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 ¼ 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
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
In the north wall of the chancel, and superseded by a row of three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
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
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).
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
Building in churchyard or on boundary: Ugly oil tank + shed to west
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
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
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.
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
DATES VISITED: 12/5/93 +
REPORT BY: Tim Tatton-Brown