We are indebted to David Holman who has shared with us photos of the dig in the area of the Memorial Garden that took place in the churchyard in the early 1990s.
The excavation in the Memorial Garden looking east 13 August 1991(© David Holman)
The excavation in the Memorial Garden looking north east 14 December 1991(© David Holman)
The two photos show the dig at different times. You can see the same structure in this plan of the church and churchyard that was drawn in 1915. You can clearly see what is apparently a stone sarcophagus to the right in both photos, which also appears on the plan as a rectangle within the line of the walls.
Extract from a survey of the church and churchyard dated 1915
The dig was led by Tim Tatton-Brown who at the time was Director of Canterbury Archaeological Trust, and Paul Bennett who replaced Tim as Director shortly afterwards. It was carried out at the request of the then Rector, Frank Kent, prior to the creation of the Memorial Garden that now occupies the area. In fact it was only a partial excavation, since the area had already been dug by Canon Jenkins in the 19th Century and had been left as an overgrown hole, roughly fenced off with rusting railings. This is how it came to appear on the churchyard survey in 1915, mentioned above.
It seems clear from the photos and the survey that this structure is not in alignment with the church, since it is orientated east north east – west south west on the plan while the church is orientated east-west. This is a little at odds with Canon Jenkins’ plan of the church and his excavations from around 1875. What seems to have happened is that he has “tidied” up the plan in order to try and make sense of what he found, projecting the remains into a single great three-aisled structure. The structure in the Memorial Garden would seem to be the western end of what Canon Jenkins defined as an Atrium.
Plan of Lyminge Church and a conjectural reconstruction of the Anglo-Saxon church based upon his excavations, prepared by Canon Jenkins and published in 1875
It is quite possible that the structure in the Memorial Garden is not of the same date, and thus separate from, the structure immediately south of the church lying under and to either side of the porch, which is labelled as Basilical Church of St Mary Ever-Virgin in Jenkins’ plan of 1875. We know from a geophysical survey in 2013 that this has been drawn accurately and is indeed just below the current ground surface. Some of Canon Jenkins’ plan is accurate, and some not. One therefore has to take what Jenkins drew with a pinch of salt.
We hope that the dig this summer will help us to answer some of the questions raised by all this. Unfortunately, Tim and Paul’s findings have never been published, so we are rather handicapped with a lack of information about what was actually found in the Memorial Garden. There are no plans to re-excavate this area in the near future because it now contains ashes and these can’t be disturbed. However, it would be enormously helpful if, like David Holman, you have at home photos of the excavation when it was taking place, or any other photos of this area that show the remains. If you have photos, please get in touch. We are desperately keen for any further information about this area and it will help enormously to see any other images that may exist.
Many thanks. Rob