Innocents Church, Adisham
TR 2272 5429
DIOCESE: HISTORICAL AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL SURVEY
Tim Tatton-Brown's survey 1991
On an east facing slope, just east of the Court Lodge on the Upper
Chalk c. 150 feet above O.D. It is above the site of a large (now
filled in) pond that is at the N end of the village and is a
The earliest visible part of the fabric is the early to mid 12th
century first stage of the tower. There are four round-headed windows
here; the north and south ones blocked up completely.
All the external faces of the windows were covered by the
later, higher roofs. There are visible remains, however, on all four
faces of the original lower gables, showing that from the mid 12th
century the church was already cruciform. Of this earliest visible
phase is the Purbeck Marble font with a square arcaded bowl on a
cluster of 5 shafts (now in the middle of the nave).
In the second phase, probably of the late 12th century,
the four crossing piers were cut back and enlarged to allow four
slightly pointed arches with square soffits (slightly recessed) to be
created. They sit on new square scalloped capitals. The outer arch
order is carried on plain shafts in the corners. At probably the same
time the nave was rebuilt (and possibly enlarged). A lancet on the
north side of the nave dates from this period (It was probably
reopened in 1869 when wall-paintings were found on either side of the
internal diagonal face. This window was probably blocked in the 4th
phase when the enlarged N transept was built). The late 12th century
nave almost certainly had 3 lancets on either side. 3 of these (2 on
the south one on the north) were replaced in the 14th century by
larger windows, but two more (in the centre on the N and at the west
end on the S.) were just blocked up and their positions can just be
made out in the knapped flint infill on the external walls.
A new enlarged chancel was built in the third phase (c.
mid 13th century). This has five large lancets on either side and
three in the east wall. All have internal rere-arches (unlike the
smaller late 12th century lancet), and there is an internal string
course all the way round. On the south side of the chancel is a fine
contemporary double piscina with a richly moulded trefoil head and
detached Purbeck Marble shafts (with caps and bases). There is another
piscina (perhaps contemporaneously built) in the N. wall just E. of
the later doorway. At this time the central crossing tower was
heightened with four new lancets to project above the nave and chancel
(and subsequently above the later transept) roofs.
In the 4th phase, which was probably only a very short
time after the 3rd phase, a new enlarged N. transept (with W. 'aisle')
was built. It also has large lancets with rere-arches and an internal
string course (on the E. and N.). The central of the 3 lancets on the
E. wall is slightly taller and inside this window (below it) is a
centrally placed piscina. The easternmost lancet (of 3) in the N. wall
was later replaced (see below).
An even wider high lancet was built (? a little later) in the west
wall of this transept.
The N. door to the nave, with its hood-mould on tufts of
trefoil leaves, is also perhaps mid 13th century, as is the arch cut
through into the nave from the W end of the N transept. This has
simple stopped chamfers on all four arises.
In the next (5th) phase of c. 1300, the enlarged south
transept was built. This has angle buttresses to the S.E. and S.W. and
a gabled shallow E. chapel extension (cf Wingham and Ickham churches).
To the east and west are similar trefoil-headed 3- light windows with
hood-moulds. In the south wall there is a 4- light window with a
diagonally placed quatrefoil just above two trefoils, which in turn
are above the two pairs of trefoil headed lights. There is no hood
mould. This chapel like the N. transept breaks across the horizontal
string course in the tower, showing it is later than the nave and
chancel. When the S. transept was built a new N. window of 3 lights
was inserted into the N transept which appears to have acquired its
gable end at this time. This window does have a hood mould.
The 6th and final main phase was the insertion of new
2-light windows in the nave with ogee hood-moulds and finials. The
ends of the hood-moulds have carved heads on them, while the top
lights in the windows are hexafoils. The new west doorway and the 5
light window above it with 3 octafoils in its head, though heavily
restored must be of the same date (Glynne called it 'a very bad modern
one'). This final phase is early 14th century, and all the six main
phases of the building were probably erected within two centuries.
There can be no doubt that this church is in this form because of the
Archbishop (the patron) and the Monks of Christ Church Priory,
Canterbury who owned the manor and were directly farming it.
DOCUMENTARY EVIDENCE (B.L. Cotton Galba E IV f 102N) shows that they
were also building a large neighbouring stone Court Lodge in the later
13th/early 14th century. The north doorway to the chancel perhaps also
dated from this final period as do the many now worn and relaid floor
tiles in the chancel and S. transept of the church. The higher
crenellated top to the central tower was probably also put in at this
period (though cut down and replaced with a pyramid roof in 1869 - see
pre-869 photo on wall in vestry). 4 bells (not in a frame) are in the
upper stage of the tower.
After this only the rebuilding with massive ragstone
blocks, of 3 of the crossing piers (N.W., N.E. and S.E.) was
undertaking. The timber-framed N porch (restored) and nave crown-post
roof is also later (perhaps 15th century). The heavily restored 'poppy
hood' stalls at the W. end of the chancel and the neighbouring screen
to the W. (only part of the base is original) probably date from the
early 16th century. This was the rood screen and has linenfold
panelling. (The making of the new rood loft is documented in 1528 - Test.-Cant.
(EK 1907), 2. The two roofs in the north transept appear to be a 17th
century reconstruction of late medieval ones, while the chancel roof
is 1869 replacing a low pitched (early 19th century) slate roof. There
was a major restoration by William White in 1869-70.
