We welcome visitors at all times – the church is normally open during daylight hours, every day of the year.
Visitors will find many interesting features illustrating the churches architectural, artistic, military and political heritage, with a free short guide or paid illustrated brochure also available.
Group tours (of ten or more)
An expert local guide, can be arranged, by emailing our administrator Margaret Atkins. Tours can be tailored to last for thirty minutes to an hour, with a donation of £1.50 to £2.50 per head requested.
We especially encourage school visits, with help given in matching to your curriculum through our educational packs. If you would like to discuss a visit, please email our administrator, Margaret Atkins, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
St John the Baptist Church, Penshurst
The Tomb of Sir Stephen de Penchester
Access to the church has ben much improved by recent alterations. One step remains in the archway on the approach through Leicester Square, on land not owned by the church. Otherwise the approach is slightly uphill, but stepless.
Inside, the nave floor is smooth, but one step remains up into the Chancel or Sidney Chapel area. A ramp can be provided by prior arrangement: please ring 01892 870316.
There is an audio loop for the hard of hearing. There are now two modern toilets at the church, one suitable for use by disabled people or those looking after young children.
Our Church Through the Eyes of Visitors
In May 2016 a new Visitors’ Book was placed in our church. 15 months and some 700 entries later it is full up. A look through the comments of those who have been kind enough to pause and write in it is fascinating, instructive and humbling. Here is a small selection.
I have not counted the number of times the words “peaceful” and “beautiful” come up but it must be at least 300. These are characteristic:
“So peaceful and well kept. Thank you”“Church over 900 years old. Very impressive and peaceful place. Keep this church forever. Thank you for being able to visit”
“Beautiful peaceful oasis”
“Cared for with love, appreciated with gratitude”
“Very peaceful, very beautiful , very English”
“Such amazing history for a village church! Beautifully peaceful and tranquil”
And a view from the Big Smoke:
“Absolutely beautiful church, we love it!! Like the musty old smell.”
Perhaps not surprising but no less gratifying for that were the number of entries from those who were married in the church. Here are but two:“We married here 27.6.09 and although we now live in Australia we came to visit Penshurst and this church. It is as beautiful and peaceful as ever”
“Last here 20 years ago. Married here 40 years ago. God’s house is amazing. Beautiful”.
Indeed there are many entries from those who take pleasure in returning to visit. For example:
“Wonderful to visit this lovely church again. Visited in 1963 and 2010 and now in 2016”
“Born here to Mr and Mrs Branch. In the village until 1959. Sang in the choir with my sisters and went to the village school. THIS PLACE IS HOME”
Of course something which totally gripped visitors’ imagination was the installation, in the fortnight before Remembrance Sunday 2016, of perspex silhouettes in the church (There but not There) representing 50 villagers who lost their lives in World War 1. The phrase “profoundly moving” was written time and time again. Here is a small fraction of the comments:
“A most brilliant and emotional piece of work. Very moving”
“This was my father’s war and the installation moved me to tears”
“Wonderful and thoughtful. Very thought provoking. Made me feel very humble. Thank you”
“Extraordinarily evocative and deeply moving. A truly worthy tribute to those brave souls”
“Former soldier just happened to be passing through. I had no idea this was here. I couldn’t have found a more peaceful place to remember. My mind is blown. Thank you”
“So simple yet amazing. Very moving. Found it difficult to leave the church”
As we know our North American friends have their own unique way of expressing their appreciation and here are some of those:
“This is quintessential England! Oh the charm and beauty and warm ale at the local pub.” The Dude, Wyoming USA.
“Cool place” North Carolina
“Awesome” New York.
Finally four other messages including a plug for our very own Reverend Tom Holme!
“What a beautiful church and a pleasant rector”
“Fabulous historic footsteps across the centuries”
“Let us all do our bit to keep the traditions of England for our children”
And in big capital letters
“ HEAVEN ON EARTH! THANK YOU!”
I think, to use modern parlance, the take away from looking through the eyes of our visitors is just how lucky we are as a village to have St John the Baptist Church. If you haven’t been for a while then why not come and appreciate it through one or more of the many events and services being held here throughout the rest of 2017. If you are a regular then see you soon!
Chair, The Friends of Penshurst Church.