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material. At Stone Lees the remains of a beach are visible, but it extends nearly to Stonar, and (where absent) it is evidently owing to the encroachments of the winding mouth of the river. Nearer Stonar the beach may be seen to have been cut through at every bend of the river.
If my reasons are cogent, and I believe they are, they prove firstly, that the most probable place where St. Augustine landed was at Stonar; secondly, that if it were near Minster the way thither must have been round between Stonar and Sandwich; thirdly, it could not possibly have been near where the present monument is erected to commemorate the event; and fourthly, the map which appeared in Battely's Antiquitates Rutupine, and has been copied into Hasted, gives a most erroneous notion of the state of the Rutupian port.
DESCRIPTION OF THE MAPS.
1. Copy of Battely's and Hasted's Maps, with red dots. shewing where Roman remains have been met with.
2. Map of Thanet and neighbouring parts of Kent, from Ordnance Map of 1892, with parts of the Stonar beach restored from the fragmentary portion, with the Ordnance datum levels, and shewing the river and sea banks in red ink.
MINSTER IN SHEPPEY.*
BY REV. J. CAVE-BROWNE, M.A.
VERY different is the history of Minster Church from that of Cranbrook, where the Society met in 1895. As I then endeavoured to shew, Cranbrook Church could only claim a possible existence from the middle of the twelfth century (say 750 years ago), whereas this Minster carries us back over nearly twice that period. At the time when the Denes of the Weald were still night by night echoing the growl of the wolf and the grunt of the wild boar, as they roamed over what then was a 66 desart and a waste," here the walls of a Nunnery choir were already resounding with the voices of high-born ladies in chant and psalm.
The very name of its Royal Foundress and Patron Saint carries us back to the days of the Saxon Heptarchy. In that rude age, when life and property were alike of precarious tenure, when a royal or a noble widow became an object of desire to any unscrupulous baron, their only security seemed to lie in consigning themselves to the protection of the Church, and dedicating themselves to the service of God. Out of this state of society arose the prevailing custom of religious endowment and self-dedication, in which that age abounded. Thus it came that Ethelberga, the daughter of Ethelbert and Bertha, Augustine's royal converts, on the death of her husband Edwin of Northumbria, made for herself a sanctuary at Lyminge, an example soon after followed
* Paper read during the Archæological Congress of 1896.
by that goodly sisterhood, the three daughters of Anna, King of East Anglia; first of whom, Ethelfrida, and then Wyhtburga, giving preference in filial love to their father's kingdom, founded monasteries; the one at Ely, with which her name is indelibly connected, the other at Dereham, in Norfolk; while Sexburga,* on the death of her husband Ercombyrt, also King of Kent, and grandson of Ethelbert, devoted her widowhood and her wealth to promote the glory and the worship of God, by founding, on a site which her son Egbert had given her, a Monastery, or Nunnery, where devout ladies might find with her refuge from the snares and the perils of that turbulent and licentious age.† The date generally assigned to the pious dedication of this building was about 675. Here Sexburga became the first Prioress; but four years after, on the death of her sister Ethelfrida, she moved from Sheppey to take her place at
Egbert (or Ecbert), King of Kent A.D. 664; ob. A.D. 675.
The character of this royal widow is thus drawn by Johannes Bromton (Decem Scriptores, p. 741): "İsta insignis regina ita crebro instinctu virum suum regem Ercombertum excitabat quod omnia idola quæ sub prioribus regibus adhuc erant residua ab universo regno suo cum omni ritu paganissimo funditus exterminavit, et monasteria ampliavit." Two lives of this eminent Abbess are preserved among the Cottonian MSS. in the British Museum (Caligula A, viii., f. 93 and 104), from the former of which this short extract may be taken: "Nemo illa inter delicias concinencior: nemo in Regis fastu humilior: nec spiritu pauperior: unde tanto nec est in suprema arce sublimior quanto fuit in terrena Deo subjectior." After which follows a further description of the graces of her form being as conspicuous as those of her mind.
Ely, when her own daughter Erminelda succeeded her first at Minster, and then on her death in 699, at Ely also.
The site she selected had peculiar advantages and attractions. Its elevated position, insulated, delta-like, by the two branches of the River Medway, called the East and West Swale, with the expanded Thames flowing in front, made it a conspicuous object to every voyager on this great highway into the heart of England; and it also commanded the surrounding flat of the Island itself (the lordship of which was in her hands), the opposite coast of Essex in front, and the North Downs of Kent in the rear.
