Day three in Deal turned out to be a great day. It began with another beautiful sunrise over the pier. I could get used to this and the sound of the ocean. Unfortunately, it makes me sleepy – not the sun, the ocean rhythmically lapping on the shore. I think this means I’ve finally relaxed.
Each morning, we had breakfast in the pub. The Clarendon is sort of a B&B above a pub. Most of the hotels here are just that. There are no chain hotels, so it’s all local, waterfront and quaint. Most people eat dinner in the pub – but not us – breakfast. We’ve learned a lot – like egg sandwiches do not come on toast, but cold buttered bread. But everything can be made right with a latte.
We didn’t need to be anyplace until noon when St. Nicholas’ church in Shoulden opens. Jim and I decided to walk back to town a slightly different way and explore a bit. These beautiful old streets are very inviting. We noticed that at the end of the street there was a visitor information location that had a walking tour map of the historical signs, so we set out to find that map.
I wish we had found this map two days ago. It’s available at the Dover Visitor Information Center, and there is a branch in Deal too, in case you ever need one! Our hotel was on Beach Street, just to the right of the pier.
On the way, Jim found the solution to the driving challenge.
Actually, Jim and I designed a dual navigation plan. I give Jim numbers for the left side, like “a foot” or “6 inches” and Jim is going to go very slow and stop if he feels uncomfortable. While that’s not a good plan at home, it is here because people actually park into the street making 2 lanes impossible and impassible, so people stop in the road all of the time here. It’s very disconcerting actually. The dual navigation plan actually worked very well and we had no incidents today. Thankfully.
We did, however, find some local color.
You just never know what you’re going to see.
England is not boring.
By any stretch of the imagination.
Is this a mutant gene?
I keep requesting purple from my hair stylist and she keeps refusing…mutters something about acting my age….
This next photo was actually in London on our way back home the following day.
Can you see the back of her outfit? It says “POSH GIRLS ON TOUR.”
We were told earlier in the trip that posh, as it’s used today to mean swanky or rich was derived from the following:
The much-repeated tale is that ‘Posh’ derives from the ‘port out, starboard home’ legend supposedly printed on tickets of passengers on P&O (Peninsula and Orient) passenger vessels that travelled between UK and India in the days of the Raj. Another version has it that PO and SH were scrawled on the steamer trunks used on the voyages, by seamen when allocating cabins.
Anyone who enjoys people watching will love the British Isles.
We found a Subway sandwich shop and bought lunch so we could have a picnic later. We found out the hard way the other day that many locations have no resources whatsoever, not even a convenience store or a gas station (which means no bath rooms.) Many of the churches have no heat or toilets, for example. However, those places that do have public restrooms avoid that confusing Scotland issue where the men’s restrooms have figures with kilts and the women’s have figures with skirts and you can’t tell the difference.
Seems so simple – what a good idea.
We still had quite a bit of time after Subway, before we had to be at the churches, so we took a walk along High Street in Deal which was by now becoming quite familiar.
As luck would have it, I found a bookstore. I’m drawn to these in local places like a moth to a flame, so I had to go in and take a look. I needed a map anyway, just in case we decided to try to go to Nonington, about 10 miles away. After looking at the map, we decided not to because the roads aren’t marked and the only way to get there included a lot of back roads. Our track record wasn’t so good and we decided to stay and enjoy Deal and not play automobile roulette anymore than was absolutely necessary.
In any event, while in the bookstore, I discovered, quite by accident while perusing a history book, the reason why we could not find Richard Estes’s tomb in St. Peters at Westcliffe. We were in the wrong church, AGAIN, but the name was right. However, the church being referred to in Richard’s 1506 will was St. Peter’s in Dover which no longer exists. The original St. Peter’s in Dover church was mentioned in the 1200s, but they know nothing more of it until in 1827 when the church needed to be either remodeled or expanded. Someone needs to show them the 1596 Symonson map where Dover very clearly has a church, shows the location and a drawing of the church itself, albeit small.
In 1895, St. Peter’s was destroyed and a new, larger church built either beside or on top of the old one. It’s unknown whether any part of the old church was utilized in the new one. The church was rededicated to St. Peter and St. Paul, so the name changed. That church was again destroyed during WW2, so it has been rebuilt yet a third time. So if indeed Richard Eustace was buried in the floor, that floor no longer exists. While we’ll never have a photo of that tombstone, we now know why we won’t, and why there is no St. Peter’s church today in Dover. At least that mystery is now solved!
