THE well-known sentence of Baeda, "There was
near the city, towards the east, a church built of old in honour of St.
Martin while the Romans inhabited Britain," repeated with
variations by many after-chroniclers, is the first authentic record of
this venerable church. It forms a prelude to an enumeration of
historical incidents which time now forbids me to dwell upon, though
among various conjectures which I may put forward it would be some
satisfaction to rest on the undoubted fact, that this very spot was
trodden by the feet of Bertha, sanctified by the masses and preaching of
St. Augustine, and (in all probability) witnessed the baptism of
Ethelbert, King of Kent.
Not myself a professed archaeologist, but imbued with a deep love
and reverence for every stone of this building, I would invite, by a
brief summary of its architecture and probable history, your careful
opinion and discussion on
points which do not seem to have ever yet received
due attention from this or any other Society.
The original church, allowed to fall into partial ruin
after the Roman evacuation of Britain, was probably restored towards the
end of the sixth century, to serve as an oratory for Queen Bertha and
her attendant Bishop Leotard or Liudhard, and re-dedicated to St. Martin
of Tours. And portions of this building are, I would fain think,
existing even in the present day.
It is evident at the most cursory glance that the church
has suffered from frequent partial destructions and restorations.
Windows put in at uneven levels, doorways and porches stopped up here
and there, and the irregularity and incongruity of the masonry, all
testify to its varied fortunes. There is a perfect mine of wealth for
the geologist to be