Since the days of King Cnut (1014-1035) All Saints’ has been the setting for countless baptisms, weddings and funerals. For over a thousand years local people have attended services here and worked to adapt this place of Christian worship to suit their developing needs.
There has been a Church on the present site since Saxon times.
The land on which the Old Church was built was given to Monks in 1035, and the Old Church was believed to have been built in the early part of the 12th. Century, and is Norman in origin. It is built in Kent blue ragstone, which is no longer available as all the quarries are now closed, and from Kent flint with lime mortar. The roof consists of hand made kent peg tiles. The whole church is a Grade II* listed building.
In the Middle ages and through to the invention of the horseless carriage and the days of steam power, the village of Orpington was an important stopping off point for pilgrims on their way to Canterbury, it being a good days journey from London.
The original Church was from the west wall, before the porch, to the east wall where the rood screen is now. A plain oblong building. The roof is a classical design of the time being like an upturned boat, in latin navis from where the name nave of the church derives, and the term navy.
The West porch was added in or around 1370, and is the tomb of the then Rector, who is buried there with a friend who was a bishop, or so it is rumoured. This porch has had the effect of preserving the stonework around the west door, as kent ragstone is not a very durable stone as the weathering it has sustained is from the 300 year period prior to the erection of the porch. The entrance to the porch has effigies of the king and queen at the time, Edward III and Phillipa on the stonework of the entrance.
The tower, the Rufford Chapel, the old vestry, the chancel and sanctuary are all additions to the original building, but not all at the same time. The tower was originally much higher than it is now, and had a wooden shingled spire. The spire was destroyed by fire following a lightning strike in the late 18th. Century, and not replaced. In the very early 19th. Century and some 30 years later it was struck again when the church lost its set of bells and the tower was reduced in height to its present form.
Within the sanctuary of the Old Church there are four graves of the Spencer family, the ancestors of Princes William and Harry, and Sir Winston Churchill and dating back to 1671 to 1676. The relief on these has been remarkably preserved.
We are proud to have built into one of the pillars of the south wall of the Old Church, the remains of a Saxon sundial which was found buried in the ground when the foundations of the new part of the church were being dug. It is one of only six to have been found, and the relief is again remarkably preserved and it is hard to believe that it is over 1000 years old. The Anglo Saxon day was divided into 8 tides each of 3 hours and the sundial has lines depicting these. The clear inscription reads “To count and to hold, to him who knows to seek out how”
Our font too is very old and could well be Saxon. It has a prominent position in the open space at the back of the Church, which area formed the old nave. The hood, which can be raised and lowered, dates back to the 15th, century.
A substantial refurbishment of the sanctuary and chancel of the Old Church took place in or around 1874, as evidenced by the Victorian tiling.
The Church was substantially increased in size in the late 1950’s when three holes were driven through the south wall of the Church demolishing most of these walls and the new Church was built in stone and flint and very much in keeping with the original and having a kent peg tiled roof as in the original. This extension consisted of the present nave, chancel and sanctuary, and with the altar in the south. A hall and meeting rooms were added.
Substantial refurbishment took place in 2007/8 when the chancel was extended, a new floor making the church on one level was installed, with new lighting, modern yet in keeping with the history of the Church, under floor heating, a new electrical system, smoke detection and sound systems. The old Victorian pews which had been in the old Church, but were housed in the side aisles of the new Church were disposed of, which gives the present church the effect of being open and spacious. The walls and ceiling were painted, and which has improved both the look of the church and the acoustics The 1950’s pews are regarded as a vital part of the Church by English Heritage, and were previously painted but stripped back to the wood and polished.
Information provided by John Pentlow.