At noon, we drove to St. Leonards, parked, and picnicked in the car, then walked to Shoulden about a quarter mile away, shown below. That explains why our ancestor, Robert Eastye, might have been married there – it’s so close to his home church and Anne Woodward would have been a local gal. St. Nicholas Shoulden was probably her church.
I’d love to peruse those Shoulden records for the Woodward family line. Take a look at this beautiful church in the article about Anne Woodward.
The bride would have come in from the rear of the church, through these doors, and walked down this aisle.
This door, dating from 1795, is not in use today except for special occasions. The original, pre-1795, door was on the other side of the church, today, the back, because the original road was routed on the other side of the church, where the cemetery is today. The original doorway has now been enclosed and is the vicar’s vestry, shows as the little add-on with a chimney in the photo below.
Regardless of how one entered the church, the inside, especially the nave, probably looks much the same now as it did then, except for carpet, of course. This church dates from the 1200s with one portion in the north wall believed to be from the 1100s.
The church is beautiful, inside and out.
It’s very likely that the ashes of Anne Woodward’s ancestors lie in this churchyard.
In Europe, I often think about the discussions in the US about exhumation and DNA testing of forensic remains for genealogy. While I only know of one instance where this was actually done for genealogical purposes, and it was couched as an archaeology/history project because it involved a famous historical figure, Jesse James, it could never be done in Europe with graves that have been shared, not once or twice, but for centuries, and with unknown persons. The only way exhumation would be viable is if a crypt was involved, protecting the remains from contamination from those who had come, or gone, before. Either that, or exhumation would have to occur within a timeframe that would involve the decomposition of tissue, but not the decomposition of bone. Still, there would be enough doubt that it would call into question the validity of non-confirming results.
Robert Estes married Anne Woodward here at Shoulden on December 2, 1591. Their first child, Matthew, born in June of 1692 would be baptized in this church, but subsequent children born 1596-1616 were baptized in Ringwould.
Did they look out these same windows, daydreaming, or perhaps thinking about things that needed to be done after church?
This ancient oak in the churchyard, struck by lightning and half burned speaks to the age of this church. It’s possible that this oak was here when the original church, probably celtic and pagan, first met outside under an oak on a hilltop.
We told the ladies at St. Nicholas Shoulden goodbye and walked back to St. Leonard’s along the ancient Sandwich Road, the same pathway, then road, our ancestors undoubtedly trod for generations.
St. Leonard’s Church in Deal
We are so fortunate that Ruth Doughty, the archivist, historian and verger of St. Leonard’s was not only available but spent the afternoon with us at the church. What a font of knowledge. I’m guessing that Ruth is in her mid-80s as she was christened in 1930 in St. Leonard’s. She is a fixture, loves the church and absolutely belongs there. She made this an incredibly amazing day! I hope you’ll come along, because even if this isn’t your family church, an awful lot of the history pertains to churches throughout England. Besides, you never know when you’ll discover an Estes in your tree or in your DNA matches!!
St. Leonard’s, shown below, is extremely difficult to photograph from a distance due to its location on a busy round-about.
I have always felt like St. Leonard’s was the home church of the Estes family. I know that my ancestors migrated down the road to St. Nicholas at Ringwould and Robert was married at Shoulden, but the first Estes records are here, and the heart of the Estes family seems to be in Deal. Some family straggled a few miles away but many returned and there is Estes history at St. Leonard’s for generations.
From the Friends of St. Leonard’s website, here are a couple of drawings of St. Leonard’s in earlier times.
This is probably close to the church the Estes ancestors knew. We know it’s before the 1819 addition.
This last drawing, with the color, looks more modern and is similar to a black and white print dated about 1820. We can also see the 1819 addition.
St. Leonard’s is on a high mound, possibly originally a pagan moot hill, or meeting place. The sides of the hill are walled, so you enter by either ascending stairs or walking around the wall to the front or side door. You can easily see the wall in the 1800s print above.
Ruth Doughty, before her retirement, was a printer. She graced us with copies of her prints of St. Leonard’s. Below, thanks to Ruth, the oldest known image of St. Leonard’s, clearly before the north addition in 1819.
The church is surrounded on the 2 street sides with a wall.
