St James Church
If you take the path in front you, you will reach St James Church. The manor of Craie was assessed in the Domesday Book in 1086 but North Cray, initially back then known as Northcræi, is first mentioned predominately in Textus Roffensis. This is a manuscript compiled in the early 1120s and, within its list of religious buildings, gives the earliest record of the existence of St James Church.
Yet the site of the church, situated off the North Cray Road, dates from Anglo Saxon times and was once the private chapel for North Cray Place, several of whose owners were buried here.
In 1819, money was raised for church repairs by selling pews to principal landowners in the area, among them Lord Castlereagh of Loring Hall. In 1852, the church roof was repaired and the present spire added, together with new church bells and the installation of a heating system. The cost was met by public subscription.
In the belfry are three bells, one dated 1727 and the other two 1857, though one has been recast. They were made by Means and Company at Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London. The bells were refurbished in 1999.
The trail running across where you stand is a designated as a ‘permitted ride’ path, meandering through the east part of Foots Cray Meadows – producing a round-trip of one and three-quarter miles – from Water Lane, at the north of Meadows area, to a spot adjacent to the south end of the lake and back again.
This equestrian trail, created by Bexley Council in 1968, runs virtually parallel with the River Cray and at one stage passes through the area known as Stable Meadows, which in early spring is resplendent with an array of daffodils to stretch parallel to the North Cray Road.
It is used by horse riders from the numerous stables to the far side of that highway.
But the pathway, tree lined in places, also presents a picturesque lane along which people can stroll while keeping a weathered eye out for any horses. The permitted ride is clearly marked by sturdy posts, which are painted white from half way up as a guide to horses.
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