138 High St, West Malling ME19 6NE
There is NO car parking at the church. There are a number of free parking spaces on St Leonard’s Street and Water Lane. Parking in the High Street is limited to two hours during weekdays but there is a large public car park behind Tesco’s in the High Street.
The Ryarsh Lane car park is available in the evening and at weekends.
A little further afield there is additional parking in Manor Park Country Park and at West Malling Railway Station.
St Mary’s Church has been a place of worship for a thousand years. Probably there was a Saxon church, for in 945 AD King Edmund gave the parish to Buhric, Bishop of Rochester, which is why we have the ancient street called King Hill – the origin for the name of the new village Kings Hill.
After the conquest in the 11th Centruey William the Conqueror made his architect, Gundulf, the new Bishop. Gundulf built a new church, evidence of which can be seen today, as well as the Abbey and St Leonard’s Tower.
In 1712, according to the vestry book, “there happened a terrible and great tempest of thunder and lightning and set afire the spire of the church, which broke down through the roof and ceiling of the body of the church and went through the head of the chancel.” For decades, the church gradually decayed until in 1778 it had to be rebuilt after the roof of the nave collapsed leaving only the chancel and the tower standing at either end. This led to the old Kentish saying: “Proud Town Malling, poor people. Built a churchto their steeple.”
The church’s bells have been ringing for at least 350 years –- the five oldest date from the mid 1600s. The porch and pews were financed by selling ‘the Malling Stoop’ in 1903 –- an Elizabethan Fulham-Delft stoneware jug splashed with purple, orange and green and enclosed in silver gilt straps. Made in 1581, it fetched 1,450 guineas, a large sum 100 years ago. It is now in the British Museum. However, the church has managed to save another rare artefact: the royal coat-of-arms on the organ loft. Carved in wood, it depicts the armorial bearings of the House of Stuart with the cipher of James II. Beneath it is the motto: “Fear God, Honour the King”.