The village sign at Minster in Thanet, Kent, says “AD 670”. But the settlement is far older, for Roman bricks are built into the tower of St Mary’s Church….
Autumn suits Minster. Seagulls sat on the steep-pitched roof the church and pigeons cooed round its tower last week as the leaves began to fall ”“ though not those of the mature olive trees near the churchyard, which clement winters have allowed to flourish. Even so, the blazing log fire at the Bell public house was welcome once sunset approached.
Minster once stood on the shore of the Isle of Thanet when it was a true island separated from Kent by the sea. That was a source of prosperity from trade, but also a fatal weakness, for the Vikings repeatedly plundered and destroyed Minster.
The name is from the Latin for monastery (as in “Westminster”), and the year 670 was when the Archbishop of Canterbury, Theodore of Tarsus, consecrated the monastery of nuns here.
St Mary’s is a fine, large church, with a stone-vaulted chancel. “The beauties of the east end are fully revealed inside,” says Pevsner’s Buildings of England volume. But it was locked when I arrived, so I crossed Church Street and looked at an even more intriguing old building ”“ Minster Abbey.