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Rainham Parish Church of St Helen and St Giles
Richard de Lucy
The Broadway, Rainham, RM13 9YW
Nearest train: rainham (essex)
Bus routes: 372, 103, 165, 287
Grade I listed Norman church with notable chancel arch with chevron and nailhead ornament, built by Richard De Lucy.
Richard de Lucy,
Revd Ernest Geldart,
About Rainham Parish Church
The Church of St. Helen & St. Giles is a Grade I listed building of high historical and architectural importance. It was built around 1170AD by Richard de Lucy, and despite some alterations, stands as it was built, with chancel, nave, aisles and tower. It is dedicated to St. Helen, or Helena (c. 247–327AD) who was reputedly British and by her marriage to a Roman Officer became the mother of Constantine the Great; and St. Giles (c.7th century), who was Greek. Such a dedication is unique in the British Isles.
Up to 1327AD it was administered by the Abbot of Lesnes Abbey; the vicars since then are listed to the right of the church door. There is much to be observed, but two features are unique and cannot be matched in any other church in the country; the beautiful arrangement of the six small windows in the east wall of the chancel, and the eye-like shaping of the six clerestory windows.
The walls are built of septaria, a rocklike substance eroded from the clay cliffs of the Essex coast, and flint-rubble, with limestone dressings. Clunch, a hard chalk, is included in the interior work, thus most of the building materials are local. All of the east windows were bricked up for 150 years before the 1897-1910 restoration. They now follow the Norman pattern. The Norman chancel arch is one of the best preserved examples of its kind
Note the doorway and the roodloft stairs which originally gave acess to a parapet of the rood loft on which images would have been displayed. The graffito in the staircase wall of a cog, or two-masted sailing vessel is interesting. This was probably pre-Reformation.
There are three 17th century bells in the tower, which are no longer able to be rung due to their supports being too decayed.