The Last Rector of Penshurst? An important update

Last year Penshurst News warned that Rev. Tom Holme might prove the ‘Last Rector of Penshurst’ after a run of rectors lasting nearly 900 years and broken only by the Civil War. Now that risk is a step closer.

Technically it is a certainty – any future priest dedicated to Penshurst and Fordcombe will be called a ‘vicar’ because the church no longer awards a freehold of tenure which goes with the title ‘rector’.

The archdeacon of Tonbridge (on behalf of the diocese of Rochester) has produced a report on the future of the rural parishes near Tonbridge – including Penshurst and Fordcombe which already share a priest. The report is open for consultation until the end of September.

It concludes that, because of a shortage of new priests coming forward for training and because of the church’s need for more representation in new and growing towns, it should reorganise rural parishes into larger groupings served by a team of priests, helped by lay representatives. This will mean a small reduction in the number of fully-trained priests required to serve the area.

The archdeacon’s report offers three options for the future of Penshurst and Fordcombe after Tom Holme retires, due to happen in 2020. Each option involves us joining forces with next-door parishes and being looked after by a team. The PCC is asked to say by 30 September which of these options it prefers:

A. Join with the Chiddingstones
B. Join with Leigh
C. Join with the Chiddingstones and Leigh

For option B the report leaves open the possibility that no priest would live in Penshurst and that the rectory would be rented out. The full report can be read at

We will hold a meeting in Penshurst church to discuss the PCC’s response at 8 p.m. Tuesday 18 September – open to all members of the church’s electoral roll plus anyone else who makes donations to the church’s running. Please do come and make your voice heard – and alert anyone else who you think should know.

At the end of the meeting we will ask you to complete a short survey to help guide the PCC’s response. If you cannot come but would like to complete the survey anyway, please request one by emailing Margaret Atkins, church administrator on

Thank you
Penshurst PCC

Rural Tonbridge Parishes Report

Parish parishioners survey