St.Marys - Eastwell
Her grandson John may have seen the Lake House built during his time before being killed in the sea battle at Sluys in 1310. It is also possible that another house was built during this time where the current manor now stands. His wife Alianor died in 1350 and the estate passed to her daughter Agnes and it is thought that the church was built during this period. She married Sir Thomas de Poynings and he was followed by his son Sir Micheal de Poynings who fought at Crecy with Edward the Black Prince (son of Edward III who lies at Canterbury).
The third baron, another Sir Thomas was followed by his brother Richard who died on campaign in Spain alongside John of Gaunt. The next Sir Robert (pre deceased by his son Richard) left the estate to his granddaughter Alianore. She was the wife of Lord Percy Earl of Northumberland, grandson of the famous Hotspur. The property went to and from this family due to the monarchy shift during The Hundred Years War and The War of The Roses.
In 1537 the last Earl died without issue so the Barony died out and the estate was sold by Thomas Cheyney, William Walsingham, and William Fitzwilliam to Sir Christopher Hales in 1542 and then to Sir Thomas Moyle who employed a certain labourer called Richard Plantagenet.
Richard is reputed to be one of many bastard children of Richard III and the story goes that he was at Bosworth Field when his father told him that his life would be in danger under the Tudors if his identity became known in the event of Richards defeat. Richard of course was killed and the Tudor dynasty began that day Aug 23 1485.
The last Plantagenet is said to have worked for Moyle on the estate and been noted to be able to read Latin, unheard of for labourers at the time, and eventually divulged his secret to his employer. A house and well are now named Plantagenet on the estate and a tomb reputed to be his is in the area of the chancel of the ruined church. What is known is that the parish registers state that 'Rychard Plantagent was buryed the 22 daye of December, anno ut supra. Ex registro de Eastwell, sub anno 1550'.
The inscription on it reads "Reputed to be the tomb od Richard Plantagenet 22 December 1550".
Her son Thomas became the second Earl and his brother Heneage Finch was Speaker of The House of Commons. Thomas's death allowed his son also called Heneage to accede the title and he became the first Earl of Nottingham and was also Solicitor General, Lord Keeper and Lord Chancellor. He remained loyal to the royal family during the civil war and on restoration of the monarchy was created Baron Fitzherbert of Eastwell. During this time Nicholas Toke was rector of the St Mary's and his family vaults can be seen in the chancel today.
The fifth Earl of Winchilsea was another Heneage and his wife was Anne Finch a famous poet who was troubled by severe depression and died in 1720 and was buried in the family vault in the South Chancel at the church.
Between 1739 and 1799 George of Eastwell had the manor rebuilt by the eminent Italian architect Joseph Bonomi. The eleventh Earl - George James was the last and sold the house in 1893 for £220,000 encompassing an area of 6,000 acres. The Winchilsea graves can be seen in the churchyard today.
In 1874 the second son of Queen Victoria and Duke of Edinburgh, Alfred Earnest Albert moved to Eastwell with his family and consequently there were innumerable influential and royal visitors. Their second child Marie Alexandra Victoria was born in 1875 and was christened at St Mary's. She and the rest of the family would leave when she was 12 but she later married to be Queen of Rumania at 17. She would forever write of her fondness of Eastwell.
The estate then passed to Lord Gerrard who also knew a few people and entertained at the estate notably Edward VII among others.
During the Second World War the army used the area for tank manoeuvres and it was sealed off from the public. Rumour has it that this may have weakened the chalk block construction of the church. It is also believed that the construction of the lake in the 1840's also caused the blocks to absorb a lot more water than they should.
This had the effect that in 1951 a workman nearby heard a terrible noise and turned to see the roof collapse taking arches and columns with it. The church remains consecrated and in the care of the Friends of Friendless Churches. The most ornate memorials having been removed to the Victoria and Albert Museum.
We had first visited another location earlier in the evening so did not arrive at St Mary's till 11.30pm and after a quick coffee started to walk around the site at 11.50pm. We wandered the whole area in the normal way investigation the features and taking photographs, whilst we did so Rachel began to feel unwell and needed to sit for a while. Kim tended to Rachel while the rest of us discussed how we felt, we all felt quit comfortable. The place is beautifully kept, not overgrown and oppressive in anyway, the only slightly disturbing thing being the large amount of wildlife noises around us.
At 12.10am we had divided into a couple of groups, Dave, Kim and Ian moved under the large yew tree with Sarah and Keith while the others wandered elsewhere. This proved to be an odd location as Kim immediately started to feel like her hair was being played with along with a touch on her elbow as thought someone had taken it as though to lead her to this area! Dave and Kim then complained of headaches as well as being transfixed by some movement seen in the field beyond the fence marking the edge of the graveyard. Both felt they had simultaneously seen a figurer in a cape and cloak, probably a man, walk across the field. This was described as a replay, the figurer only ever being seen walking in the same direction, then the same scene would replay time after time! Was this the reported ghostly monk? Kim and now Sarah's hair was playing up and Dave thought he saw some branches move by the memorial to the right of us, as though someone had walked passed it, none of us were over there! By this time we were beginning to feel that this area of the churchyard and the field beyond was certainly active.
We continued in this fashion for quite some time. Sarah was bothered by movement she thought she saw nearby, Dave thought he saw the figurer in the field again as did Keith, footsteps were heard, Ian and Kim felt that something brushed by them, we felt something was building and then the temperature seemed to drop. Kim and Keith decided to walk over to the fence and explore that area, whilst doing so Kim began to cough hard which passed, but within a few minutes it returned more violently till she began to feel unwell and had to leave the area, we followed to the open area behind the tower and discussed these events whilst Kim recovered. Whilst this was happening Sarah and Rachel had been sitting to the rear of the site and could swear they had heard heavy footfalls walking around in an arch around the opposite side of the ruins. We decided this would be a good time for a break so at 12.34am we returned to the cars for a coffee.
We did return to the chancel end of the derelict church at 1.00am with the thought of conducting another vigil but by this time some of us were concerned about events which we ended up discussing. We split up a bit and wandered the site for a few more minutes to get our last few photographs before deciding to close the investigation at 1.15am leaving the venue at 1.30am.
|This brief visit was to give us a snap shot
of what we could expect at St Mary's should we choose to return for a full
investigation. Nothing was recorded photographically or on camcorder and
for the majority of the night the most of us felt quite at ease.
We think though it is fair to say that "feelings" ran high for some of us as some were certain there was a great deal of activity warranting further investigation. To this end we certainly achieved our aim and will be returning to this venue in the near future to carry out a full and thorough investigation.
References / Thanks to:
Eastwell Park Historiette by Philip G. Dormer (Eastwell Publications 1999 ISBN 0-9519732-7-4)
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