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Churches Committee
Kent Churches - Architectural & Historical Information

  St Martin Church, Ryarsh       TQ 6723 5914

ROCHESTER DIOCESE: HISTORICAL AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL SURVEY
Tim Tatton-Brown's Survey 1995

LOCATION: Situated at about 120ft. above O.D. on the edge of Folkestone sands, the present village of Ryarsh is mile to the north (on the other side of the M20). The manor farm is, however, immediately south of the church.

DESCRIPTION: The church still has its original late 11th/early 12th century nave and small rectangular chancel, with tufa quoins and one original small round-headed window each (with tufa jambs and head) on the north side of the nave and the chancel. There is also much herringbone masonry visible on the north side of the nave and in the chancel external walls. In the east wall are the visible remains (externally and internally) of the three original Norman windows (now blocked and replaced by the 15th century one). Internally it appears to have chalk jambs. There is also a rare Norman piscina in the south-east corner of the chancel with a scalloped bowl with moulded rim on a rough chalk corbel.

At the east end of the south wall of the chancel are some inserted Reigate stone blocks, which may well have come from a 13th century phase in the church (?inserted windows in the chancel).

The east wall of the south aisle, suggests (as John Newman first pointed out) that there was a lean-to aisle before the present rebuilt 15th century aisle was constructed. Above the 15th century east window there are distinct traces of the original sloping roof line (below the ugly modern drainpipe). There are also side-alternate Reigate stone quoins on the internal north jamb to the south aisle east window.

The two bays of arcading into the south aisle, as well as the wide chancel arch have double concave chamfers on them, and this suggests a 14th century date, rather than 15th century. There is also well-cut Ragstone masonry for the octagonal pier and the arcade jambs, etc. The two two-light north windows in the nave are certainly of the first half of the 14th century. They have fine ogeed tracery in their heads, and are inserted into the Norman fabric. There was also an early 14th century window on the south-east side of the chancel, but the tracery here has been, fairly recently, completely renewed. The roofs in the nave and chancel are ceiled in, but the series of plain tie-beams (on wall-plates with stopped-chamfers in the chancel) suggest that they may be 14th century in date. At the west end of the nave is an extra braced tie-beam, possibly for an earlier bell-cote. The early Perpendicular three-light window in the west wall of the tower may be a later 14th century window reused from the west wall.

A major rebuilding of the church took place in the later 15th century with a new tower being added, and the south aisle rebuilt. The erection of the tower, which is quite tall in relation to the rest of the church, involved the demolition of the whole of the west wall of the earlier church. Oddly enough the lower part of the north-west corner of the Norman nave was retained, and used in the buttress to the north-east side of the new tower. The new west wall, and tower arch, were however set just inside the west end of the earlier nave, and the south-west corner of the nave would have been demolished when the semi-octagonal stair-turret was built. It projects well above the crenellated parapet of the tower, and has a 19th century shingled octagonal roof. The bell-chamber windows in the tower are two-light Perpendicular windows under a square hood-mould. The tower arch has two wide concave chamfers in it, and the doorway into the stair-turret still has its original door in it. The door into the chamber above is also original (and has its original lock) and the tower roof is the original c. 1500 low-pitched pyramid, though now with modern bricks corbelled out below the tie-beams.

The south aisle was rebuilt at about the same time as the tower, and the whole of the plinthed south wall (with south-east diagonal buttresses) and the porch was built as one. The west wall of the south aisle, with its square-headed Perpendicular window was also built at this time, and the new two-light Perpendicular window under a square hood-mould was inserted into the east wall of the south aisle. There is also a single light Perpendicular window near it, in the south wall of the chancel. There is another two-light window on the south side of the south aisle, and this aisle was built to have a nearly flat roof, with a chamfered-out ledge at the top of the old south wall of the nave above the arcade. The roof was, however, replaced by a new pitched roof in 1752 (dated on two tie-beams, with queen posts and red brickwork in the east and west gables. The porch does, however, still have its original 15th century roof with moulded wall-plates. The south door into the church from the porch is also the original one, with its original large iron hinges. There is a small piscina in the south east corner of the south aisle, indicating a medieval altar here, and there is a plain octagonal bowled font at the west end of the nave (earlier at the west end of the south aisle). A new 3-light east window was also put into the chancel at about this time (as well as the south window already mentioned), and a new Roof loft was created. Only the remains of the southern stair to this survive, and the cut off ends of the Rood beam.

The church was restored in 1871-2 with new pews, choir stalls, screen, tiled chancel and a new north-east vestry and organ chamber. Tufa quoins are reused in the north-west corner of the vestry, and in an added north-west buttress (which is galleted and may be earlier 19th century.

BUILDING MATERIALS (Incl. old plaster, paintings, glass, tiles etc.): The original Norman building is made of Ragstone rubble with tufa dressings. A little ?13th century Reigate stone can be seen in the chancel walls, but for all of the later medieval masonry Ragstone dressings are used.

Various later cement repairs, with south-east window restored recently in ?Portland
stone.

EXCEPTIONAL MONUMENTS IN CHURCH: None, but a fine 5-sided early 17th century pulpit. There is also an unexceptional 1906 reredos.

CHURCHYARD AND ENVIRONS:
Size & Shape: Irregular rectangular area around church, with extension down slope to the east.

Condition: Good.

Boundary walls: Ragstone rubble boundary walls all round.

Building in churchyard or on boundary: Brick and stone shed to N.E. of church.

Exceptional monuments: Some chest-tombs and good in situ headstones.

Ecological potential: ?Yes.

HISTORICAL RECORD (where known):
Earliest ref. to church: Domesday Book.

Late med. status: Vicarage, appropriated to Merton Priory from 1242.

Patron: Merton Priory, from at least the early 13th century till the Dissolution, then to the Crown, and on into private hands.

Other documentary sources: Hasted IV (1798), 493-6.
Test. Cant. (West Kent, 1906), 65-6, mentions repairs to the church (1501), and ad reparacionem fonticuli (1473); also `the bying of a nwe bell' (1515).

SURVIVAL OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL DEPOSITS:
Inside present church: Good.

Outside present church: Good

RECENT DISTURBANCES/ALTERATIONS:
To structure: Masonry of tower being repaired May/July 1995.
Also south-east window of chancel recently renewed.

ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND HISTORICAL ASSESSMENT:
The church and churchyard: A fine surviving early Norman nave and chancel with added south aisle. Early 14th century windows and arcade, with the south aisle rebuilt with a porch, and a new western tower added in the later 15th century.

The wider context: The 15th century west tower is one of a group of similar towers in the area (e.g. Birling, Addington, etc.).

REFERENCES:
Photographs: North wall of nave in Kent Churches 1954, 10.

Plans and drawings: Plan on W. wall of porch at 14 ft. to 1 in. by J Herbert Bolton. Petrie view from S.E. in 1807, showing low structure (?burial vault) east of south aisle (now gone).

DATE VISITED: 5/6/95                                      REPORT BY: Tim Tatton-Brown

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