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Churches Committee
Kent Churches - Architectural & Historical Information

St Martin Church, Acrise         TR 1940 4223

Tim Tatton-Brown's survey 1993

LOCATION: Situated at about 500 feet above O.D. with Acrise Place immediately to the S.W. It is otherwise an isolated site on a Downland ridge (situated on head deposits over clay-with-flints) which has been surrounded by trees for at least two centuries. The name Acrise (Acres in D. bk), suggests it has been heavily wooded for much longer. There is s small hamlet at Acrise Green, mile N.E.

DESCRIPTION: A church is mentioned in Domesday Book, and Domesday Monachorum tells us that it was a chapel to Lyminge. This is almost certainly the shell of the present church, though with perhaps a shorter chancel. In the visible parts of the outer walls, one can see rough coursed whole flint and ironstone (some herringbone) masonry. On the south side of the chancel, a blocked original doorway, and just to the east of it, the east jamb of an original round-headed window. There is also probably a blocked original window half way up the west wall of the nave (between the buttresses). All have very rough ironstone jambs and head. Unfortunately the north wall of the nave and chancel is covered in ? 18th century and later render, so other medieval doors and windows are not visible here.
   The four quoins of the nave are made of small-block diagonally tooled Caenstone of the 12th century (with some later repairs at the bottom in Rag and Portland stone). The masonry here suggests that all these quoins were rebuilt, perhaps replacing rough ironstone (as used in the early jambs). The chancel arch also contains reused crenellated blocks (of an early 12th century date), as well as a capitals, shafts and bases below. These presumably come from the early 12th century chancel arch.
   In the late 12th century a tall lancet was put into the centre of each side of the chancel. The chancel may have been lengthened slightly at this time. At the west end of the nave is a small 13th century doorway with a continuous external roll.
   The east wall of the chancel, with its high external ragstone plinth under the east window, must date from the late 13th (or very early 14th) century. It has a fine 2-light trefoil-headed east window with an internal rere-arch. Externally there is no hood-mould, and all the original Ragstone blocks survive. There were more 2-light windows of similar date on the south side of the chancel. They flank the lancet, and there may have been two more on the north, but the render there covers any external evidence for this. On the south side of the nave, the window on the east was blocked (? in the 19th cent.) but the jambs and base of the central mullion can just be seen, as well as one (west) block for a trefoiled head. Only the internal jambs for the west chancel window survive. The two corbels that flank the altar in the chancel may also be of this date.
   As already mentioned, the chancel arch was rebuilt reusing some early 12th cent. carved blocks. This was perhaps done when the pointed arch was made, and the head (in place of a capital), was put in on the south side in the late 13th century.
   The nave and chancel both have fine crown-post roofs over them, and these probably date to the 15th century. This is probably also the time when the two large buttresses were added outside the west end of the nave, so that a timber turret could be constructed in the west bay of the nave roof. (There is also a possible scar for an earlier medieval roof on the east wall of the nave above the chancel arch).
   The gallery in the west end of the nave was perhaps built up in the late 17th or 18th century. Also in the 18th century all the earlier nave windows were replaced by round-headed brick windows, three on each side. At the same time the walls were probably rendered and given a thicker dado (this has now gone on the north side). A brick porch was also built on the south with fine blue-headers in Flemish bond externally. The porch is entered through a flattened round arch, while the way into the church was through a ? contemporary doorcase (with double internal and external doors) that obscure any earlier doorway. The window on the south-west side of the chancel may have been replaced with its round-head at this date, or perhaps a little later (early 19th cent.). The one bell in the turret dates from 1664.
   In 1824 there is documented a major restoration, taking 6 months. New box pews were put in, and the west gallery was restored. The surviving wall-panelling and the large 'great house' pew in the south-east corner of the nave probably date from this time. It now contains a table dated 1758 (an earlier altar?). (The pulpit was no doubt in the north-east corner of the nave). All the windows in the nave and chancel (except the east window of 1897) were glazed in their wood and iron frames in 1855. The crenellated top of the turret and the spire were also probably added in 1824 (according to Glynne, who visited here in 1868, the belfry was tiled and the spire slated). The marble flooring, including the black and white paving in the porch may also date from this time. The font in also 19th century, as in the brass altar rail.
   There appears to be no major Victorian work, though the present pews went in in 1903. The spire and turret were given their present form in 1922, when after stripping, a new shingle cover was provided. There was much ivy on the turret before this. The little wall between the buttresses at the extreme west end (containing a Bath stone lancet) may also dated from 1922, as this was when heating was first installed. Electric lighting and proper heating were not installed until 1962, and the gallery was restored three years later when a new staircase was made and the positive organ was installed there. The tiny children's chairs in the gallery are apparently early 19th century.

