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History of St Matthew's Church

WAREHORNE is first mentioned in a Charter of the Saxon King Egbert (820 AD) in which it is called Werehornas. The name has been explained as "the place on the bend by the weir", presumably on the ancient course of the river Lymen (the old name for the Rother).

The Domesday Book states that there was a church here then, but no visible remains of an early Saxon or Norman building survive. The oldest part of the present structure is the central part of the Early English nave, c. 1200, to which were added successively the chancel, with Choir and Sanctuary (at the East end), the aisles (wings on the North and South) and the (originally stone) tower, the whole probably completed by 1450 - 1500. Warehorne is first mentioned in a Charter of the Saxon King Egbert (820 AD) in which it is called Werehornas. The name has been explained as "the place on the bend by the weir", presumably on the ancient course of the river Lymen (the old name for the Rother).

The porch has a Flemish gable, a style said to have been introduced into Kent by the Huguenot refugees from France in the 18th century. The date 1784, presumably that of the final restoration of the damaged tower and porch, appears over the door, but the oak plank benches inside are older.

The tower, originally of stone, was struck by lightning in 1770, and by 1777 it had been rebuilt in brick. In those days a parish rate could be levied for the repair of the parish church, and brick was presumably used as an economy. The stair-head turret and wind-vane were added in 1820. Inside, the Royal Arms (1708) above the door leading to the belfry are of Queen Anne's reign, dated by an entry in the Churchwarden's accounts: "Paide to Mr. Warde for painting of ye Queen's Arms and ye Commandments and Sentences, £8." The original tower arch into the Church survives.

The nave: the font consists of a 17th century bowl on a 19th century base and surround. A musician's gallery was dismantled in 1889. Some traces of ancient painted decoration survive over the font and a carved head, much restored, is opposite. The Westernmost pillars are of smoothed Bethersden marble, the others being left in the rough. The king-posts supporting the roof are original. The box pews are early 19th century.

In the Middle Ages the church was often the only public building in the village and so, in addition to worship, it was used as a village hall, a storehouse, a refuge and a hospital, and sometimes a covered marketplace and a court of justice. In emergencies the tower provided a lookout, and the bells a public warning system. This may explain why the church here is so large.

The north aisle was probably the Lady Chapel.  The blocked door on the north side would have given access to a staircase in the thickness of the wall, leading to the rood loft.  The openings into the rood gallery, where the great Cross once stood (rood is Old English for cross), can be seen in the walls above.  The stained glass at the top of the north east window is original 14th century work.

The south aisle originally contained the Chapel of St Catherine, who was regarded as the patron saint of wool merchants.  The chapel was convenient for prayer on their journey while they rested themselves and their train of pack ponies at the Woolpack Inn opposite the church.

The Aumbry and Piscina recesses for reserving the Sacrament and cleansing for Communion vessels remain though the double doors have gone from the Aumbry.

The chancel floor was unfortunately raised and paved in the early 19th century, but two interesting tombstones remain visible.  The original stone seats, Aumbry, Piscina and beautifully carved decoration survive in the Sanctuary.