Inside the wall, a walkway is paved about half way around the church, the other half being cemetery. However, gravestones are interspersed everyplace and one can rest assured that there are graves in every possible location, given that this church has been in existence since at least 1180. Some historians believe that some form of worship has occurred here since Saxon times.
The front door of the church is shown below, original to the rebuilding of the church tower in 1686.
We were meeting Ruth at the church at an appointed time, and we were a few minutes early. I spent the time perusing the cemetery. In a few days, we’ll meet Nicholas Ewstas, the first documented Estes ancestor in Deal, and we’ll take a tour of cemetery in his article.
Because the church is so old, it has been constructed, and reconstructed, many times over the centuries. This shows in its eclectic layout, which I think gives it an extremely unique character and very interesting historical perspective.
It’s easiest to see the original outline of the church and the additions from the back outside. The entrance is under the cupola in the tower at the west end of the church. The nave is to the east with the cross above the triple windows. The south addition from the 1200s and the original north addition, also from the 1200s, can be seen easily as they are not finished with flint. The second north addition, at right, with more modern white lattice windows can also easily be discerned.
You can also see the layout on this Google Map satellite view.
Directly across the street from the north entrance is the beginning, or end, depending on your perspective, of Church Path, a mile long path from Lower Deal directly to the north church door at St. Leonard’s.
The nave and chancel is original to the 1100s. A hundred years later, the chancel was remodeled, enlarging the north and south aisles and adding doors, which are now gone but can be seen on the outside walls.
The current tower was completed in 1686 after the original tower fell in 1658, after years of neglect prior to the Reformation, causing immeasurable damage including the destruction of the pilot’s gallery. The cupola on the tower, which held a lantern, was and continues to be an important landmark to ships on the Goodwin Sands.
Originally, the tower apparently also had a steeple. The Philip Symonson 1596 map of Kent shows both Sholdon and Deale churches, along with all three castles. Ringwould, as Kyngewold is visible at the bottom.
Normally, the main alter of a church is in the east. In this case, you enter St. Leonard’s church via the west door and the nave is directly opposite in the east end of the church, but to your left, north, a significant extension was added in the 1200s and again in the 1819. There is a small aisle, or wing, to the south, your right, original to the 1200s, but the largest “wing” is the one to the North which means that the majority of the congregation cannot see what is going on in the Nave. Because of this, a new alter was installed forward of its normal position in a church, where the chancel, north and south aisles intersect, between the arches, in front of the nave. Note that these original arch pillars are beautifully carved by a master mason.
This photo is looking east, into the original nave. The South extension (to the right) can be partially seen and the portion visible in the photo is the Lady’s Chapel.
The photo below is taken near the door of the North extension, looking completely across the center aisle into the South extension. Notice all of the plaques and commemorations on the walls, along with the three hatchments at the top. Also, note the floor burials. Gregory Holyoake in his book, Deal, Sad Smuggling Town, states that before 1668 anyone who could afford to do so was buried in the church itself. However, based on the fact that the north extension wasn’t added until 1819, that practice obviously did not cease.
Below, the long northern wing is shown with Ruth and I chatting.
Here’s a direct shot down the North aisle. That arched door exits to find Moses Estes headstone directly on the right outside. You can also see one of three galleries above the seating to extend the church’s seating capacity. There are two other galleries as well, one being the Pilot’s Gallery and the other beside the pilot’s gallery, over the entrance to the vestry, above the rood screen’s home.
In essence, the church started out as a rectangle with the long part east to west. Small chapels or aisleways were added in the 1200s on the left and right which made it into a cross. Later the North arm of the cross was extended to be longer than the original triangle, so it’s somewhat misshapen today. In fact, one of the Bishops said, “This is the most cockeyed church in Christendom.”
Standing inside the church in the area where the original church and the extensions cross, I looked back and took this photograph of the entrance area, which includes the “modern” organ and mariner’s gallery that was rebuilt in 1705 after the 1686 rebuild of the tower, the original tower having fallen in 1658. The organ was later moved to this location.
The next photo is of the entryway, standing in the doorway from the entryway to the chancel. You can see the doorway arch in the upper left hand corner.
Jim took these lovely panoramic photos inside the church while Ruth and I were talking.
You can see that the nave with the three arched stained glass windows is the centerpoint of these pictures where they would be “glued” together.
