Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist


St Michael, East Peckham is one of those churches that has been deserted by the village it served. It has been redundant since 1972 and is now in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust- who keep their buildings beautifully maintained and wherever possible OPEN through daylight hours. It sits near the top of a hill with a wood behind it and a wide view of the Weald in front. One of the older trees in the wood is known as "the hanging tree"- and legend says a highwayman called Jack Diamond got himself lynched there- which I don't believe for a minute. There have been rumours of ghostly activity- which is unsurprising given the church's isolation- but nothing specific. Since I first started visiting- sixty years ago- some toe-rag has nicked a couple of brass memorials from the floor of the nave. They weren't particularly special brasses, but even so...

In 1967 or 68 (my memory is vague when it comes to dates) a bunch of us kids made a movie, using the churchyard as one of our locations. The story involved a bad case of reincarnation- with one of the characters remembering a murder and subsequent lynching (odd because I wasn't aware of the Jack Diamond story at the time) in the 19th century. It was mostly of my devising- and my tastes have changed very little. I got to wear a cape and top hat and fight the bad guy and murder the girl (in a scenario inspired by Browning's poem Porphyria's Lover) and altogether have a whale of a time. The other two male actors were schoolfriends of mine- one of whom is now a naval commander (ret'd) and the other an Anglican bishop. The female actors I've lost track of- apart from the one who was an especial friend of my sister's and died recently. Our leading lady was the granddaughter of the portrait painter Bernard Hailstone who lived at Hadlow Castle- and both I and the retired naval officer thought she was smashing. Are you still out there, Lindsay? I wonder....

I might all have happened yesterday- (or rather last week, because I've forgotten a lot of the incidental detail)- but then time isn't actually linear...

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