Charlton is a parish adjoining the town of Dover to the north. Indeed Dover’s High Street was originally the London Road passing through Charlton where it was that village’s High Street – not Dover’s! Charlton Green, now Castleton Shopping Centre and along Bridge Street and Frith Road, from Saxon times, belonged to the Barony of Chilham, some six miles the other side of Canterbury. This was because Edward the Confessor (1042-1066) was one of the prebends of the ancient monastery of St Martin-le-Grand, which stood near Dover’s Market Square, and his possessions included Chilham!
At that time, Charlton had only a few inhabitants but it did have a corn mill that belonged to St Martin-le-Grand. Much of Charlton, south of the mill, was given to the Maison Dieu in 1203 so when the church was built, sometime before 1291, it was located near the northern boundary with the parish of Buckland and close to the mill. For reasons not altogether clear the area around and including the church – Charlton Green – became a rectoral manor.
Dedicated to St Peter and St Paul, the church was still part of the Barony of Chilham in Edward II (1307-1327) reign, when it was given to Bartholomew de Badlesmere (1275-1322). He was arrested and following his trial at Canterbury was hung, drawn and quartered at Blean on 14 April 1322. Albeit, the Church, together with Charlton Green, remained in possession of the Badlesmere family up until the Reformation (1529-1536). The manor was then transferred to John Monins, the second son of a Lydden family, who was at the time Lieutenant of Dover Castle. About this time Charlton Green became a separate entity to the Church and on 6 July every year a fair was celebrated on the Green. By all accounts, it was one of the best fairs in the neighbourhood but as developers needed more land the fair diminished in size until it finally ceased in the mid 19th century.
Charlton Church, at this time, was tiny consisting of a nave and chancel but later extended to a cruciform design. In 1827, it was rebuilt following the ancient foundations of a nave and a chancel with north and south chapels that formed a transept, together with a west porch and a small bell turret. The list of the rectors is almost complete and interesting information is still available on many of them and there is ample evidence to show that both St Martin-le-Grand and the Maison Dieu had strong connections with the church.
In 1447, John Goldsmith was the rector of both Charlton and of St John the Baptist, which was a parish church within St Martin-le-Grand. Sir John Clark, the Master of the Maison Dieu, was the rector of Charlton Church between 1514 and 1541 and it was around 1495, that he sought Henry VII’s (1485-1509) patronage to turn a small natural cove at Archcliffe Point into a commodious harbour – the start of what eventually became Western Docks.
During the time of the Civil Wars and the Interregnum (1642–1660), there was considerable upheaval within the English Protestant church. John Hume, an Anglican was the rector of Charlton from 1638-1646 when he was deposed and charged with drunkenness, that he kept an alehouse, observed Anglican ceremonies and behaved indecently with women. He was finally ejected from the living for refusing to read Parliamentary Declarations and fled to Oxford to avoid imprisonment. Following the Restoration, in 1660, he returned as rector until his death. In the interim, the incumbents were Nicholas North 1646, J Pemberton 1646 and Jonas Wheeler 1657.
From 1700 to 1730, when religious persecution was not so prevalent in England, David Compredon was the rector. He was also the minister at the French Huguenot Church in Dover. The Huguenots were French Protestants that had fled from France following the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1684. The Edict had come about in 1598, after thirty years of unrest and much bloodshed between Catholics and Protestants in France. The French king, Henry IV (1553-1610) issued the Edict giving the freedom of conscience and worship to Protestants. In 1684, Louis XIV (1643-1715) Revoked the Edict, which initiated persecution of the Huguenots that amounted to genocide. Those who managed to escape sought asylum in other countries, including England. This author’s husband is of Huguenot stock.
Rev. Frederick Augustus Glover (1800-1881) was rector of Charlton Church from 1837 until 1845. It was during his time, in 1840, that the first parochial school for Charlton was built near the church. A very clever man, Rev. Glover registered with the Patent Office the specification of an ‘improved instrument for measuring of angles.’ Like his predecessor, Sir John Clark, he took great interest in Dover Harbour writing knowledgeable books, tracts and pamphlets. He also wrote on political and theological disputes of that time that had an impact in some Oxbridge colleges.
From the time of the Reformation, the Monins family had held the patronage of the rectory and in 1865, this had an annual value of £300. However, much of it went to Archbishop of Canterbury leaving only a small stipend to the rector that was augmented by parishioners purchasing pews in the church. In 1847, the church was enlarged for which £200 was obtained from the Incorporated Church Building Society but as a condition of the gift, 258 sittings – nearly all of them- were made free. This would have been a disaster except that the next incumbent, Rev. John Francis Baynham, had sufficient wealth of his own for it to be a problem. He was appointed rector in 1852 but before his death on 23 December 1888, and using his own money, he placed the patronage of the church into the hands of Keble College, Oxford. This was to ensure that the living would be adequate and secure.
Rev. Baynham recommended Rev. Sidney Faithorn Green (1842-1916) as his successor. The latter was born in Eltham, Kent and educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, gaining his degree 1863 and ordained by Bishop James Fraser of Manchester in 1865. Initially, he was appointed as curate at the diocese church at Swinton, near Manchester, and four years later appointed rector of St John the Evangelist, Miles Platting, Manchester. As a teetotaller, he soon became well known for his work with the temperance movement.