Ruth told us that there are no church records prior to Queen Elizabeth the First’s reign because Elizabeth was the one who gave the directive for the churches to keep track of the births, deaths and marriages. Queen Elizabeth was born in 1533, ascended the throne in 1558 and died in 1603. I believe church records began in 1559.
Our earliest proven Estes ancestor who lived in Deal was reportedly born in 1495. Actually, the present town of Deal itself, on the waterfront, or Lower Deal, wasn’t there then. It built up after the construction of Deal Castle in the late 1630s, so they probably lived in the little village by St. Leonard’s, if not in Ringwould where they would be found for the next several generations, or maybe someplace between the two locations which are only a couple miles distant from each other.
St. Leonard’s Church, a mile distant from Lower Deal on the waterfront, existed originally to serve the tiny hamlet of Addelam. Addelam Road is directly behind the church. The Domesday Book, compiled in 1086, renders the phrase “at Deal” as “ad Delam” which is possibly a latinized version of the Saxon word “aet del ham” meaning “at the valley settlement.”
Even though St. Leonard’s is known as a maritime church today, original inhabitants were concerned with farming, not fishing. The first written records from 1327 reveal that the rector, a nonresident, offended his parishioners by causing corn to be winnowed in the churchyard and a local farmer, Robert Byng, allowed his sheep to graze in the grounds and was “flogged thrice.”[i]
We do know for sure that in the 1600s the Estes family attended St. Leonard’s. The early St. Leonard parish registers are reported to be complete from 1559.
One of our best pieces of evidence of our family’s association with this church, is the seating chart from 1618 and the Moses Estes burial from 1708. There is a 1621 church record that shows the burial of Hugh Estie of Harwitch who was bound from Germinie (Netherlands) in a ship called the Sion of London, according to Neil Gunson in the 1992 Spring issue of Estes Trails. Additionally, we find earlier mentions of Eastes (1581) Este (1601), Estis (1618) and Eastis (1726). In 1590, a Henry Eastice, fisherman at Deal, made his will and his widow, Mary was buried at St Leonard’s in 1601, although the burial location is unknown. Their children were baptized at St. Leonard’s between 1581 and 1589.
Moses’s stone, the oldest Estes gravestone known, is shown below. It’s not easily readable today, but from earlier transcriptions, he died in March of 1707/1708. His wife, Ellen, the sister of Abraham the immigrant, was buried in here in 1729, but there is no known headstone for her unless she is buried here, along with Moses.
“Here lyeth interred ye body of Moses Estes who departed this life 19 of March 1708 age 65 years. Also ye body of Constance Estes his daughter who departed this life November 1708 aged 36 years.”
This Moses is not my ancestor, Moses, son of Abraham the immigrant, but either my Moses was named after this Moses, or they were both named after the same ancestor. I’d surely love to know who that was. This Moses Estes married the sister, Ellen, of our Abraham Estes, the immigrant. Ellen and Moses would have been second cousins, both great-grandchildren of Sylvester, “fisherman of Deal” (in 1549) who died in Ringwould in 1579.
In this side view of the church where the Moses stone is found, the sidewalk has been changed. Today, it crosses Moses’s grave, but initially, before the church wing expansion in 1819, the door was to the right further and smaller, so the grave would not have been in the sidewalk at that time. Moses stone is directly behind the left hand railing at the top. At the time of the addition, walking on graves was very common as there are many burials inside the church with the stone flat on top in the aisle. It was considered an honor to be buried inside the church and only the wealthy or perhaps ministers in the church were buried inside. This is the side, north, door, not the main entryway.
Visiting the Church
Let’s go inside, just like our ancestors would have done, through the main doorway under the tower.
The doors on the tower entrance are original to the rebuilding of the tower in 1686, including the ironwork and fittings.
The outside of the entrance doors and the inside look a bit different. The door is original with hand wrought hinges, bolts, studs and a lock consisting of a latch and bolt.
The Estes ancestors would have known the doors just prior to these. Born in 1647, Abraham Estes immigrated to Virginia in 1673, after the tower fell in 1658, but before the 1686 reconstruction. When he knew this church, it was in a terrible state of disrepair. He would probably have been surprised, had he heard that it still existed after his immigration. I can imagine that everyone went to see the church after the tower fell, and it obviously fell through the roof if it destroyed the pilot’s gallery. Abraham would have been an orphan of 11, and a fallen church tower, probably after a storm, was assuredly the talk of the town.
