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of the church; for the "Grey Coats" of Kent had now become very numerous and wealthy. To attain to this end they seem to have swept away all the ruder work they found, retaining only the south porch and the tower, and then to have lengthened the nave by adding on a chancel, carrying the high altar farther eastward; and with it apparently the chancel arch itself, for its curves and mouldings belong rather to the fourteenth than the fifteenth century. And may not the same remark apply to the two side windows of the chancel, that they too belonged to the earlier church, and were moved here when the chancel was lengthened?
The church then had a high-pitched roof at a lower level than the present one; for before the recent alterations were made there were traces on the east wall of the tower and corresponding ones on the chancel arch, shewing that the roof originally lay on the line of the present string-course, which runs along over the arcade on the south of the nave. (But these have since disappeared.) The present clerestory was evidently a subsequent addition, in the Perpendicular style of the early years of the sixteenth century, and probably contemporary with the Perpendicular windows of the north and south aisles. It was at this time doubtless that the nave itself was widened some 4 feet, and the south aisle carried out the same distance at the expense of the groining of the roof of the porch. The parish records shew that about the years 1520-1522 liberal benefactions and subscriptions were made for the enlargement of the church. Among others Mr. Walter Roberts left in his will the following legacy: "Towards the makynge of the Middel Ile of the Church oon (one) half of all the tymbers that shall be (required) for the makynge of the Rooffe of the said worke."+
In early Wills mention is made of several altars and chapels besides the high altar; one dedicated to St. Mary, probably at the east end of the north aisle; another to
* A noteworthy evidence of this widening is also to be detected in the fact that a plain semicircular arch in the west wall of the nave, leading to a turret stair of the tower, was now closed up and half hidden by the pier of the first bay of the colonnade which separates the nave from the south aisle.
+ Somerset House, Maynwarynge, f. 22, dated 1522.
St. Giles* (St. Egidius), eastward in extension of that of St. Mary, the pious work of John Roberts of Glassenbury in 1460, which his son Walter embellished by inserting in the east window a kneeling figure of his father in armour with his helmet by his side, and some shields containing family escutcheons. The shields and the upper portion of the good knight's figure have been preserved, but were removed from the east window and placed in one in the north wall.
During the next century a change had passed over the religious mind of the nation, and Thomas, the son of Walter Roberts (the first Baronet), in abhorrence of all trace or association of Popery, which he connected with the chapel his grandfather had endowed and his father embellished, transferred his affection from the north to the south aisle, into which he collected the family tombs, and caused it to be thenceforth known as the "Roberts' Chapel."+
There were altars also to St. Thomas, St. Katherine, and St. Clement, mentioned in various Wills, which cannot now have their several places assigned to them.
In the south wall of the chancel is a door now opening to the vestry, which before vestry-rooms came into vogue was known as the "Priest's door." On these the architects of those days were often wont to bestow special care, and display special taste, as was evidently the case here. For, when the comparatively modern vestry was introduced into this angle of the Church, the original doorway was removed and placed where it now stands, inserted under the lower part of the easternmost window in the south wall, the full proportions of which it somewhat mutilates, though in itself a very beautiful specimen of the elaborate stonework of the fifteenth century, no doubt the pious offering of Thomas Hendley, then living at Corsehorne, as the initials "T. H." indicate.
One feature of traditional, if not historical, interest demands notice. In the upper part of the south porch is a small room, now closed off from the Church itself, but evi
"Corpusque meum sepeliendum ad aram S'ti Egiddi." Extract from the Will of John Roberds [sic]. Prerog. Court of Canterbury, Stockton 22.
+ This at least is the solution of the transfer given by Tarbutt in his Cranbrook Church and its Monuments, p. 33.
dently at one time opening out into it by a wide spanned arch, the traces of which are still visible in the wall. This was doubtless the parvise, a room of many uses in connection with the church; a living room for a chantry priest, or a library, or a school-room, or a Record-room. It was sometimes called the "Church-house." After the Reformation its use was much more secular, and answered the purpose a vestry-room for the clergy, or even for parish meetings.* But the room we are describing, now only a lumber-room, has obtained traditionally a distinction in connection with the Marian persecutions, which gives it a notoriety. On the authority of old John Foxe, it was used as a temporary prison, the occasion being this: a poor Cranbrook man, named John Bland, was tried at the Sessions here for heresy, and convicted of holding "new doctrines." There was no jail near, or even a police cell, so Sir John Baker, the then owner of Sissinghurst, who presided at the trial, had him thrust, that night at least, into this room for security; hence it obtained the name of "Baker's Hole," or "Baker's Jail;" while he himself, in consequence of the severity of his judgments on those who favoured the Reformation, was thenceforth known as "Bloody Baker."
