St Thomas Apostle Church Harty

I had been invited to visit Saint Thomas the Apostle in Harty by one of the volunteers that maintain and keep the church open. My visit coincided with preparations for the Flower Festival and work was being done both inside and outside of the church. Some of the volunteers are not even church goers but keeping the church open is of great importance to them. There had been plans to close the church back in the 1970s, which were met with severe opposition.

Peacock on the Church Fence

Peacock on the Church Fence


What makes the church so important to the community? It is located in one of the remotest areas of Kent on the Isle of Harty which is now part of Sheppey. There is no mains gas or electricity and in winter the services are carried out by candlelight. Set in tranquil grounds on the banks of the River Swale mainland Faversham and Oare are quite visible. The oldest part of the church is a central wooden structure which could have been a look out platform around which the church developed. The original door, you can still see where it was, faces south to Faversham. The church dates back to 1089. Early settlers will have taken sanctuary in the church as the invading Danes coming along the East Swale.
Very early wooden structure

Very early wooden structure

Detail from the muniment chest

Detail from the muniment chest

The ferry over to mainland Kent was Harty’s most important link and there is still the Ferry House public house close by. The ferry ceased operating at the beginning of the First World War. On the east side of the church is the site of Harty School but this is long gone. Inside the church is its most treasured possession a carved oak muniment chest originally used for storing documents. The chest dates back to the 14th Century. One Friday night in August 1987 it was stolen and by Monday had found its way to an auction house. Fortunately it was recognised and returned to the church. It can be found in the Lady Chapel behind locked metal gates.

Mass dial - a small stick would be inserted to transform into a sun dial

Mass dial – a small stick would be inserted to transform into a sun dial


With this much history and its unique location it’s no wonder the local community want to keep this remarkable church open.

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