In 1715, several years after Abraham immigrated, a clock was added to the side of the tower. That was probably the primary method that the residents had to know what time it was, except for sundials.
The outer doors lead into a very small entryway at the base of the tower where an inner door opens into the church chancel itself.
This paneled entry door dates from the second half of the 1500s or the first quarter of the 1600s, so my ancestors very likely touched this very door, pushing its creaking hinges open to enter.
Inside the small entryway of the church, between the 2 sets of doors, is a room the size of the tower base. It holds the stairs that lead to the bells in the top of the tower.
Just inside the outer door, are found the bell ringer’s stairs – metal stairs forming a spiral – or a helix – depending on your perspective. These are about a foot side-to-side, each – and according to Ruth who used to ring the bells from the time she was a child, into her 60s, this climb isn’t even the frightening part. At the next level, at the clock face, is a ladder followed by walking across lattice type wood, probably joists, above that.
By 1638, the church had bells because there is a record entry for the purchase of a rope, and three bells are mentioned. The bells would have also fallen in 1658 when the tower fell. It’s no wonder the tower went through the roof. Five bells were cast for the tower in 1686 and in 1866, a sixth was added.
Interestingly enough, there is a sign right by the steps that they are recruiting bell-ringers. As a kid, I’d think this would have been great fun. Maybe not so much now. I wonder, did my ancestors ring the original St. Leonard’s bells?
Entering the church body or chancel through the next set of doors was quite moving. I knew I was literally walking where my ancestors trod so many times, in joy and in sorrow, with newborn babies to baptize and the bodies of loved ones to bury – and sometimes the baby baptized today was the loved one buried tomorrow. This was the church of hopes and dreams, of tears, both happy and sad. As I opened the door, I was greeted by the stunning stained glass windows, the Ascension, at the other end of the church in the nave.
For me, in my heart, it was like stepping back in time and actually being with my ancestors in a place that I know was dear to their hearts. The church was cool, slightly moist, and silent. It was timeless.
These stained glass windows in the nave were not there when my Estes ancestors lived, but they are stunningly beautiful and bathe the area in a serene blue light. I wonder what the windows were like when my ancestors attended this church. Did they bathe the nave in color or were they clear?
Knowing that my ancestors worshipped here is just so overwhelming. I wanted to internalize it and breathe it all into my soul. I cannot come any closer to touching my ancestors, unless it’s through their DNA that I carry in my own body.
While Ruth and I talked, Jim went upstairs to where the organ is located today, but which was the mariner’s (pilot’s) balcony before the organ was installed. That balcony had a rear exit so when those men heard the horn from the sea which meant an emergency, they could leave without disrupting the service. I bet they ran that mile down Church Path to Lower Deal in record time. The original pilot’s gallery was destroyed when the original tower and steeple fell in 1658, but it was eventually rebuilt in 1705 among much political controversy.
The pilot’s gallery might explain why Richard Estes’s wife has a seat below, but he does not. He could well have been in the balcony or having been born in 1578, age 40, he could have been deceased, but it does not say “widow Estes” like the second Estes seating assignment says.
The seating chart from 1618 shows two Estes family members who had assigned seats. One, “Widow Estes,” we believe is our direct ancestor, Anne Woodward Estes who would, having married in 1591, been about age 50. We know she died in 1630, because she had a will. She was the bride who was married at St. Nicholas Shoulden, just up the street, in 1591. It’s believed that Robert, her husband, died about 1616, so this would make sense. If she is not the widow mentioned in the seating chart, then it’s her nephews’ wives, but there are no other records to rely on and no hint that those nephews who were orphaned young (by Robert’s brother Henry in 1590), other than Richard, even survived to adulthood. This is most likely Anne’s seat, so we can see the church through her eyes.
Judging from the arrangement of the “pews” and the history of the timeframe, these were likely what was known as horsepen or box pews. St. Leonard’s were removed long ago, in 1860, but we saw several examples in other churches in England. In essence you bought your “pew” for the family and built an enclosure, example shown below. Of course, the extravagance of your pew said a lot about your social status. We also know that at St. Leonard’s, poor people sat along the west wall on “formes,” or stood. In 1718, there were about 20 poor households.
St Leonard’s seating roster from 1618 is shown below.
