The Friends of St Leonard’s

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The Hatchments 

The collection of sixteen Hatchments in St Leonards is one of the finest in Britain and spans a period between 1673 and 1865. We are lucky they have survived - in many churches they have been removed when repairs to the church were required, never been replaced and have now dissapeared! The likely explanation being the costs of keeping them in good repair or the lack of understanding of their importance. This is a shame as they are not only decorative, but also contain much of interest to local historians, geneaoligists and those interested in heraldry. The church is also lucky in having many other wall hangings and panels of note and elsewhere in this website they will eventually be dealt with.

Hatchments came into use in the early 17th century and originated in the Low countries. They started as a replacement for the medieval achievement (the carrying of the shield, helm and other accoutrements) at funerals of knights and other nobles. It was customary in this country for the hatchment to be carried in front of the funeral procession, hung outside the home during mourning and then to be placed in the church. The practice was commonplace into early Victorian times but now has become almost obselete, the most recent I am aware of in Kent is that of Sir Arthur Luxmoore in the church at Bilsington dated 1944. Over time memorial placques of similar design were produced and some would say these were not "genuine" hatchments, but it is not always easy to differentiate between those produced for the funeral and those some time later purely as memorials.

more information and pictures of the Hatchments