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Churches Committee
Kent Churches - Architectural & Historical Information

 St Peter Church, Bredhurst         TQ 799 621

ROCHESTER DIOCESE: HISTORICAL AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL SURVEY
Tim Tatton-Brown's Survey 1993

LOCATION: Situated on the top of the North Downs at about 450 feet above O.D., the church lies mile south of the village street in an isolated site (but noise from M2 to the north!) The Court Lodge was apparently situated just to the south of the church.

DESCRIPTION: This church was unfortunately allowed to get into a very poor state in the 18th century, and as a result of this had to be almost totally rebuilt in 1866. The nave was entirely rebuilt at that date and bears almost no resemblance to its predecessor, which is shown in Petrie's 1807 view from the south-west to have had a west bell-turret and two-light square headed Perpendicular windows. When Ewan Christian rebuilt the church, he extended the nave by twenty five and a new bell-cote (for 2 bells) was added over the completely rebuilt chancel arch. At the same time the chancel and south chapel were restored and given new roofs and tiled floors. However these two parts of the building still retain several important medieval features.

In the north wall of the chancel, and superseded by a row of three early 13th century lancets, is a small low round-headed window with a single splay. Despite being cement-rendered externally, and white-washed inside, this must be an - in situ late 11th century or early 12th century chancel window. Also at the south-east corner of the chancel externally (ie. where the south chapel east wall abuts it), there is part of an original Tufa and Heathstone (sarsen) original quoin. There are also some Tufa quoins on the north side of the chancel at the extreme west end. All this suggests an early Norman chancel that must have been added to a contemporary nave.

As we have seen, a row of three lancets (without rere-arches) was subsequently put into the north wall of the chancel. These also have cement render externally (and new window guards), but presumably originally had quoins of Reigate stone. They are 13th century in date.

In the late 13th century a fine new chapel was added on the south side of the chancel. Late Medieval wills tells us that it was dedicated to St Mary Magdeline, and after the Reformation it became family 'pew' and burial vault. In Hasted's time it was 'shut out' from the church and in poor condition with a collapsing burial vault. This was no doubt finally filled up in 1866, but a 1635 Leger stone still survives in the north-west corner of the floor surrounded by 1866 tiling.

The chapel itself is of high quality work with a two-bay arcade of Reigate stone (now under peeling whitewash) connecting it with the chancel. There is a round column in the centre, and two carved springers at either end. The two-light east window has an internal central shaft (no doubt originally of Purbeck marble) and moulded rere-arches and a hood-mould. There is an internal string-course below the window. On the south side of the chapel are two lancets and a doorway (the latter restored) and there is another lancet in the west wall. All have moulded rere-arches and hood-moulds that are original though now covered in white-wash. Externally all these windows have been restored in Bathstone, and new window guards have recently been added. The angle-buttresses to the south wall are original, but all the quoins have been restored in side-alternate artificial stone blocks. The west window has been recently restored in an oolitic stone (?? Clipsham) with shells set in the surrounding mortar. Inside this chapel, though the roof is of 1866, the restoration revealed some of the original red painted decoration on the inside walls. This can be seen high above the east window (above an offset), and along the whole of the top of the south wall, where there is a scroll-frieze above painted ashlarwork lines.

There is no sign of any late medieval work, though as we have seen, the nave had Perpendicular windows until 1866.

BUILDING MATERIALS: (Incl. old plaster, paintings, glass, tiles etc.): Tufa and Heathstone quoins in the earliest (Norman) walls with flint rubble. In the 13th century Reigate stone was used for all dressings.

Bath was used for the 1866 Restoration with heavy knapped flint, while artificial stone, and other oolitic stone has been used in the more recent repairs.

See above for 13th century wall-paintings in south chapel.

CHURCHYARD AND ENVIRONS:
Size & Shape: Large irregular area around church with 19th cent. extension to the north, and major 20th cent. detached extension over lane to south (c. 1946).

Condition: Good

Boundary walls: Flint and Brick on S.E. and W. sides (19th century)

Earthworks: within: None, but graveyard extension slightly terraced down to north (1892).

adjacent: Some banks, ditches, old clay pits etc. in neighbouring woodland areas.

Building in churchyard or on boundary: Ugly oil tank + shed to west of church.

Ecological potential: Yes, some large Yews in churchyard, with some later fastigiate yews.

HISTORICAL RECORD (where known):
Earliest ref. to church: ? 13th century

Late med. status (rectory\vicarage\appropriation): Chapel annexed to Hollingbourne church.

Patron: Rector of Hollingbourne

Other documentary sources: See Hasted V (1798), 589-590, who describes the chapel to the south as 'now shut out from the church'. 'The whole of (the church) is now in a ruinous state without door or windows, and the pavement of it, which is much sunk is falling into the vault underneath, and covered with filth and nastiness.'
Test. Cant. (E. Kent, 1907), 34 records the south 'chapel of St Mary Magdalene' as well as lights of the Holy Cross, Our Lady, St John-the-Baptist, St Nicholas and St Peter.

SURVIVAL OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL DEPOSITS:
Inside present church: ? Good in chancel/S. Chapel area, though there were apparently burial vaults in the S. Chapel.

Outside present church: ? Good - shallow drainage trench around church, though the 1866 nave may have major new foundations which have disturbed this whole area.

Quinquennial inspection (date\architect): 1993 P.M.T.

ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND HISTORICAL ASSESSMENT:
A very heavily restored (in 1866) church, but still containing an early Norman chancel with three inserted lancets on the north. A fine late 13th century chapel of St Mary Magdalene was built on the south, which still contains some fine architectural detailing and red painted decoration inside.

The wider context:
Presumably this is another example of a new early Norman manorial chapel, that soon became a separate parish church, though still subservient to Hollingbourne.

REFERENCES:
Guide Book: L.A. Griffith, A Short History of the Parish Church of St Peter and the village of Bredhurst (1966).

Plans & drawings: View from S.W. in 1807 by H Petrie showing original nave with W. turret and S. Porch. View of church from S.W. before restoration in Vestry (E. Wall). Also interior view of nave looking E. before restoration - pencil drawings by Rev. J Finch (Vicar) 1917.

DATES VISITED: 12/5/93 + 9/7/93                                  REPORT BY: Tim Tatton-Brown

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Kent Archaeological Society December 2011

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