I look at these names and wonder how many of them I’m related to, if I only knew. Donald Bowler provided this seating chart oiginally to Estes Trails, along with some of the genealogical history of the folks involved. People below marked with a red X are Estes or related to the Estes family. In the front, Henry Baker’s wife is shown. Jone Estes, daughter of Sylvester and Jone Estes, married a Henry Baker in 1763.
The two individuals on the second half of the chart marked with a red X are “Richard Estes wife” on the left and “Estes Widdow” on the right.
This seating information was extracted from Roy Eastes’s book, “The Estes/Eastes Family” and he in turn extracted the seating diagram from the Estes Trails periodical, the March 2001 issue. Ruth graciously provided a seating chart when we visited St. Leonard’s as well.
The pews are arranged differently today, and the location where widow Estes, probably Anne Woodward Estes, sat, is an aisle way today, as the original pews have been replaced. But here is the view of the front of the church that she would have seen from that location. The pews may have changed, but the pillars did not, so it was easy to locate her “seat.” We are truly looking through her eyes.
Jim took a panoramic shot of what she would have seen as she looked around. Of course, the second north wing extension had not yet been built at that time, so the north wing would have ended about halfway down its length. That’s OK, she couldn’t see much of that wing past the pillar anyway! She had a perfect view of the Lady’s Chapel though. Originally, it would have likely been Mary Magdalene’s chapel. In the Catholic church, Mary Magdalene was always THE Lady.
Richard’s wife sat on the other side of the church. Here’s the view, below, from her seat. Richard, born in 1578, would have been the nephew of Robert through Robert’s brother Henry, a fisherman, who died and left a will in 1590, naming his children.
This church has so many amazing details, but there was one disappointment. The baptismal font currently in use was dedicated in 1851, and it’s beautiful, but the whereabouts of the older one are unknown. The old font, the one with so much history, would have been the one to baptize our ancestors.
Ok, so it may not be “my” baptismal font, but this photo is still quite spiritual and inspirational to me.
However, maybe all is not lost. I also took pictures of the pictures and paintings in the church, and you’ll note in the painting below, the baptismal font does not appear to be the one shown above, but an earlier one. So, while we can’t see the original font today, we at least know what it looked like.
You can also see the rood screen that would have been in front of the nave, between the chancel and the nave. This tells us that this painting was certainly before 1851, when the new baptistery was dedicated. The pulpit was moved forward in 1979 and the screens removed from the nave/chancel and reinstalled near the vestry in the rear of the church beneath the pilot’s gallery.
Another painting shows the church before the modern roads, the roundabout and the walls. Just a lovely village scene showing the beauty of the church.
This painting would likely have been from before the end of the 1700s when the walled burial ground, once called Stone Lane, was purchased. I see no stone wall in front of the church in this painting.
The church has several stained glass windows and they don’t know much about them. There are two rather contemporary windows, the Crucifixion in the Lady’s Chapel and the Ascension in the chancel.
The Good Samaritan window is in the middle of the south wall, in the part that was expanded in the 1200s.
These windows are in the north wall.
This window is in the nave.
These two windows are in the nave immediately above the Norman piscina.
This sheep is above the Ascension window and looks possibly to be the oldest window in the church. This could well have been there when our ancestors sat in these pews and listened to the Catholic priests, before the Reformation.
Every church loves their stained glass.
St. Leonard’s also has several hatchments. I had no idea what a hatchment was, but the history is fascinating. Hatchments came into use in the early 17th century and originated in the Low countries. They started as a replacement for the medieval achievement (the carrying of the shield, helm and other accoutrements) at funerals of knights and other nobles. It was customary in this country for the hatchment to be carried in front of the funeral procession, hung outside the home during mourning and then to be placed in the church.
St. Leonard’s has 16 hatchments, dating from 1673, in various stages of restoration.
Here’s an example of one.
The nave, is, of course, original to the church. One of the items in the nave is the Norman piscina. It is at least as old as the church, and the archway looks to have been carved to hold this piscina. It’s possible that the piscina is actually older than the church.
A piscina was used to dispose of holy items, such as holy water and sacramental wines. They were returned directly to the earth through a hole in the basin that drained into the wall of the church which led, of course, directly into the earth. This was to assure that black magic could not be performed utilizing the power of the sacred and blessed liquids.
