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The History of Kent

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History of Eastry

Eastry comes from the Old English ‘ēastor’ meaning ‘eastern’ with the Anglian ‘gē’ as a ‘district, region’; therefore, ‘eastern district or region’. Ninth century records show Eastry as Eastorege, and the Domesday Book as Estrei. 

The Saxons made Eastry the capital of Kent and home to their kings. According to legend, the 7th century, Thunor, a nobleman to King Egbert, informed his sovereign, of a plot by the kings cousins Ethelred and Ethelbert, to take his crown. The king arranged for the cousins deaths, hiding the bodies behind his throne. A pillar of divine light shone on the bodies, to spotlight the crime. As atonement, the king agreed that the brother’s sister should have the land a deer could cover in a day for an abbey. Meanwhile, Thunor argued against the settlement, and the ground swallowed him up. It is likely, however that he fell into one of the Eastry caves; a labyrinth of tunnels, the purpose of which is unknown. Thomas Becket, possibly, hid in the caves in 1164, while waiting for a fishing boat to take him from Sandwich to France.

Eastry parish church is a Grade: I listed building, dedicated to Saint Mary the blessed virgin. The monks from Christ Church, Canterbury rebuilt the original Norman church in the 13th century. In 1375, John Rufford cast the Sanctus bell. In 1584, Robert Mot cast and hung a treble bell, with John Clarke adding another in 1609. With the addition of a further, three bells in 1629 by Henry Wilnar, 1734 from Richard Phelps and in 1740 a tenor by Robert Catlin. In 1800, Edward Hasted described the Eastry church as a ‘large handsome building, consisting of a nave and two side isles, a chancel at the east end, remarkably long, and a square tower, which is very large, at the west end, in which are five very unmusical bells. The church is well kept and neatly paved, and exhibits a noble appearance’. The Victorians restored the church between 1847 and 1902, with most work completed in 1853. In 1975, John Taylor replaced the Henry Wilnar bell of 1629. Whitechapel cast three trebles in 2007 and hung the new ring of eight in the following year.