At the time, as Rev. Frederick Augustus Glover recorded, heated discussions were taking place within the Anglican Church. A number of Oxbridge intellectuals argued for the inclusion of traditional aspects of liturgy from medieval religious practice to be reintroduced, saying that the Anglican Church had become too ‘plain’. On the other hand, the majority, headed by the influential Church Association, saw this as a move towards Roman Catholicism that could not be tolerated.
Rev. Green’s predecessor, at Miles Platting, had kept a ‘plain‘ church but Rev. Green introduced candlesticks and a brass cross to the Communion Table. Some members of the congregation saw this as the first step towards Roman Catholicism. Albeit, Rev. Green ignored their protestations, carried on in his ministering and in 1873 he married. The couple, over the next few years, had two sons and six daughters.
Nationally, the Church Association continued to agitate and in 1874, the Public Worship Regulation Act was introduced. This limited ‘ritualism’ within Anglican churches and established a secular court to hear cases of ‘ritualism’. An archdeacon, churchwarden or three adult male parishioners could make representations in order to bring a case against a minister. If found guilty, there was no right of Appeal.
During the four years after the Act was introduced Rev. Green was subjected to a number of complaints to Bishop Fraser. Then on 18 May 1878, 320 parishioners sent in a formal petition. They accused Rev. Green of ‘propagation of false doctrine and deadly error’ and prayed ‘the Bishop to eradicate this abominable idolatry.’
Bishop Fraser was reluctant to act so the case was taken up by the Church Association who made a detailed accusation. This was in relation to the Eucharist and is complex; I therefore sought the help of Father Peter Sherred of Dover, to explain. In essence, ‘in Anglo catholic tradition when consecrated the wafers and wine become the real presence of Christ i.e. the physical presence (Transubstantiation) so kneeling before them is Reverencing the divine body and blood. In a low church, which is more protestant form of Anglicanism, such things as vestments, candles, incense and other rituals may not feature and there would be no Reverencing of the bread and wine by kneeling etc. because here the bread and wine are representations of Christ’s body and blood rather than actual (Consubstantiation).’
The case was eventually heard on 10 June 1879 but Rev. Green’s lawyers having said that the Court lacked authority advised him not to attend. In his absence, judgement was made against him but Rev. Green carried on with his ministerial duties. In November that year, proceedings were started against him for contempt of Court and on 19 March 1880, Rev. Green was arrested and imprisoned in Lancaster Castle.
An appeal was made by his counsel, first to the Queen’s Bench and then to the House of Lords but in both cases without success. Eventually, after Rev. Green had endured twenty months imprisonment, Bishop Fraser successfully applied to the Court for a relaxation of the order. He was released but the Church Association claimed costs amounting to £293.7s.8d. Rev. Green was forced to sell most of the family possessions to clear the debt. Without a job, Rev. Green went to London, where he took casual work until eventually he was offered the curacy of a church in Kensington. In 1889, on the recommendation of Rev. Baynham, he was offered the incumbency as rector of St Peter and Paul Church, Charlton.
Rev. Green was formerly inducted to the Charlton Church in the Anglo-Catholic ’ritualistic’ tradition. This was in obedience to a mandate of the Archbishop of Canterbury (1883-1896) Edward Benson (1829-1896). The induction took place on Tuesday 30 April 1889 by Reverend Canon Puckle of St Mary’s Church, Dover, in his capacity as the Rural Dean. It began with a procession of clergy and choir entering the Church by the main door, which was then closed. The key was given to Rev. Green who locked the door from the inside and then walked to the other end of the church and rang the bell. Returning to the main door, he unlocked it and admitted the congregation waiting outside. This was followed by a traditional evening service where Canon Puckle made the pronouncement that, ‘the Church of England was not a church because it was established, but it was established because it was Christ’s.’
When Rev. Green was appointed rector of Charlton, the village was undergoing rapid expansion. With much of the housing, we see today along and adjacent to Barton Road being built. The new church, designed by James Brooks (1825-1901) and built by J J Wise of Deal, is cruciform of stone in the early English style, has a central fleche with one bell and, at the time, 700 sittings. The original plans show that the new church was to have a transept on the west side and a separate bell tower. Costing over £13,000 it was consecrated on 19 April 1893, the feast day of St Alphege (954-1012). The English Church Union gave £1,200 to pay for the Chancel as a, ‘memorial to the sacrifice of position and personal liberty which Rev. Green had made.’
However, Rev. Green loved the original squat church, close by the River Dour, where he had first been able to conduct services in the way he believed. Following its demolition, he erected a white stone cross, not far from the boundary wall, at his own expense. This was the spot where the altar of the old church had stood; today it is marked by a plaque set in the grass. Following the demolition of the old Church, Barton Riverside Path was laid and extended from Frith Road along the riverbank up to Cherry Tree Avenue, forming a pleasant public walk that still exists today.
For a quarter of a century, Rev. Green administered to his flock at Charlton and was described as a quiet, unostentatious, hard-working parish priest. He resigned his position in July 1914 to take up a less demanding post in the quiet village of Luddenham with Stone. Before leaving, the congregation at Charlton presented him and his wife with £300 and an album containing the signatures of 275 subscribers. He only stayed at Luddenham for a short while, retiring due to ill health and died in Sydenham on 11 August 1916. The Reverend Faithorn Green was buried at Elmers End Cemetery, Beckenham. During the time his funeral took place, the bell at Charlton Church was tolled.
- Dover Mercury: 20 September 2012