Most of the piscinas were destroyed during the Reformation and its extremely unusual for this one to remain, and for it to be so ornate. Often piscinas were simply bowl shapes carved into stone with a hole in the bottom in a tiny nook in the wall of the church.
Prior to the Reformation, there were several side alters in which candles to various saints were kept burning. People often left bequests for the candles of their saint to be lit. Today, sometimes, we see the remnants of these areas in churches that were originally Catholic.
At the far right of the right arched sedilia, or carved stone seats, dating from the 1100s, a carved head is found at the base. This is easy to miss, but it may be one of the most historically important items in the church.
This crowned figure is believed to be King Richard, Richard the Lionheart, possibly in chain-mail, or maybe simply bearded, who is said to have spent the night on his way back from the Crusades in 1194. This is certainly possible, given Deal’s location and Richard’s piety.
You can see the resemblance with King Richard’s effigy, at Frontevraud Abbey, in Anjou, France, above.
Across the nave from the piscina and sedilia are two inset areas. One, the square, only partly visible above Ruth, would likely have held a statue of St. Leonard to whom the church is dedicated. St. Leonard is the patron saint of political prisoners, imprisoned people, captives, prisoners of war, women in labor and horses. He died in 559 and his feast day is November 6 .
This icon, below, of St. Leonard is from St. Leonard’s Church in Streatham and shows St. Leonard, St. Laura and a prisoner.
The arched inset where Ruth is sitting would have been where sacred vessels were kept.
The floor in the original portion of the church, is, of course, Deal tile.
There are several floor burials and memorial plaques throughout the church.
One of the most noted is that of Thomas Baker, sometimes called Barbor. He was the first known deputy appointed by the Mayor of Sandwich to act for him in Deal. When he died in 1508, he left money for the maintenance of the church steeple which was apparently already in disrepair, although it didn’t fall for another 150 years.
In 1598, a petition was submitted to Parliament to grant Deal the status of a “borough and market town.” In 1599, the petition, signed by Parliament, was triumphantly posted on St. Leonard’s church porch by Joshua Coppin, who then became Deal’s first mayor. The new mayor and corporation attended St. Leonard’s with great pomp and dignity every Sunday until St. George’s in Lower Deal was built sometime between 1706 and 1716.
Another notable historical item is the painting commemorating the Great Storm of 1703, hanging on the front of the Pilot’s Gallery, in which 13 ships of Her Majesty’s Navy were wrecked on the Goodwin Sands and 1200 lives were lost. The ship looks curved, so you can see both the bow and the stern.
This model of the Man ‘O War ship is also patterned after this painting. The model was made in 1949 to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the granting of the Deal charter. Our ancestors would have been very familiar with these ships, as would all people living along this shoreline.
Every old church has it’s mystery and this one is no different. This rock, obviously with a Christian, perhaps Celtic, cross of some sort, looking very medieval, was found here, but nothing is known about its provenance.
One very special area of the church is the Lady’s Chapel.
It harkens back to the days of Catholicism when this would have been Mary’s Chapel. This was part of the southern aisle extension in the 1200s.
The Crucifixion window was added just over 100 years ago, in the early 1900s, and that, of course, makes this area simply stunning.
This Chapel also has its own piscina, to the right of Ruth, above, although nothing like the Norman piscina in the nave.
I found one particular photo, taken in the Lady’s Chapel, incredibly compelling. Ruth paused for a moment of reflection and the picture simply speaks for itself.
At the day’s end, the light was disappearing in the church and it was getting quite chilly. We said goodbye to Ruth, after she gifted me with several prints of the church and area. She is a retired printer and rode a bike to work every day. She doesn’t now, and never has driven a car. Smart lady! She is certainly an amazing woman. St. Leonard’s is very fortunate to have such a caring steward among their flock and we felt incredibly blessed that she spent the afternoon with us. It made all of the difference in the world.
As a final goodbye, St. Leonard’s gave me a gift too. I don’t quite know how this happened, but it did. I decided to take a photograph of this beautiful piece of needlework. I was worried about the glare on the glass, but little did I realize, until I got home, that the “glare” is really the Lady’s Chapel and the Ascension windows. Indeed, the only way this could be more perfect would be to discover that it was my ancestor who stitched this lovely Madonna and Child.
[i] Deal, A Sad Smuggling Town by Gregory Holyoake, page 24