There is a lonely place in the woods of Chilham, in the County of Kent, above the River Stour, where a man comes upon an irregular earthwork still plainly marked upon the brow of the bluff. Nobody comes near this place. A vague country lane, or rather track; goes past the wet soil of it, plunges into the valley beyond, and after serving a windmill joins the high road to Canterbury.
We'll look after these fellows. Commander-in-Chief's orders: Concentrate on Chilham, Canterbury and Dover." "That's all right," said Erskine to himself, as he read the signals. "Beresford's got them comfortably settled already, and he's sending someone to help here. Well, I think we've done our share and we'd better get along to Dover and London."
But it was not the church, beautiful though I found it on that afternoon of spring, that made me linger in Chilham, but rather the castle, which occupies the site of a Roman camp; and perhaps of what a camp? It may be that it was here Caesar lay on the first night of his resumed march after the disaster of the ships.
"Friendship is the perfection of love," says the Proverb, and a certain James Colebrooke and Mary his wife, buried in Chilham churchyard, seem to have been of this mind, for the climax of their long epitaph is, that they "lived for forty-seven years in the greatest friendship."
No one can ever have come, whether by the Pilgrims' Road or another, into the little hill-village of Chilham, into the piazza there, which is an acropolis, without delight. It is one of the surprises of England, a place at once so little, so charming and so unexpected that it is extraordinary it is not more famous.
The question is insoluble, Caesar himself giving no indications. Now, when I had well considered all this, I went on to that loveliness which is Chilham; passing as I went, that earthwork older than any history called Julaber's Grave, marked by a clump of fir trees.
David of Strathbolgie, Earl of Athol, had a better right to be called a Scot than Umfraville or Beaumont. But his father abandoned Bruce, and was driven into England, where he held the Kentish barony of Chilham, and sat in the English parliament under his Scottish title.
It was at the back of this shrine that Becket was laid between the time of his murder and his translation to the resting-place in the Trinity Chapel. In the main crypt we may notice the monument of Isabel, Countess of Athol, who died in 1292; she was heiress of Chilham Castle, near Canterbury, and grand-daughter of King John.
Of old the place belonged to the alien Priory of Throwley in this county, itself a cell of the Abbey of St Omer, in Artois; but when these alien houses were suppressed, Chilham like Throwley itself went to the new house of Syon, founded by the King.
To-day, apart from the English beauty of the church, not a work of art but of history, its chief interest lies in its monuments, some strangely monstrous, of the Digges family Sir Dudley Digges bought Chilham at the beginning of the seventeenth century the Colebrooks, who followed the Digges in 1751 and a Fogg and a Woldman, the latter holding Chilham until 1860.