Now the very aspect of this place, its double doors, the outer one very massive, and the thick staples on which it turned, the heavy lock in its unwieldy frame of wood stretching nearly across the door, undoubtedly suggest a place of security for some highly valued treasure, whether church vessels or MSS., and also have certainly a very prison-like character. Nor is the key of this outer door unworthy of special notice, not only for its size, but still more for its complex construction (of which a sketch is given opposite). It is no mere dummy, but the elaborate wards within the lock itself correspond exactly with those of the key, and present a remarkably fine specimen of the beautiful ironwork which a fourteenth-century smithy could produce.
Before leaving this room and the steps leading up to it,
*This is supported by the fact that old Samuel Dence, who died in 1573, having founded the "writing school" in the place, willed that he should be buried at the foot of the vestry steps, and his tomb still stands at the bottom of the stone steps leading up to this room.
some notice should be taken of what is almost a unique feature of an English church. In its list of Vicars Cranbrook had in the beginning of the eighteenth century a man of singular power and profound learning, named John Johnson, appointed to this parish in 1707 by Archbishop Tenison. Finding that the Anabaptists formed a very considerable body in the place, and that their great objection to coming into communion with the Church of England was based on the custom of infant baptism and "sprinkling," he resolved to remove if possible this stumbling-block, and with that view built a baptistery sufficiently large for an adult to stand upright in and to be "immersed." There it stands at the door of the room, as evidence of his conciliatory spirit; but the Church Registers do not disclose any evidence of the depth or reality of their scruples on the score of immersion, as only one instance is there recorded; while there are frequent entries of adult baptisms, some even of persons as old as 40 years, as in the case of one William Couchman, born in 1653, and baptized in 1694.
THE 14TH CENTURY KEY OF THE OUTER DOOR LEADING INTO A ROOM
Mention must now be made of the monuments of the Church, of which there are two of colossal proportions, and of genealogical if not artistic value. The most ancient of the monuments is a large slab lying in the centre of the choir; its inscription, in Lombardic characters, telling that it was to the memory of one "Stephanus," for whom the Virgin was entreated to plead. Tarbutt thought he could identify him with an almoner of Battle Abbey, who was called "Stephanus de Cranebrook," and who died about the
year 1388. On the north wall of the chancel is a mural tablet of considerable local interest, commemorating in a long Latin inscription the distinguished career of Richard Fletcher, who was the first Vicar of Cranbrook after the Reformation. He died in 1585.
Other monuments of local interest abound on the floor and the walls; but the two most noteworthy are those connected with the Roberts* and Baker families. Of the former, one of gigantic proportions, if not artistic, is of great genealogical interest as giving the descent of twelve generations, from the Walter Roberts of Glassenbury—the victim of his loyal protection of his friend and neighbour Sir John Guildeforde in the reign of Richard III.-down to Jane, the daughter of another Walter Roberts, the sixth Baronet, who became the most unhappy of women as the wife of the profligate George, the third Duke of St. Albans.
There is a pyramidal monument of somewhat similar character on which appears inscribed the history of the Baker family of Sissinghurst, in this parish, especially the Sir John Baker whose name has been already mentioned in connection with the small room over the south porch; while on the back of the monument is recorded the pedigree of the family for about a century and a half, from 1578 to 1733. This monument now stands in the west end of the north aisle, having been placed there at the restoration of the church in 1868, when it was removed from its original position in the south aisle. There it had marked the vault of the Baker family, in connection with which the records of the parish tell a disastrous tale. In opening the vault in 1727, and enlarging it for one more coffin, the main support of the pier adjoining the chancel arch was weakened by the removal of some of the stones, and the pier collapsed and brought down with it some 50 feet of the roof on that side.
It only remains to speak of the stately Tower, with its rich peal of bells, and of the shields which appear on its
* The Roberts family had clearly no mean position in the county-Walter was Sheriff in 1464, Thomas in 1533, and another Thomas in 1622; while his son, Sir Thomas, a Baronet, was the Knight of the Shire for Kent in 1691, and again in 1695, and M.P. for Maidstone in 1702-and are still worthily represented at Glassenbury Manor.