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Higham church launches events to help pay for vital restoration

PUBLISHED: 10:41 03 June 2019

Vital work is needed to help restore the ancient church and locals are encouraged to join in. Picture: Friends of St Mary's

Vital work is needed to help restore the ancient church and locals are encouraged to join in. Picture: Friends of St Mary's

Archant

A host of events are about to kick off to raise vital funds to restore one of Kent's prettiest churches.

St Mary's in Lower Higham, is a Grade I listed building with its flintstone arranged to give it the appearance of having horizontal stripes.

Its long history stretches back to the Norman and Saxon times and it is built on the site of a former Saxon church known to exist in 774.

It stands beside the site of a priory which was founded by King Stephen in 1151 for his daughter Princess Mary.

It doubled in size during the 14th century and in the early 1700s had its oak shingle spire added.

And of course, when Charles Dickens moved to Higham in 1859 St Mary's was his local parish church, and where his daughter Katy was married.

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Fiona Spiralls is the chairman of the voluntary group. She said: "No doubt the church and its surrounding area influenced some of Dickens' writing such as Great Expectations, which he wrote while living in Higham.

"To this day, St Mary's still contains Norman features, has some wonderful medieval woodwork, 19th century stained glass windows and still sits in a most distinctive landscape on the edge of marshlands that run down to the Thames.

"As with all old buildings, time marches on and bits fall off, rot, or get eaten by little creatures and St Mary's is no different."

But work is needed urgently to preserve the building.

Fiona said: "This year the Friends of St Mary's and the Church Conservation Trust who help to restore and maintain St Mary's is launching a programme on June 12 to replace and repair the oak shingles on the spire.

"This is a free event that will take place in the church at 6pm."

It kicks off a multitude of events all designed to raise cash and help keep the church going.

Fiona said: "We have a variety of events to help raise money for the restoration and maintenance of this lovely church, and encourage people to come and enjoy the beauty and atmosphere of the church and its surroundings."

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