In August 2019, Rob and Diana Baldwin asked me to be an artist in residence as part of the Pathways to the Past project, created to develop the understanding and the legacy of St Ethelburga or Æthelburh, who was Princess of Kent in the 7th century and of the varied and extraordinary history of the village of Lyminge in Kent.
The point of intense interest for me came with the understanding that it was in this area that evidence for the first human activity in Britain was found just below the church of St. Marys and Ethelburga’s. This period of history is defined as the Mesolithic era which was 8-10,000 years ago, after the retreat of the ice sheets, when there was still a land bridge across to France. The people were hunter-gatherers. We know they spent time by the spring-head or the source of a the Nail Bourne river, because they produced a lot of debris from making flint tools.
I realised that the first settlers would’ve wandered across from what we now call France and walked up into what we now call the Downs to this beautiful bowl-shaped area of land and would’ve found fresh water coming out of the ground. There is a wonderful long view SE over the land, so it would’ve been a safe place to have chosen.
Water as we all know, brings forth life, and in this case it brought forth the survival of human life and the subsequent populations that now inhabit SE Kent. It seems no surprise that this area had an important Anglo-Saxon history too 1000s of years later.
So in the intervening year and a half, I have been mulling over how to make a permanent artwork that is to be hung in the church of St. Mary and St. Ethelburga’s. I was drawn to the water and the magical source of the water and also inspired by the respect and strength of the Anglo-Saxon princesses (I am also following the discoveries of St. Eanswythe in Folkestone, who was Ethelburga’s niece I think). For me there is a connection between water and the source of water and woman as the givers of life. I did not want to represent Ethelburga visually although it was hugely tempting to continue in the traditional art of iconography.
Instead I have created a new style of iconography, using the modern technology of satellite vision (LIDAR) of our Earth, one could even say looking down like God might do, to trace the journey of the river from source to sea. The dimensions of the piece are that of a woman; 5’7″ tall with shoulders 18″ wide.
To read more about this project please go to https://katharinebeaugie.blog/eternal-source-lyminge-pathways-to-the-past/