St Peter Church, Hever TQ 477448
ROCHESTER DIOCESE: HISTORICAL AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL SURVEY
Tim Tatton-Brown's Survey 1998
LOCATION: Situated at c. 170 feet above O.D. on a
level area with hillside sloping down to Hever `Castle' a quarter of a
mile to the north-east. Just beyond is the river Eden (the whole area
was re-landscaped in 1903-7, when the bridge was moved a short
distance to the west and the river was diverted into a lake.
DESCRIPTION: This church is perhaps now most famous for the very fine
brass of Sir Thomas Bullen (ob. 1538), and it has been, and still is,
closely connected to the well-known Hever `Castle' immediately to the
No evidence, above ground, for the earlier church can be seen, but the
south side of the nave is probably the earliest surviving wall. It is
the only wall without a plinth, and may date from the 12th or 13th
century. On the west, its quoins were replaced when the tower was
built, while to the east the join with the chancel was obscured by the
building of the Rood stair. The two Perpendicular windows in the south
nave wall were inserted at a later date, that on the west having a
On the north side of the nave is a three-bay arcade with round pillars
that must date from the earlier 13th century, showing that a north
aisle was required at this time. The outer wall of the aisle was,
however, completely rebuilt at a later date.
The chancel, which is as wide as the nave, was perhaps rebuilt in the
early 14th century, as suggested by the two-light trefoiled window on
its south-west side. It has buttresses and a plinth all the way round,
and its main masonry is small blockwork of Tunbridge Wells sandstone.
At this time, there may already have been a north chapel leading off
the north aisle. Does the central east-facing buttress in the east
wall suggest this? The Perpendicular east window is perhaps of the
later 14th century.
During the 15th century the north aisle was rebuilt with a new outer
wall with buttresses on the north side and a plinth. The three
two-light windows on the north perhaps suggest a later 15th century
date. Over the top of this aisle a small rafter, collar and soulace
roof was built, which still survives, and because it only has double
wall-plates on the north side, it seems to be displaced to the north.
Shortly after (or perhaps just before) the north aisle was rebuilt,
the west wall of the nave was demolished, and the large new tower was
built. It also has a plinth and is joined to the west end of the nave
by two small contemporary buttresses. There is a large new tower arch
with beyond a west doorway, and above this a two-light late
Perpendicular west window. Above this the tower steps in slightly and
there are two stages of simple windows, with the upper ones being late
`lancets' for the bell-chamber. Above a top moulded string course is a
fine slender brooch spire (covered in shingles) which is perhaps
contemporary with the tower. All the masonry of the tower is roughly
coursed local sandstone, with slightly harder, and better cut, side
alternate quoins. The lancet window on the south side of the tower at
ground level is entirely 19th century Bath-stone. Inside the tower, on
the north side, a steep wooden block stair leads up to the belfry.
In 1465, Sir Geoffrey Bullen, who owned the manor of Hever, was able
to found a chantry. The north-east chapel, however, seems to have been
built sometime after this, perhaps in the very early 16th century. It
connects with the chancel by two very depressed four-centred arches
(there is another into the north aisle), and on the north it has
diagonal buttresses and a contemporary fireplace (reopened in 1987).
There is also a small doorway in the north-west corner with a square
hood-mould over it. The three-light east window is in a later
Perpendicular style. Under the eastern arch between the chapel and
chancel is the very worn Purbeck marble tomb-chest of Sir Thomas
Bullen, which stands on the old (lower) floor level. The chapel is
covered by a slightly strange `four-canted' purlin roof.
The one other late 15th/16th century addition was the small stair on
the south-east side of the nave for the rood-loft. It still has its
original wooden door into it (and the staircase and doorway above).
Externally there is a slight projection in the nave wall for the
inserted stair, and it has a plinth at the base.
The very fine flattened barrel-vaulted roof in the nave is probably
also of the same date (c. 1500). It has small crown-posts at either
end, and a collar purlin. A single-light window, with four-centred
head, was inserted into the south-east side of the chancel at about
the same time.
Only the pulpit, with tester dated 1621, survives from the early
post-Reformation fittings, though there are also some early chests in
the Bullen chapel, and part of a wall inscription on the south wall of
The main restoration came in 1894, when the church was completely
re-fitted. The match-board chancel ceiling and the font are also of
this date. Reglazing of windows, and other additional furnishings
(including pictures) have followed on from this. The chancel and north
chapel floors were also raised at this time, and the south porch was
also built, as was a small heating chamber north-west of the Bullen
BUILDING MATERIALS (Incl. old plaster, paintings, glass, tiles etc.):
The main building stone is Tunbridge Wells sandstone, used both for
rubble work and dressings. A little Reigate stone can also be seen in
the south-east window of the chancel.
Restoration in Bath-stone as well as Tunbridge Wells sandstone.
EXCEPTIONAL MONUMENTS IN CHURCH: Tomb and brass of Sir Thomas Bullen
(ob. 1538), and very fine brass of Margaret Cheyne (ob. 1419) in the
raised chancel. Also brass to William Todde (ob. 1585) on chancel
CHURCHYARD AND ENVIRONS:
Size & Shape: Trapezoidal area around church, with extension
(terraced down) to east. The main gateway area to Hever Castle is now
immediately north of the church.
Boundary walls: Brick boundary walls (modern)
Building in churchyard or on boundary: Elaborate lychgate (covered in
stone slates) on south-west side.
Ecological potential: ? Yes - several fastigiate yews, other yews, and
rhododendron, shrubs, etc.
HISTORICAL RECORD (where known):
Earliest ref. to church: Textus Roffensis (c. 1120) - it paid 9d. for
Evidence of pre-Norman status (DB, DM, TR etc.): -
Late med. status: rectory
Patron: The Archbishop (a peculiar in the exempt Deanery of Shoreham).
The advowson was held by Combwell Priory (Goudhurst) till 1516, then
to private hands.
Other documentary sources: Hasted III (1797), 199-202.
Test.Cant. (W Kent, 1906), 36. Money given for repairs to the roof in
SURVIVAL OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL DEPOSITS:
Inside present church: ? Good - all of eastern area floors raised.
Outside present church: ? Good
ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND HISTORICAL ASSESSMENT:
The church and churchyard: Perhaps 12th century nave with 13th century
north arcade, and 14th century chancel. North aisle rebuilt in the
later 15th century and west tower added at about the same time (with
fine slender spire).
The Bullen chapel, with its famous tomb and brass of Sir Thomas, was
added in the early 16th century.
The wider context: One of a series of early Tudor chantry chapels in
REFERENCES: Brief note in Arch. Cant. 31 (1915), 1xxix,
S Glynne, Churches of Kent (1877), 326.
Guide book: Colour guide, with measured plan on back (1986), and brief
leaflet (c. 1991)
Plans and drawings : Petrie view from NE in 1808
DATES VISITED: 26/4/91 and
REPORT BY: Tim Tatton-Brown