roman times, has been heavily farmed, both as arable land, and more famously, for sheep breeding.
Over the centuries, the small towns along the coast, such as Hythe, New Romney and Lydd have thrived reasonably well, whilst further inland the Marsh has suffered from severe depopulation for one reason and another.
The former parishes are named on old tithe maps, which show that they were abandoned in the late-Middle Ages. The ruins are now protected as Scheduled Ancient Monuments.

The main reason for the decline of local settlements at that time was the Black Death. Add to that the problem of malaria as well as other water borne diseases which made the Marsh a hostile place to live. Mortality rates on the Marsh were twice as high as in villages just a few miles away.

This has resulted in several lost parishes, which I aim to photograph and describe here, over the period of this summer. Most visitors and incomers to this area will not recognise the names of them, but true locals will know them, and know where evidence can still be found.

I know the location of all of them, except Blackmanstone - that I know roughly, but not exactly. I shall have to search it out! (Good excuse to ride my bike)

Hope All Saints

The only reference I know as to its' location, is Hasted, who describes it thus.......

IT is very small, having no house within it. The court-lodge has been down for many years, a looker's hut being all that remains on the scite of it. The church was situated close on the other side of the road to it, of which there are only two or three stones remaining. The lands of it are mostly marsh, some of which are ploughed up, and the whole of it much the same as that of Orgarswike, last-described. 

I know that it was to the north of St. Mary In The Marsh...........

Broomhill, or Bromehill, used to lie in the area of the current Lydd Army Ranges, located on an island on a spit of land on the western edge of the Walland Marsh. 
In 1287, a severe storm hit the channel, and the movement of shingle blocked the outlet of the River Rother at Romney, changing its path forever down to Rye. Bromehill and Old Winchelsea were swept away.
Surprisingly, the decayed remains of the church are shown on a map produced by John Norden in 1595.
The village was never rebuilt after the storm.
Broomhill is just a scatter of stones near an abandoned farm house. It was excavated in the 1980's and was estimated to have been built in 1200AD on the newly drained Walland Marsh

Just south of Lydd. Closed when Lydd army ranges were started during WWII.

This I do know, but have not yet photographed it. Only the 13th century tower and part of the 12th century nave of the church remains, somewhat delapidated and ivy-covered. It lies in the same general area as Orgarswick.

A lot of people may know this one, due to the curious location of its' church in a deserted part of Walland Marsh.
The Church of St. Thomas a Becket, stands in the middle of a field, and until the surrounding marsh drainage was improved, at times could only be approached by boat.
A service is still held there on the 1st. Sunday in every month. The tiny lane that leads to Fairfield, is probably one of the walls that 'inned' the Walland Marsh.

The church has been encased in brick to protect and preserve it.

West of Dungeness, now just a stone cross on a stepped plinth.

Just south of Lydd. Closed when Lydd Army ranges were started.

The ruins of the church of All Saints is all that remains of Hope, and indeed, the ruins are now simply known as Hope All Saints. They lie down the lane which runs from New Romney to Ivychurch.
It dates from the 12th century and has been abandoned since the 17th century. Years later it became a favourite for the smugglers.

I bet you've been through Jesson! But you wouldn't have realised it.
It's not that it has completely disappeared, it's just that it is now called St. Mary's Bay!
It was likely named after Jesson Farm, built around 1820, in what is now Jefferstone Lane. The name Jesson was changed to St. Mary's Bay on 12 October 1935.

Midley  was built on what was then an island between Lydd and Romney - probably the 'middle isle'.  The west wall of the 15th century church remains standing. It was deserted by the 16th century.

During WWII there was an RAF airfield here.

The church was abandoned many centuries ago and no trace remains.  The site is marked by a stone cross near Chapel Cottage Farm a few miles north west of Dymchurch.
At one time, Orgarswick was a 'rotten borough', entitled to send 2 members to parliament.

The hamlet still exists, but the church is a recently 'lost' parish. It lies just off the A256 between Ham Street and Brenzett. 
The church, dedicated to St. Augustine, is one of the more remote churches on Romney Marsh. It is very small, and lies at the end of a grass track.
It mostly dates from the 13th. Century, but the upper part of the tower is a later addition. There are 14 buttresses to combat the constant problem of subsidence.
Sadly, it was declared redundant, and its upkeep and maintenance were placed in the care of the Romney Marsh Historic Churches Trust in 1984.
At one time it was used as an indoor short mat bowling rink.
In Spring it is surrounded by hundreds of daffodils.

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