St Cosmas & St Damian Church, Challock
Visit the benefice website <www.kingswoodbenefice.co.uk> for more current information
The earliest known reference to Challock is a charter of 823 when the King of Mercia exchanged with Archbishop Wilfred the village of Cealfalocum (its Romano-British name) meaning ‘A place for calves’, presumably a clearing in the vast surrounding forest. It is also mentioned in a document of Pope Nicholas IV dated 1292, and was originally clustered around the church on what was the Ashford/Faversham road. However in 1589 the Eastwell Estate was enclosed and this road was diverted to the route of the present day A251. Denied passing trade the village relocated near the Maidstone/Canterbury crossroads where it has thrived but is now a long way from its church. NB.The village name is pronounced Chollock, not Challock.
This is on the site of a much older building, and was probably begun about 1100 AD; the oldest remaining parts are the Norman columns. Rough oak screens of the Lady Chapel and the tower are 15th Century. In 1871 the chancel was extensively restored and its Victorian screen (like Molash) was transferred from Eastwell Church (now an empty shell).
The whole building suffered extensive damage in the 1939–1945 war when out of bounds to the public due to troops training & secret weapon testing in the immediate area, with the whole roof collapsing in the hard winter of 1946/47. A service was held in the ruins on 8th November 1950 before reconstruction commenced using the remaining walls. On completion the Lady Chapel murals depicting lives of Saints Cosmas & Damien were painted by Royal Academy School student winners of a competition.
The success of these led to local artist John Ward (later RA) being commissioned to paint murals on all three walls of the chancel in his naturalistic style, for which he used members of the village as his models. Many years later he was asked to design a further set of murals for the wall of the north aisle to celebrate the millennium, again depicting parishioners and vicar. Details of the murals which are worthy of close examination are available in the church, also a DVD presented by the Antiques Road Show’s Rupert Maas. As the isolated church is normally locked except for services this is the ideal opportunity to view them!
Until recently the church had neither water nor electricity due to its remoteness, so the organ had to be pumped by a small boy who sometimes forgot, rendering it soundless. With these facilities now laid on, improvements have been made, including a functional kitchen, W.C, its own water supply, and electric light & heating. Much still needs to be done, hence the importance of fund raising such as the Five Church Walk. However the appearance is of a remote and beautiful country church, as if its near destruction in the 1940’s had never happened.