Spring clean unearths rare photo

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Marble effigies of the Alard family

A rare archive photo of St Thomas the Martyr church in Winchelsea has been discovered by the National Churches Trust during a major office spring clean. The photo shows the north wall of the church which features 20th century stained glass windows and medieval canopied tombs with three marble effigies of the Alard family. It was submitted to the National Churches Trust as part of a grant application to fund repairs to the church.

Claire Walker, Chief Executive Officer of the National Churches Trust said: “We were surprised and delighted to find such a rare archive photo. The photo, one of some 200 we discovered during our office spring clean, has now been digitised to form part of our archive of church photographs. We have returned the original archive photo to St Thomas the Martyr church and hope that they will be able to make use of it in telling the story of their church and to bring the past to life for today’s generation.”

The parish church is named in honour of St. Thomas the Martyr, Archbishop of Canterbury, who was murdered in his own cathedral in 1170 and the photo shows the north wall of the church where there are three canopied tombs with effigies of a knight, a lady and an unknighted youth, all carved from Sussex marble. The knight has his legs crossed in the manner of a crusader.

These effigies date back to the early years of New Winchelsea and are thought to be the members of the Alard family, possibly Robert Alard, his wife Isabel and his brother Henry (who predeceased Robert). If you examine the wall behind the effigy of the lady, you will see a painted angel, the only part of the brightly coloured paintings that once decorated the monument to have escaped the iconoclasts of the Reformation. The effigies and the canopies would also have been painted.

Photos of the church can also be downloaded from https://www.flickr.com/photos/nationalchurchestrust/sets/72157654695607565. The National Churches Trust is the leading national independent charity concerned with the protection and welfare of churches, chapels and meeting houses throughout the United Kingdom and aims to:

  1. Provide grants for the repair, maintenance and modernisation of church buildings
  2. Act as a catalyst to improve and bring more resources to the management of church buildings
  3. Promote the value of church buildings to the community at large

More information is available here.