A Journey around the Stones of Lyminge

Readers of this blog will know that we have advertised for people with stones on their property to get in touch, and you can read more about this here.  Despite the cold and rainy weather on Sunday, a group of us ventured out to tour a number of the sites around Lyminge where the householders have kindly invited us to come and have a look.  The group included Joan Blows who is a professional geologist and who is the author of A Building Stone Atlas of Kent which is published by Historic England.  Joan has agreed to provide her professional expertise to support our project and we are most grateful to her and her husband Harry, a civil engineer with a particular interest in petrology (the study of stones), for their input, telling us more about the stone that has been brought to Lyminge over possibly the last 1,400 years or so.

We started off at Little Broad Street on the road leading out of Lyminge towards New Barn.  Before the late 19th Century, Lyminge was not really a village as we think of them today, and it comprised a number of farmsteads around which small hamlets developed.  Broad Street was one of these farmsteads.  The main house was rebuilt in the 19th Century but the farmworkers’ cottages on the other side of the road are older.  Little Broad Street comprises a pair of these cottages knocked together.  We were interested in the frontage made of well-dressed stone.  Such a large area of masonry is quite rare for a domestic building in Lyminge.

Little Broad Street south front

We were also intrigued by an interesting find from the boundary wall which seems to relate to an older building on the site or perhaps an earlier incarnation of Broad Street House itself.

Little Broad Street stone from boundary with road

Next stop was Inver Cottage in North Lyminge.  The rough stones found in the garden are clearly not dressed in the same way as at Little Broad Street.  However, they have been roughly shaped and could have been used in building.  Whatever they were used for, as stone does not occur naturally in Lyminge, these stones were brought here and are evidence of human activity at some time in the past.

Inver Cottage stones dug from garden

At the end of Church Lane by the entrance to the Church Car Park is a large stone that looks as if it has been dressed.  It is rather buried in the undergrowth, but enough is visible to suggest it comes from a structure somewhere in the immediate area, since a stone of this size would not have travelled easily .

Building stone by church carpark entrance

Further along Church Lane, following the line of the footpath, there are more obviously dressed blocks of stone built into the church yard wall.  The ground level rises substantially behind this wall, so the boundary itself is probably very old.  Monasteries have always had defined boundaries and it is quite possible that the church yard wall marks the north boundary of the original monastic enclosure dating back to the 7th or 8th Centuries.  When the boundary was first built in stone is a question that is currently difficult to answer.  However, it is clear that the current wall has been patched at various times.

Church boundary wall

It is extremely doubtful that these nicely squared blocks were originally made to go in a boundary wall.  It is much more likely that they were taken from somewhere else and re-used when the wall needed repairing at some point.  The obvious source is the complex of buildings focused on Court Lodge Green (the “Bumpy Field”) that belonged to the Archbishop of Canterbury in the period after the Norman Conquest.  Parts of this complex extended into the church yard, possibly as far as the Old Church yard close to the Old Rectory (see The First Church in Lyminge page 70-7).

The next stop on our journey was the Springs in Rectory Lane.  This was the Vicarage when the Rector of Lyminge employed a Vicar to conduct services and carry out pastoral work that he did not wish to do himself.  (The word “vicar” means someone who acts on behalf of another.)  The Springs is actually an old building, though superficially it does appear so because it has been rendered and there is mock-timbering on the outside.  In the Tithe Survey of 1840, the Vicarage was the only house along Rectory Lane, though there was a Farm Yard with buildings further up the lane (towards the “new” Rectory), which was part of the Vicarial Glebe, ie the farm that supported the Vicar.  There was a “Barn Yard” opposite on the other side of Rectory Lane which was the centre of the Rectorial Glebe.  The dressed block in the photo below was dug out of the garden of The Springs close to Rectory Lane and could have come from a building in one or other of these yards.

The Springs stone dug from boundary with Rectory Lane

Across Rectory Lane in the garden of Whisper Cottage we found a lot of dressed stone in the boundary wall.  This was the site of the Rector’s Barn Yard in 1840.  We know that the Rector of the time, Ralph Price, removed stone from the ruined buildings in and around the church yard and used them in his farm buildings (The First Church in Lyminge page 70-4).  It is fairly likely, therefore, that many if not all of these stones were re-used from Court Lodge.

Whisper Cottage SW boundary wall 2

So what do we do with this information?  Our tour on Sunday was simply a reconnaissance to see what stone there is and to work out where to return in order to carry out more work.  Weathered stone is quite difficult to identify.  But if you get up close and examine a small cleaned area under magnification, it is possible to tell a lot more about what the stone is and where it came from.  Joan’s initial thoughts are that much of this stone, possibly all of it, comes from the Folkestone or Hythe beds.  There were quarries where the stone came to the surface and could be easily worked, such as along Horn Street.  Quarries like these may be the source of the dressed stone.  The rougher less-worked stone may come from other sources.  We are grateful to Alan Boughton, long-term and life-time resident of Lyminge, who has told us that the sand pits in Folkestone were used as a source of rough stone which was often used to build garden walls and supply garden rockeries in the 19th and 20th Centuries.

We will return to look at these stones in more detail in 2019.  We hope to be able to say where the stone comes from, and whether we have anything that comes from further afield than Folkestone or Hythe.  We will combine this with work in and around the church and on the excavations in the summer of next year to see whether the fabric of the stone or the method of working has any similarities.  It remains to be seen what if anything this will tell us.  But we hope at least to be able to say where the stone came from, and to get a sense of the amount of effort that people went to in order to bring it to Lyminge.  It will be a bonus if we can identify stone that has been recycled.

If you live in Lyminge and have stones in your house or in your garden similar to the ones pictured above, please let us know.  This will help us to build up a map of where stone has been used and possibly re-used over time.  This is all part of understanding how Lyminge has grown and developed as a community over many centuries.

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