It is not without interest to trace the changes through which the name of this Island has passed. The fame of its pasturage is preserved in its old Saxon name of "Schepeye" (the Island of Sheep), which in the harder language of the Norman was Latinized into "Scapeia "—while the monastic writers seem anxious not to lose the origin of the name, for they almost invariably add to it the explanation "Insula Ovium." But St. Sexburga's religious house gave to it a new name, new name, "Monasterium Scapeiæ;" this in the twelfth century was abridged into "Moynstre," and in a little time into "Menstre," and eventually into its present form of "Minster," retaining however the adjunct “in Sheppey" to distinguish it from the other Minster in the Isle of Thanet.
Here St. Sexburga planted her Abbey, and its Chapel, for her seventy-seven nuns. In the course of time there rose up by its side a Parish Church, for the use of the outside multitude, who would soon be drawn into its vicinity for the purpose of trade, or for security. Within that Chapel, with the ruins of the Abbey close by, we are now assembled.
I would distinguish between the Nuns' Chapel, now the north aisle, and the Parish Church. For many years it would have remained the only Church in the Island.
"Ermenilda filia S. Sexburgæ nupsit Wlfero Regi Merciorum, filio Pendæ Regis. . . . . Præfato Wlfero post xvii annos ad eterna regna migrante, Ermenilda Regina apud Cantiam in Monasterio de Shepeia confugit; ubi genitrix sua Sexburga Choris virginum præluxit; et sub ea habitum religionis suscepit." (Thomæ Eliensis Historia; Anglia Sacra, vol. i., p. 596; Dugdale's Monasticon, vol. ii., p. 49.)
process of time it planted other daughter chapelries, now separate parish churches, east, and west, and south, Eastchurch, Queenborough, Warden, Leysdown. The nomination of the priest first lay with the Abbess, and eventually the right of presentation was granted to the Abbot and Convent of St. Augustine's, Canterbury; from whence came the two monks, the one as chaplain and confessor for the Abbey, the other as Vicar of the Parish Church. The apartments they were said to have occupied are still pointed out in the eastern gable of the "gatehouse" adjoining.
The Abbey has had a chequered existence. For well nigh two hundred years its inmates may have enjoyed a peaceful period for the undisturbed exercise of daily prayer and praise and good deeds, when in the ninth century came the Danes, swooping down on the seaboard of Kent, making two attacks on the Abbey, and here as elsewhere desecrating the sacred place. Then again in the eleventh century it fell a prey to the sacrilegious bands of the banished Earl Godwin, whose followers committed further devastation.* Thus it came that William the Conqueror in the later part of that century found the Abbey almost empty, and transferred to it the sisters from Newington Abbey, who had lost their devoted Prioress, murdered in her bed.†
After the Conquest the first mention of "Menstre " occurs in the reign of Henry I., when, in 1130, Archbishop William Corboil, after having held his grand dedication of Canterbury Cathedral,‡ rescued the Abbey Chapel from ruin, and probably added to it the Parish Church; and what had hitherto been known as the Monastery of Scapeia became by the terms of its dedication, perpetuating thereby the name
The first attack of the Danes was said to have been made in 851, and the second in 855, while Earl Godwin's was in 1052.
† W. Thorn's Chronicle (Decem Scriptores, p. 1931): "Apud Manerium de Newyngton fuerunt quondam Moniales: .... contigebat quod Priorissa ejusdem Manerii strangulata fuit de coco suo nocte in lecto suo. . . . . Quo comperto, cepit dominus Rex (Willielmus) Manerium illud in manum suam, et tenuit illud in custodia sua, cæteris Monialibus usque Scapeiam inde amotis.'
"Ecclesiam Cantuarie a Lanfranco fundatam et consummatam, sed per Anselmum auctam, iiij non Maii anno MCXXX. cum honore et munificentia multa dedicavit. Huic dedicationi interfuit Rex Anglorum Henricus. . . . . Rex etiam Scotie David. . . . et omnes Episcopi Anglie. Non est audita talis dedicatio in terra post dedicationem templi Salomonis." (Gervasii, Actus Pontificum, Decem Scriptores, p. 1664.)