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Funny church, this, isn’t it? – St Dunstan, Snargate


St Dunstan’s was built at the end of the twelfth century and from 1817 to 1821 the Rector of Snargate was Richard Harris Barham, best known as Thomas Ingoldsby, Esq., eponymous author of The Ingoldsby Legends.

On the north wall is a wall painting of a ship of about the year 1500.  It was discovered under a layer of whitewash.  A local tradition maintains that the painting of a ship on the north wall opposite the main door of a marsh church meant that the church was a safe place to hide smuggled goods and it was frequently used for storing contraband (Braham claimed he could find it on a dark night from the smell of tobacco).

Snargate’s most surprising claim to fame in the late 19th century, is that it was home to an important artist. Harold Gilman, sometimes called the English Van Gogh, was a British Impressionist and a member of the Camden Town Group. He grew up at Snargate Rectory, where his father was Rector. 

Snargate takes its name from the “snare-gate”, or sluice-gate, which was put up here to control the waterway from Appledore to Romney. The gate can still be seen between the church and “The Red Lion” pub.

I will write more about “The Red Lion”, in another occasional series I will doing on the pubs of the Marsh.


Could it be this pestiferous Doctor?

The Reverend Doctor Christopher Syn is the smuggler hero of a series of novels by Russell Thorndike. The first book, Doctor Syn: A Tale of the Romney Marsh was published in 1915. The story idea came from smuggling in the 18th century Romney Marsh, where brandy and tobacco were brought in at night by boat from France to avoid high tax. 
A tall, slender, charismatic man with a commanding presence, Dr. Syn was a man who would have succeeded in any career.  Syn was a brilliant scholar and rousing preacher as well as being one of the finest swordsmen, riders, and seamen in all of England.  Unfortunately, Christopher’s promising career was cut short when he was betrayed in love and left his calling to pursue a quest for vengeance across the world.
Years later Syn would return to the little town of Dymchurch-Under-the-Wall, seeking to resume the quiet life of a country parson, but his past would not let him go.  Learning that many of his parishioners were involved in smuggling, Syn resolved to protect them from the agents of the King’s Revenue.  Assuming the masked identity of the Scarecrow, Syn led the smugglers in a series of adventures.
Three film adaptations have been made of Dr. Syn’s exploits – Doctor Syn (1937), Captain Clegg (1962) and The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh (1963). The 1963 version was produced by Walt Disney and starred Patrick McGoohan of Danger Man/Secret Agent and The Prisoner fame in the title role.

Here is the opening sequence from the Walt Disney series along with an excerpt from one of the episodes.

I am hoping to have all 3 film versions in the Cottage – but the Disney version is not available at the moment and is therefore rather expensive to buy second hand!The book is in the cottage, however, and it is a good read on a dark windswept night when you can imagine the scarecrow engaging in smuggling activities against the crown!

Of course, Doctor Who had it’s own tale set in these times – The Smugglers broadcast in 1966.
The tapes have been wiped but you can see the photonovel here:
While staying at the cottage why not pop along to the Ship Inn at Dymchurch, as featured in the book. It has one of the largest (if not the largest) collections of Dr Syn related memorabilia in the world.