Despite Covid, the Lyminge Anglo-Saxon Festival got underway in a socially-distanced way on Monday with the first event: Meet the Author Rob Macintosh, who has written a trilogy of novels on the Mission of St Augustine, who brought Roman Christianity to Kent in 597. Of particular interest to us in Lyminge is that a central character in the later novels is Queen Ethelburga, who founded the first church in Lyminge, and this features in the story. Despite the bad weather, an audience of around a dozen were treated to an interesting discussion in the Parish Church about the events of the time, and Rob gave a reading from the third novel in his series of books.
Next up was a walk around the village on Tuesday, led by Rob Baldwin and Andrew Coleman. Rob focused on the archaeology and history of our community, while Andrew looked at the geology that has contributed so much to creating the environment that has attracted people to live here over the centuries.
The walk began at the information panel on Tayne Field, the heart of the Anglo-Saxon royal estate where a complex of large feasting halls and ancillary buildings was uncovered in archaeological excavations in 2012-15. This set the scene for the importance of Lyminge in the Anglo-Saxon period. You can read more here. We then proceeded past the pub to Well Field.
The spring over which the well-house stands is ancient. Our new information panel shows a picture of some of the mass of flints found there in the recent excavations that revealed human presence up to 10,000 years ago, in the period immediately following the retreat of the ice sheets at the end of the last Ice Age. Some of the first people re-entering Britain when it again became habitable, found Lyminge a good place to settle for a period. The amount of flint flakes demonstrates they were here for quite a time, though it is not clear how permanent a settlement this was.
The walk attracted many participants
Andrew discussed the formation of our valley in geological time and Rob brought the story up to the present. For the last 1,200 years, the spring has been a holy well, known for most of this time as St Eadburg’s Well. It was also the public water supply for this part of Lyminge up to 1905.
At the church, Rob talked about how Ethelburga came to found a church at Lyminge and encouraged everyone to come and have a look at the new display in the church which gives a good insight into what this rare early church may have looked like.
The group then proceeded through the churchyard, passing the site of the residence of the Archbishops of Canterbury in the Middle Ages, and into Court Lodge Green, still known as the bumpy field because of all the earthworks associated with medieval buildings. The discussion here was about the Anglo-Saxon monastery which lasted at least into the middle of the 9th Century, and then the later history of Lyminge, ending with the coming of the railway. This led to the expansion of Lyminge from a dispersed collection of separate farmsteads into the nucleated village it is today, caused by the infill of new homes built for the first commuters in the 1880s and 1890s.
The Lyminge Anglo-Saxon Festival is continuing until 4 July. See the Lyminge Newsletter for more details of the programme.