St Thomas à Becket Church
St Mary in the Marsh Church
St Clement's Church, Old Romney
© Imogen Corrigan
St Dunstan's Church, Snargate
© Imogen Corrigan
St Eanswyth's Church, Brenzett
© Imogen Corrigan
Trace the fascinating history and geography of Romney Marsh, the ‘fifth continent’, through visits to its evocative churches
Gain a glimpse into the Marsh’s medieval past, which abounds with dramatic stories of storms and smugglers
Discover less-frequented churches and hidden details, as well as famous examples, such as St Dunstan’s, Snargate, with its ship mural, and the crypt at St Leonard’s, Hythe
“Imogen, as always, had researched all aspects of our tour and shared her knowledge with us in an informative way both formally and informally – there was never a dull moment!”
- ACE customer on the 2022 Romney Marsh Churches tour with Imogen Corrigan
“The world, according to the best geographers, is divided into Europe, Asia, Africa, America and the Romney Marsh” – so claimed Richard Harris Barham’s alter ego Thomas Ingoldsby in his 1837 Legends.
Yet much of this tranquil land, positioned between low-lying hills and the English Channel, may not have existed had the Romans and later settlers not reclaimed it from the sea. We are fortunate that they did, because today the landscape is full of natural charm and echoes of the past – not least the famous Romney sheep who have grazed the marshes for centuries, and the smugglers who once considered it a haven for their illicit trades.
There could be no better way to delve into the history of the Marsh than through its churches, which offer beguiling glimpses into the lives of the communities who inhabited it hundreds of years ago.
A clergyman himself, Barham must have been only too familiar with the Marsh’s famous churches. Renowned today for their variety, they boast long and fascinating histories, some dating back to the early medieval period. Most were built with their medieval communities in mind and reflect their characters: isolated and weather-beaten – a great storm in 1287 changed the geography of the area and the Marsh was badly hit by the Plague – but harbouring unexpected treasures. Indeed, their scale was often a reflection of the importance of the parish or the stature of the patron.
St Clement’s in Old Romney is one of the oldest churches in Kent, with distinctive medieval features, and St Nicholas’s in New Romney traces a fascinating history thanks to its position on the harbour-front. St Dunstan’s in Snargate possesses a 16th century nave roof and a stunning wall painting of a ‘great ship’, while the church of St Mary the Virgin, located in St Mary in the Marsh, contains elegant medieval features; it is also the burial place of children’s author and poet Edith Nesbit.
Going back further in time, we look forward to exploring All Saints in Lydd, notable for its very early history, dating back to the 5th century. Meanwhile, evocative stories will come to life as we explore sites such as St George’s in Ivychurch, where it is rumoured that old smugglers’ tunnels connect the church to the pub next door.
St Thomas the Martyr Church in Winchelsea was named after Thomas Becket, and St Thomas à Becket Church in Fairfield features original timberwork, as well as demonstrating the iconic structure of the Marsh.
On this five-day tour, we will investigate these and other famous and lesser known churches, seeking to understand the overarching history of the Marsh while exploring the details that are all too easy to miss.
This tour will be based at the four-star Best Western Clifton Hotel, located close to Folkestone’s famous Leas clifftop promenade and occupying stately Victorian buildings.
This tour will be led by medieval historian Imogen Corrigan, BA, MPhil. Following almost 20 years in the army, from which she retired in the rank of Major, Imogen obtained a first-class degree in Anglo-Saxon and Medieval History from the University of Kent and subsequently an MPhil from the University of Birmingham. Her book Stone on Stone: The Men who Built the Cathedrals was published in 2019. She is an accredited Arts Society lecturer and a Freeman of the Company of Communicators.
Tour Director Imogen Corrigan writes:
“Everyone has heard of Romney Marsh, but surprisingly few have been there. The locals say that newcomers are easy to spot because of their look of surprise and delight.
For a ‘fifth continent’, it is tiny, perhaps only about 100 square miles and very flat, jutting into the sea between Rye and Hythe. Over the years it became clear that the Marsh was ideal for producing three things: sheep, smugglers and churches. Without doubt we will see plenty of the first and perhaps hear something of the second, but we will be focusing on the third.
Very little is standard, but we can rejoice in the churches’ quirkiness, whether it’s the free-standing bell tower at Brookland or the pink pews at Old Romney. The delicate ship mural at Snargate and the ancient font at Brookland are famous, as are the Hythe skulls, but we will be looking in detail at what else these churches have to offer.”
Included: accommodation based on sharing a twin or double bedded room, four breakfasts, four dinners with water & coffee, excursions & admissions, gratuities & all taxes.
Not Included: travel insurance, double room for single use supplement £125.