When the Normans arrived in 1066 and took the manor
from the Saxons, the name was changed and became Horsted de Cahaignes, that is Horsted, now belonging to Ralf de Cahaignes, who was a man
with possessions at Cahaignes in Normandy and who had fought with William the
Conqueror at Hastings.
The name of the village has been spelled in many different ways over the
years but always pronounced CANES like the sticks you use to tie up plants in
This village is now twinned with the French village of Cahagnes in Normandy.
The church there was, unfortunately, blown up during the 1939-1945 War, but
photographs taken in the 1930s show it to have been very much like the Church
here in Horsted Keynes. Perhaps someone from Cahagnes helped when our Church was
rebuilt after the Conquest.
The Normans built semi-circular arches and you can see some of them under the
tower and the remains of some round topped windows in the south wall. 1t would
have been very dark in the Church, especially in Winter when the wind-doors over
the windows were closed. Glass was very expensive and so windows were kept small
and covered by cloth through which some light could pass and the draught could
be kept to a minimum.
There were no pews in those days and the people stood or knelt on straw on
the floor and the aged and infirm could lean against the wall. You may have
heard the saying "The weakest must go to the wall". The priest would need
candles to see to read the service. He was probably the only person in the
village who could read and write.
The Cahaignes family lived here for many generations and we know scraps of
information about some of them, but most of what happened in this place during
the Middle Ages has not been recorded.
A fascinating feature of this Church's
memorials is the figure of a little Crusader in the north wall of the chancel
near the end of the altar rail. The effigy is that of a recumbent Crusader with
a lion at his feet. It represents a knight of the reign of Henry III or Edward I
(about 1270). This was probably a heart shrine. Men who went on crusades
sometimes left instructions that in the event of their death abroad their heart
should be brought back to England and buried in their local church. This is
probably what happened here in Horsted Keynes and the Crusader may have been
Richard de Cahaignes, the last representative of the Cahaignes line to live at
Horsted Keynes. The chancel of the Church was rebuilt during the l3th century
and this man may have been responsible for the rebuilding. Somewhere among the
masonry is probably a silver casket containing the mummified remains of the
Crusader's heart which he wished to rest in Horsted Keynes.
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