Seasalter, situated on the North Kent coast between Faversham and Whitstable, has a long history of human occupation and of Christian witness. Already a bustling settlement in the Iron Age, the village was, as its name suggests, a centre for salt production. After the founding of Christ Church Priory in Canterbury the village and lands were taken into its possession, and the Domesday Book notes that Seasalter “properly belongs to the kitchen of the Archbishop “. At this time a Saxon church dedicated to Saint Peter stood at a site somewhere off the coast beyond the Blue Anchor pub; the great storm of 1099 engulfed it and effectively moved the coastline inland, and the present ‘Old Church’ was built on higher ground during the 12th century.
St Alphege was born of a noble family near Bath in 954 and died in 1012. He was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1005 at a time when England was being ravaged by the Danes. He was captured and taken to Greenwich, but would not allow a ransom to be paid.
On April 19th 1012, during a drunken feast, the Danes pelted him with bones, and he was killed with a blow to his head by an axe. His body was buried at Saint Paul’s in London. However in 1023 King Canute decided to return the saint’s body to Canterbury, and according to legend, Alphege was transported down the Thames and lay for 3 days in the Saxon church at Seasalter before his final journey to Canterbury. The church changed its dedication to that of “Saint Alphege” and our special saint is still fondly and proudly remembered today.
Alphege reminds us that being a Christian will be demanding and even costly. By an act of prescience, St Thomas Becket, in his last sermon at Canterbury before his murder, praised Alphege as the first Canterbury martyr.
Jesus said, “If anyone wants to come with me, they must forget self, carry their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their own life will lose it; but whoever loses their life for me and the gospel will save it.” Mark 8 (34-35)