St Helen's, Stillingfleet

St Helen's Stillingfleet

St Helen's has a recorded history of more than 800 years, going back to the middle of the XII century and was probably built by Robert de Stuteville c 1154.

The great beauty of this early church was the south west doorway.  It is one of the finest in England.  Consisting of five orders, one within the other, each arch supported by two nook-shafts having ornamental capitals.

The outer arch has double rows of conventional  leaves.  The second is carved with 36 beak heads,  the third and fourth with a chevron pattern.  In the  receding angle of each chevron of the third arch,  there is a design apparently intended for a tree or foliage.  The fifth is enriched with a variety of figures.

On the keystone of this inner arch, there is a man's  face with a crown surmounted by three crosses,  possibly intended for Henry II.  On the seven  stones to the right are first a bird and a dog,  united by a string; second - two heads of animals  and scroll work; third - a geometric pattern; fourth  - heads; fifth - two beak heads; sixth - heads  facing each other; seventh - a rose.

 To the left there is first - a beak head; second - a  man's head; third - a dog; fourth - a scroll; fifth - a lion; sixth - a rose; seventh - a man's head.

Round the actual entrance arch there are billets and fir cones carved in relief, double and treble.  The nook shaft capitals are fluted on the left; on the right on the first pair - two dragons with necks entwined, second and third - fluted; fourth - on the right - head in leaves, on the left - foxes and grapes; fifth - on the right, some beautiful interlaced work, on the left - a head in leaves and entwined stalks.

The original wooden door can be seen displayed inside the church.  The south west door has been nationally famous for many years.  Its age and history were investigated by Peter V Addyman and Ian H Goodall in 1975.  This study confirmed that the age of the door is at least coeval with the initial building of the church, and there is some evidence that it may have been used elsewhere in the X century.  This Norman door has become a monumental treasure.  Visitors come from all over the world to see its original ironwork, including almost complete 'C' hinges and an interlocked cross.