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Churches Committee
Kent Churches - Architectural & Historical Information

 St Peter & St Paul Church, Aylesford       TQ 729 590

Tim Tatton-Brown's Survey 1994

LOCATION: Situated on a gravel terrace (on the Folkestone Beds) just north of the large medieval (c.14th century) bridge over the tidal River Medway, at about 30 feet above O.D. on an ancient cliff.

DESCRIPTION: This church unfortunately underwent an extremely thorough, and costly, restoration in 1878. the inside was completely stripped out, and all the walls were replastered; externally most of the masonry of the windows was renewed and a series of buttresses were added to the east end. The whole of the south-east wall of the chancel was also re-faced, and a new `priests'' doorway was put in (in Portland stone). The simple rafter, collar and soulace roofs over the four main spaces of the church were darkened and without close examination of them, and their moulded wall-plates, it is difficult to tell their age. As a result of all this, it is difficult to see any remains of the earlier stages of the growth of this large and important church.

There is little doubt, however, that the nave and chancel of this church are on the site, and may contain elements, of the 12th and 13th century nave and chancel. The south wall of the nave contains some reused Roman bricks and pieces of tufa, and it is likely that they come from an early Norman church.

The whole of the lower stages of the very large unbuttressed west tower, which is made largely of ragstone rubble, must date from the later 12th century, and have been added to an earlier nave. It has one round-headed window lighting the lowest stage from the north. Three round-headed windows light the first-floor stage (ringing chamber) of the tower - two up and one down - on the north, south and west sides. The west door is a restored one, but of a 14th century type, and it probably replaced the original doorway in the early 14th century.

As the north arcade of the nave was replaced in the 15th century, it is difficult to tell (without excavation) when the north aisle was first added to the church. It is likely, however, to have been in the 12th or 13th centuries. The present large north aisle must date from the early 14th century, a time when the population had reached a maximum before the depopulation of the middle years of the 14th century. The west wall of this aisle also has reused Roman bricks and tufa in it, and the 3-light windows, though restored, is of typical early 14th century reticulated tracery. The north wall of this aisle also has restored but, in form, early 14th century windows. On the north-east is a reticulated window, while to the west of it are a pair of square headed windows.

The north-east chapel (later the Lady Chapel - see will), which may also replace an earlier (13th century) chapel - a few pieces of c.13th century Reigate stone are reused over the heads of the early 14th century windows in the north wall - is also large. Until 1966 it contained the organ, and perhaps as a result of this, the north wall of the church has externally the least restored early 14th century windows in the whole building. There are two two-light Ragstone windows, with a single-light trefoiled window to the west. The north-east buttress sits on a very large Ragstone foundation.

The west arch, and the two-bay arcade to the south, of this chapel are also fine early 14th century works. The piscina in the southern part of the east wall of this chapel, however, looks 13th century with its simple rounded trefoiled head. This is another clue to an earlier 13th century chapel here.

The south wall of the chancel was also refenestrated in the early 14th century with a (now restored) window on the south-east and a single light trefoiled window to the south-west. The chancel arch is also early 14th century.

The Perpendicular three-light windows to both the chancel and north chapel are totally restored, but must have been 15th century insertions. The same is probably the case with the south windows of the nave.

In the early 16th century a semi-octagonal rood-stair turret was added to the south-east side of the nave. It has a particularly fine early Tudor doorway, with square hood-mould, from the nave. The upper doorway into the rood loft is also visible, though unfortunately the spiral staircase itself was later removed, and a doorway (now blocked again) was made to the churchyard. A fragment of the rood-screen survives just west of the organ, and there is one poppy-head bench end in the choir.

At about the same time (c.1500) the nave's north arcade was removed, and the very fine slender 4 and bay arcade was put in. The last bay to the east was perhaps deliberately cut short to allow the rood screen and loft to run right across. The two corbels above the chancel arch are perhaps for a large tympanum board.

The tower was given its top stage also in the late 15th century, with 2-light square- headed windows in all faces and a crenellated parapet. There is also a fine moulded string course with head spouts.

The south porch was apparently demolished and rebuilt in 1852, and the main restoration was in 1878, as we have seen. Most of the internal furnishings and fittings are of this date. In 1885 some of the tower windows were reopened, and it was restored. The tower arch had already been restored in 1878, after the west gallery was removed. The north-west vestry was added in 1878, and extended to the east in the early 20th century.

BUILDING MATERIALS: (Incl. old plaster, paintings, glass, tiles etc.): Kentish Ragstone with some ironstone (and a little reused Roman bricks and tufa) are the main rubble building materials. A little Reigate stone perhaps comes from the 13th century phase. Ragstone blocks are used for quoins and in the late top stage of the tower.

Bathstone (and some Portland) were used in the 19th century restorations.

EXCEPTIONAL MONUMENTS IN CHURCH: Cossington brass of 1426 (in north chapel) - knight and his lady; Colepepper tomb of 1604 (under arch to north of chancel); huge monument in N.E. corner to Sir John Banks (ob.1699). Also many other monuments, since 1878 on walls under the tower.

Size & Shape: Large wedge-shaped area around church, with very large extensions to north. Constrained by old cliff to the south.

Condition: Good.

Exceptional monuments: Many fine c.18th century table tombs around the church. 3 medieval grave slabs were placed outside the east wall of the chancel in 1878. They have decorated crosses on them, and are decaying. It would be nice to seem them cleaned and put under cover.

Ecological potential: Yes. Yew tree planted to south of porch in 1708 (see plaque).

HISTORICAL RECORD (where known):
Earliest ref. to church: ? 12th century.

Late med. status: Vicarage.

Patron: The Monks of Rochester Cathedral Priory; then c.1190 given by the Bishop to the hospital of the Newark (New Work) at Strood, despite the monks' protests; then to the Dean and Chapter of Rochester (1542).

Other documentary sources: Hasted IV (1778), 443-7. Test.Cant (W.Kent, 1906) 2-3, give a burial `beside the cross in the cemetery of Peter and Paul at Aylesford (1451); burial in the porch (1501 and 1545); painting (1524), and gilding of the roof-loft (1531); burial in the Lady Chapel (1543).

Reused materials: Various Roman bricks, perhaps from the nearby Roman villa at Eccles.

Finds from church\churchyard: ? None, but 3 medieval grave slabs put outside east wall in 1878 (see above).

Inside present church: ? Good, though there may be several large burial vaults in the eastern arm, under the 19th century raised floors.

Outside present church: ? Good.

To structure: 1878 altar and reredos moved to west end (under the tower). Upper south-east quoin-stones renewed.

The church and churchyard: A fine large 14th and 15th century church with a very large north aisle and north chapel. Also a late 12th century west tower, with a 15th century top stage. Unfortunately the church was over-restored in 1878.

REFERENCES: S. Glynne, Churches of Kent (1877), 327. He visited in 1836, and saw a `2-stage' S. porch

Guide Book: By John E Vigar (undated).

Plans and early drawings: Petrie view from S.E. in 1808.

DATE VISITED: 30/7/94.                               REPORT BY: Tim Tatton-Brown

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