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The Church of England in Tenterden
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St. Michael & All Angels

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Once on the road to Canterbury, and then reputedly the haunt of King Charles who stayed to ‘enjoy’ the pastime of boar-hunting, ST. MICHAEL’S has now become the northern sprawl of Tenterden. Unusually the village – previously known as Boresisle or Bird’s Isle – changed its ‘name by an Act of Parliament and took the name of the church which was built in the early 1860’s.

 

At about that time the hamlet of Boresisle consisted of about one hundred and sixty weather-boarded cottages mostly scattered haphazardly and standing at all sorts of angles. Bagshaw in his Tenterden ‘directory’ published in 1847 1ists a dozen tradesmen who supplied the needs of the little farming community of six hundred or so people. There were two blacksmiths, two wheelwrights, carpenter and timber merchant, bricklayer, a grocer, three ‘general’ shops and a baker – sadly the last to go a few years ago. In addition, a beerhouse and the Crown public house (the present building dates from the middle of the 19th century) provided a social centre for the hamlet.

 

This, then, was the community that one of Tenterden’s curates, the Rev. Seaman Curteis Tress Beale, found when he began taking Sunday services in the wheelwright’s shop which stood at the east end of The Pavement. It was not long, however, before things began to change quite dramatically.

 

In 1862 Mr. Beale’s father – Mr. Seaman Beale who lived at Finchden Manor – bought some land in the Ashford Road arid built a school. Known as the Boresisle National School and described at the time as a ‘neat little structure’ – it lost its chimney in the Great Storm of 1987 – it still serves the village well.

 

Mr. Beale next turned his attention to building a church, and although funds were raised locally he met most of the expense himself – the land and building (minus the spire which came a few years later) amounted to £9,000. The architect was Gordon M. Hills who is better known for his work in restoration – and St. Michael’s is the only church we can find in Kent, at any rate, that Hills actually built. The builder was Bournes of’Woodchurch.

 

On August 1, 1863 the building of Kentish ragstone and Bath stone was consecrated by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Langley, and the new church was dedicated to St. Michael and All Angels. Boresisle the hamlet, became St. Michael’s the village – the church had given an old community a new name.

 

A few years after the church was consecrated a spire was added to become a conspicuous landmark, and in 1884 a clock was installed by Gillett and Johnston. The cost of this was £195, and although funds were raised locally the village was indebted to Admiral Gordon whose name should be added to Beale as the two great benefactors of the new St. Michal’s. Surviving the vicissitudes of war and weather – the chancel arch bears the lasting marks of a German cannon shell – the church remains the same as it has for nearly one hundred and fifty years.

 

Since the early years of the 19th century an ‘omnibus’ had served Boresisle on its way between Ashford and Tenterden. At long last the railway arrived in 1905 and St. Michael’s Halt was opened – evidence of the level crossing in Grange Road is no more, but a tunnel barely thirty yards long, still runs beneath Shoreham Lane at its highest point. The railway was abandoned in 1954 and once again the road took the load.

 

Church, school and Crown survive from the new St. Michael’s and so do an abundance of pleasing buildings – the old vicarage or the terrace cottages in Grange Road are random examples. Nor should we forget the Jireh Chapel (1869) which came in the great building boom. An earlier Non-Conformist building – the Ebenezer Chapel – had been built in 1839 and was demolished as recently as the 1970’s.