All Saints Church, Boughton Aluph
Now fully recovered from its darkest hour the church’s vast open interior cannot fail to impress, but with the upkeep of St Christopher’s also a charge for the relatively small village, All Saints is very dependent on fundraising events such as the Five Church Walk. At its busiest between May & September with regular Sunday services, Stour Music Festival & other events, it is also available for weddings, including receptions (see photo).
Aluphus of Boctune replaced an Anglo-Saxon church with the existing north-east chancel circa 1210, and the remaining ancient fabric was added by Sir Thomas de Aldon. Coats of arms of Edward the Black Prince, John of Gaunt & Lionel Duke of Clarence in the windows show their interest in his improvements. The delicate tracery & small windows in the chancel predate the 1348 Black Death which decimated the population. The larger windows and most of the rest of the church date from the 15th Century, although many were infilled in 1820 with brick. The Holy Trinity wall painting of 1444 was covered during Cromwell’s Protectorate, so survived the Puritan iconoclasts.
The church stands on the Pilgrims Way before its steep ascent over the forested Downs. At about a day’s journey to Becket’s shrine in Canterbury Cathedral, it gave shelter to hundreds each night. The Kings Wood was infested with robbers who broke in notably in 1552 & 1700, & most recently in 1983 to steal lead from the roof. But the worst damage was done by incendiary bombs in 1940, setting fire to the tower. The church was closed and services relocated to St Christopher’s chapel some distance away in the main village at Boughton Lees. The bells & pews were sold to finance repairs, and by 1954 there were sufficient funds to repair the massive central tower (on the point of collapse) and make the building safe.
In 1962 Alfred Deller, the famous counter-tenor, saw its potential as a concert venue with a perfect acoustic for his many recordings and the next year it became a venue for his Stour Music Festival of Early & Renaissance Music. On his death in 1974 his son Mark succeeded him as director and made it the sole venue for the annual two week festival with capacity audiences of 450. Thanks to a massive donation from the Festival funds, the enormous south window blocked up since the war has been fully restored.