St Nicholas, New Romney
St Nicholas Church
Until the 16th century, up to the end of the reign of King Henry VIII in 1543, there were five parish churches in New Romney: St Laurence, St Martin, St John, St Michael and St Nicholas. Today St Nicholas is the only one remaining.
The Church of St Nicholas is a 12th-century Norman parish church with some Gothic additions at the east end. It has a large and attractive exterior, with a stout tower that once overlooked the harbor and still bears scars from the great storm of 1287.
St. Nicholas Church was begun by Bishop Odo, brother-in-law of William the Conqueror, in 1086. But most of it dates from the early 12th century. Constructed of Caen stone by masons from Normandy, the church consisted originally of a nave with clerestory (which is a high section of wall that contains windows above eye level) and low-pitched side aisles.
It is quite hard to imagine today since the coast is now a couple miles away, but at that time the church stood at the head of the harbour and ships were moored at the edge of the churchyard. The tower and nave were regularly crowded with traders conducting business.
In 1287, the great South Coast storm filled the port with four feet of sand and shingle and singlehandedly moved the Rother estuary west to Rye. New Romney was covered in a deep layer of debris and went into decline. But the church survived it all, and still bears witness to the disaster through its below-ground entrance and stained pillars.
In the 13th and 14th centuries, the church was enlarged with a Gothic chancel and two side chapels at the east end. The side aisles were also raised, with the result that the clerestory windows no longer let in sunlight.
St Nicholas Church c1875 (Ack. 24)