St Leonard’s Church Crypt

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There are some 2000 skulls in the Bonehouse of St Leonard’s Church, mainly arranged on shelves so you can get a good look at them – like the faces of the living they have their own characteristics and expressions.

Few would disagree with the suggestion that this is one of the most impressive parish churches in Kent. Standing as it does upon a steep slope, dominating the town, overlooking the old houses jostling together and the little criss-cross lanes, apart from its architectural interest, its very situation is remarkable. It is dedicated to St. Leonard, the patron Saint of Prisoners.

A few are of special interest as showing medical and dental conditions; there is even an example of trepanning. There are also about 8000 long bones – mainly thigh-bones – in a rather nicely designed pile. So that represents the remains of about 4000 people (men, women and children) – obviously the skulls being more fragile have not survived in such numbers.

The bonehouse has been a nice little earner for the church since medieval times. Some people think it is wrong to put them on show, but they are reverently treated, they remain on consecrated ground, and they are contributing to their church even as they did in life. They are also of scientific importance, and it would be a pity to deny access to them.

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