BUILDING MATERIALS: The earliest is of whole coursed flints and ironstone. In the early 12th century Caenstone is introduced, followed by Ragstone (Hythestone) in the late 13th century. Red brick was used in the 18th century, with Portland and Rag for quoin repairs. Knapped flint (was galleting) is used for some 19th century repairs, and Bath stone in the early 20th century. Much heavy external render (and cement repairs), and tile hanging on N.E. side of nave.

EXCEPTIONAL MONUMENTS IN CHURCH: There are several fine monuments on the walls of the church. William Turner (ob. 1729) on S. nave wall and Anne Papillon (ob. 1693) to the east. Also Thomas Papillon (ob. 1838) of Acrise Place on nave N. wall.

Brasses, now on S. wall of chancel - Mary Heyman (ob. 1601) and plate to Alexander Hamon (ob. 1613).

Evidence of pre-Norman status (DM, DM, TR etc): In Domesday Monachorum, it was called 'Aqus' and was a chapel to Lyminge.

Late med. status: Rectory

Patron: The Lord of the Manor, till given to Leeds Priory in the mid 12th cent. After the Dissolution it went to the Crown till 19th cent. then to the Manor. It was given to the Archbishop in 1938.

Other documentary sources: Test. Cant. (E. Kent, 1907), 1 mention: Burial in churchyard, 1463, 1498 etc.
Work of the Holy Cross (Rood), 1463. Lights of the B.V.M. (1463) and St Nicholas (1498), also a light for the Easter Sepulchre (1513).

Rectangular area around church with new extension on north, as well as earlier 1861 extension - surrounded by woods. Some big trees in churchyard + Rhododendron to the south.

Condition: Very good

Building in churchyard or on boundary: Shed on N.W. side of church.

Exceptional monuments: ? Late 17th cent. headstones S.E. of porch. Other good headstones.

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

Inside present church: Good

Outside present church: ? Good

To structure: -

To floors: -

To graveyard: -

Quinquennial inspection (date\architect): April 1992 - Peter Marsh

The church and churchyard: An isolated church in a woodland area, almost certainly first built before 1086, as a chapel to Lyminge (Minster). Only minor later medieval alterations - no population expansion.

Restored in 1824 - no Victorian Gothic. Some good monuments and fittings.

The wider context:

REFERENCES: S.R. Glynne, Notes on the Churches of Kent (1877), 256-7 visited the church in 1868, and noted the 'tiled belfry with slated spire', and much ivy growing on the church walls.

Hasted VIII (1799), 116-7.

Guide Book: Leaflet (Anon - undated) - very good notes.

Photographs: T.H. Oyler's The Parish Churches of the Diocese of Canterbury (1910), 66 shows the S.W. corner and tower buried in ivy on west side. Also early 20th cent. photo is D.A.C. scrapbook (from S.E.).

Plans & early drawings: H Petrie view from N.W. in 1807 (with taller W. buttresses + without spire).

DATE VISITED: 8th April 1993          REPORT BY: Tim Tatton-Brown

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