All Saints’ Church, Loose – A History
There is no actual record of the actual construction process of the original church as a building.
The monks of Canterbury had a financial interest in loose from 832 A.D., so there may have been a church here in Saxon times. In all probability, the Chancel and Tower of the present building were erected sometime before 1300 A.D. Our Churchwardens’ Accounts began in 1364 and the items listed give us an idea of the happenings in those days.
By 1327 the roof of the Tower and the Porch were in a bad state of repair, the Chancel ceiling was cracked and the Pix, Censer and other ornaments of the Church were in need of overhaul. It would seem that the worshippers, except the aged and infirm, stood or knelt during the service as there were no pews, the floor being covered with rushes. The services were said or sung in Latin, lighted tapers carried in procession, incense used at the Eucharist and full Vestments were worn by the priest. Dim lights burned before the statue of Our Lady, St Katherine, Mary Magdelene and an emblem of the Holy Trinity. A screen at the entrance to the Chancel was surmounted by a Rood-loft or Calvary.
There was a platform over the screen, in front of the Calvary, from which the priest took part of the service. To reach the platform, he used a stone stairway housed in the turret, of which there is still evidence, and in those days formed the NE outside corner of the Nave. The walls of the Church were doubtless covered with murals depicting scenes from the Bible and the life of the saints..
Great changes were made in the Church during the 16th and 17th centuries. The stone altar, the statues and the screen were taken away and the painted walls of the Church plastered and whitewashed. The great Bible was set up and the services read in English. At the time of the Commonwealth the Prayer Book was withdrawn, a book called the Directory substituted and a Presbyterian minister took the place of the priest. Between 1653 and 1657, 57 couples from various villages in Kent were married in Loose before a Justice of the Peace and their names entered in the Church Registers. The Baptism, Marriage and Burial Registers in Loose began in 1559. The sacred vessels date from 1590 and the Silver Chalice bears the inscription “The Communion Cupp of the Parishe of Loes in Kent”.
In 1662, the Minister at Loose was ejected from the Living and an Anglican priest once again took up residence. Church of England services were resumed and a new Prayer Book was introduced.
Bells were rung in the Tower from the earliest days and each night for centuries, the Curfew was sounded. The present treble bell dates form about 1550 and was doubtless rung at the victory over the Spanish Armada and on other occasions of national rejoicing. The middle bell was cast in 1603 and the tenor bell in 1629, but this was re-cast in 1635 and again in 1886.
The population of the village grew and in 1819, to accommodate an increasing number of worshippers, the North Aisle was added. Some piers and cast iron columns were set up to support the roof in place of the old North Wall, which once had a doorway and a porch somewhere along its length. A Gallery was erected in the new North Aisle and along the west wall of the Nave. The clock was made and placed in the Tower in 1824.
In 1860 the South Aisle was added and the old Porch Door, probably dating from the 16th century, was re-hung at the entrance to the new Porch. In 1878, the Nave was seriously damaged by fire, But the Tower, Chancel and Organ were saved. Within 12 months the Church was completely restored and the present Altar made of oak timbers from the old roof.
In 1888 extensive alterations and improvements were put in hand. The Galleries were demolished and the roof of the North Aisle raised to be in keeping with that of the South Aisle. The Aisle itself was extended eastwards and the Clergy Vestry and the Loft for the Organ were added. The south Aisle, too, was lengthened. In 1913 the Organ was brought down from the Loft and re-located. In 1950, pews were removed from the east end of the South Aisle and the Lady Chapel set out.
Numerous memorial tablets are fixed to the walls of the Church and a number of memorial stons embedded in the floor, particularly in the Sanctuary, to mark the burial place of parishioners long ago. The Royal Arms, which once were a feature in the Church, no longer exist, but three Hatchments may be seen. There is one of Sarah (1775), the first wife of James Whatman, High Sheriff of Kent, a well-known paper-maker and one-time resident in this Parish. There are two Hatchments of the Fairfax family of Leeds Castle. Frances, the daughter of the fifth Baron Fairfax, married Denny Martin of Salts Place. She died in 1791. Their son, the Rev Denny Martin Fairfax, DD, who was a minister of the Parish, assumed the arms and name of Fairfax on succeeding to the estates of Leeds Castle. He died in 1800.
For several centuries at least, Loose Church has stood in the Valley, a monument to the love and devotion of its builders and the many who have preserved it through the years. We have inherited trust, not only an ancient building but also a Sanctuary, a Holy Place, in which, through a long period of our Nation’s history, young and old, rich and poor, have met to worship and pray.
The above notes were originally compiled by Rev L W Mudge who was a vicar at this Church from 1951 to 1964.
Since then, and especially at the end of the last century in the late 1990s, the Church underwent a major “re-ordering” which involved moving the organ console to its present position at the north wall and the pipes to the West Wall.
The pews were all removed and replaced with chairs which enable the whole space to be used flexibly to accommodate the many and varied activities that take place on almost every day of the week.