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Invention and imagination: re-interpreting the early masonry church uncovered in Lyminge during 2019

Joint Centre for Kent History & Heritage and FCAT lectures 2020

Lyminge, some 12 miles south of Canterbury, has long been known from historical records as the site where Queen Ethelburga is supposed to have founded a church in the 630s in the first phase of the Christian conversion, following the arrival of St Augustine in Kent in 597.  Excavations by the Rector of Lyminge, Canon Jenkins, in the 1850s and 1860s revealed a masonry structure that he interpreted as a substantial basilican church, which he attributed to Ethelburga and where he believed he found her tomb.  For a century and a half, this interpretation has raised questions, but the archaeology remained inaccessible beneath the paths of the churchyard.  Then in the summer of 2019, a National Lottery funded project to renew the paths and implement disabled access to the standing Norman church created the opportunity for the site to be re-examined and Canon Jenkins' claims to be tested at last.  What was revealed was a remarkable combination of Victorian imagination and highly significant archaeology, which fully justified the re-excavation taking place.  This talk will explore our current views on the myths and realities of 7th Century Lyminge.  

Robert Baldwin is one of the organisers of the ‘Pathways to the Past: Exploring the Legacy of Ethelburga’ project. This local initiative is all about pathways: improving the paths to visit and use the parish church in Lyminge, a village in the North Downs of Kent, England, as well as finding ways to explore the history of this very ancient site.


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