There is currently an exhibition in Barham Parish Church celebrating the Royal Saxon Way. This is part of the Canterbury Festival and it runs to Sunday 25 October.
The pictures are the work of local artist Ingrid Bax, and the poetry has been written by Professor Carolyn Oulton of Canterbury Christchurch University. Together, they provide a reflection and a meditation on the themes of the Royal Saxon Way: the powerful women who moulded the local ecclesiastical landscape in 7th and 8th Century Kent, the ancient churches, many founded in this early period and most still serving their local communities, and the varied and beautiful sea, river and landscape that you find as you walk the route from Folkestone, via Lyminge and the Elham Valley, to Minster-in-Thanet.
Every one of the churches along the route has been illustrated with a vignette, capturing the essence of the building in its setting. These are laid out in a long line along the south wall of the nave.
Two of Ingrid’s paintings are homages to pictures of Folkestone by JMW Turner that he painted exactly 200 years ago. These pictures, as well as depicting Folkestone, also highlight the contemporary issue of migrants, a theme that has remarkable resonance with the Anglo-Saxon period. The early phase in the 5th and 6th Century is often known as the Migration Period, and modern DNA analysis indicates that perhaps 40% of the population in England at this time derived from incomers crossing the English Channel and the North Sea from Continental Europe. This was undoubtedly a large influx of new people, but the DNA indicates that these new people were absorbed into a much larger existing population. Contrary to popular myth, the existing British population was not killed or driven out, and there was a fair amount of continuity. Together the existing British and the incoming “English” went on to create the kingdoms that eventually came together in the remarkable unified kingdom of Anglo-Saxon England, that in the 10th and 11th Centuries was the best managed and wealthiest state in Europe.
The exhibition is open daily, all this week, from 10am to 4pm. We hope you will enjoy it, and also feel inspired to explore the Royal Saxon Way. You can find out more about the route here.