From the Thorley Archives

Our Lych Gate

Almost the first thing that catches your eye when you come up Church Lane and view St James the Great church is the picturesque design of the lych gate. This gate, which is Grade II listed, provides a favourite backdrop for many wedding photographs as well as an evocative scene for artists.


 Victorian Gates, St James the Great, 1903

Built in the early 1920's, the porch replaced a set of Victorian gates. The architect of the present lych gate was Eustace Frere, a member of the Twyford House family who were prominent benefactors to the church and the local community. The original plans only came to light in 1997 and they have since been donated to the church archives . The carved inscription reads 'To the Glory of God and in Memory of John Mathias Procter Rector of Thorley 1883 - 1909'. The Rev J.M. Proctor was responsible for much restoration of the interior of St James the Great.

  The Lych Gate, St. James the Great, 2003

The word 'lych' comes from the Old English meaning a corpse. The lych gate is the porch or entrance to the churchyard where the coffin bearers placed the coffin on the wide seats, whilst waiting for the priest and the rest of the funeral cortege. Our lych gate porch has a pair of 18" wide seats originally designed to shelter both coffin and pallbearers. Other older and more elaborate structures elsewhere often have a stone table in the middle upon which the coffin rested. St Keverne's church in Cornwall even has a chapel of rest built above its lych gate. In the days when coffins were carried over the fields to the church such covered porches would provide much needed comfort. A preliminary service was often held here prior to the funeral service in church.

The proceeds from this year's Bank Holiday Festival of Flowers and Music, with Art Sales and Exhibition will go towards restoration work on our lych gate. Exposed to the elements for 80 years, the hand-made clay tiles are beginning to split, the lower panelling is breaking away and the stonework under the seats needs remedial attention. The structural oak members are in a sound state and should only require a coat of preservative. Once these measures have been undertaken our historic, listed building should last for at least another 80 years for everyone to use and appreciate.

Bill Hardy
August 2003

From the Archives