BUILDING MATERIALS (Incl. old plaster, paintings, glass, tiles etc):
The predominant material is locally acquired flint used for most of
the wall facing. There are occasional Roman bricks and lumps of local
sandstone. The main ashlar decorated stone for windows etc. is Caen
with some later use of Kent Rag. The internal string course in the
chancel and nave appears, however, to be of an oolitic limestone. The
font bowl is of Purbeck Marble as are perhaps the medieval floor
slabs, and the original shafts in the chancel double piscina.
EXCEPTIONAL MONUMENTS IN CHURCH
2 plain floor slabs in the chancel (now on either side of the high
altar) as well as 4 in front of the altar in the S. transept (? in
situ). Two of these grave slabs still have very worn inscriptions
around the edge. One is apparently to an early 14th century rector,
There is also a reused later medieval grave-marker in the
west face of the buttress to the south-east pier and two more in the
blocked up N. and S. mid 12th century windows in the first stage of
the tower (see B Stocker 'Medieval Grave Markers in Kent' Church
Monuments vol I pt 2 (1986), 106-114.
CHURCHYARD AND ENVIRONS:
Size: Large - all around church. Early 20th century extension in
separate long plot to S.E.
Shape: Approx. rectangular. Burial here documented from at least 1397
(Test. Cant. (E. Kent 1907)), 1.
Condition: Fairly good - some shrub growth against church walls (some
ivy is being allowed to grow up the church walls).
Apparent extent of burial: All round church including large area to N.
Present burial: closed. Cremation burials to E. of church
Maintained by parish\local authority: ?local authority but ? reverting
Boundary walls: Flint, brick etc. (to Court and Farm on W.)
adjacent: Church is on hillside sloping down eastwards to the site a
large (now filled in) village pond – an ancient Kentish sole.
Building on boundary: Court Lodge immediately to the west.
Ecological potential: Good - some mature trees present.
HISTORICAL RECORD (where known):
Earliest ref. to church: Late 11th century (in Dom Mon 28d.
chrism from [A]DESHAM)
Evidence of pre-Norman status (DB, DM, TR etc.):
Minster (Chapelry of Staple attached to it from at least the 13th
century until 1862)
Late med. status (rectory): A rich 'exempt' parish worth £28 3s.
1½d. (yearly tithes of £2. 16s. 3d.). Worth £160 in 1588
and £500 in c. 1800 (Hasted IX, 184).
Patron: The Archbishop of Canterbury (briefly the king, after the
Other documentary sources:
See W A Scott Robertson "Forty rectors of Adisham" in Arch
Cant XIV (1882) 162-8. & Test. Cant. (East Kent 1907) 1-2.
Two chapels are documented. Lady Chapel (? N. Transept) and St. Thomas
the Martyr. Also see J. Harvey English Medieval Architects (Revised
edition 1987), 77 where John Curteys, 'Carpenter of Canterbury' (fl
1476 - +1490) had a case put to arbitration between him and Thomas
Julle, in regard to Curteys' claim to 40s due to him for repairs on
the belfry of the parish church of 'Addesham', Kent in City Archives
(Canterbury) Plans. Sadly no ancient belfry/bell-frame survives.
Reused materials: Very few Roman bricks.
Finds from church: A very important timber panel (part of a screen)
was taken to the church from the cathedral in c. 1703, by the then
Rector (and also Archdeacon), John Batteley (1684-1708) to use as an
altar reredos. It dates from the late 13th century (see good drawing
of it in Archaeologia 62 (1911), plate XLIV op. p.360) and has
traces of original paint. It is now at the N.W. end of the nave.
Previous archaeological work (published\unpublished): ? none
Some excavations by Maurice Crane (a local amateur archaeologist)
carried out c 1975 "to investigate the expansion of the church in
the medieval period; that is to see if the N and S apses were an
addition as at Wingham" (letter, Sept '91 from M A Crane).
SURVIVAL OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL DEPOSITS:
Inside present church: Probably upper levels disturbed by 1869
Outside present church: ? Good, but on a steep slope to E.
To structure: Late 13th century screen fragment moved from S. transept
to W. end of nave. A major reordering, etc., of the church is now
Quinquennial inspection (date\architect): (no plan) January 1988 ANN
ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND HISTORICAL ASSESSMENT:
The Church and churchyard: This is an important church, showing the
influence of the long ownership of this large manor by the
Archbishop/Christchurch Priory. Some important tracery, and inside
grave slabs and floor tiles of the 13th/14th century.
The wider context: The church is near the probable
original nucleus of the settlement (ie the large pond and cross roads)
with the Christ Church Court Lodge to the west.
REFERENCES: Brief article on the church by ex-Rector, Rev. H Montagu
Villiers, Arch Cant 14 (1882) 157-161. Also see W A Scott
Robertson 'Forty Rectors of Adisham' Arch Cant 14 (1882) 162-8
(N.B. T. S. Frampton's full list on nave wall). For a description of
the church before its restoration, see S R Glynne, Notes on the
Churches of Kent (1877), 244-6.
Guide book: Leaflet (unsigned and undated) - not very accurate.
Photographs: Early (pre 1869 restoration) photos in church - view from
N Other 1950s photos etc. at N M R in London.
Plans and drawings: Anon. plan in church for proposed reordering.
DATES VISITED: 18th November 1990, 4th & 5th July
1991 REPORT BY: Tim Tatton-Brown.