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Kent Churches - Architectural & Historical Information

 St Peter Church, Bridge          TR 1836 5412

Tim Tatton-Brown's Survey 1994

LOCATION: Situated on Upper Chalk (just above the Nailbourne floodplain) at about 90 feet above O.D. with the main Roman road to Dover immediately to the north-east. Bridge Place is about a mile to the south-west, and its mother-church of Patrixbourne is about miles to the north-east. Canterbury is just under 3 miles to the north-west.

DESCRIPTION: Unfortunately the church was disastrously over-restored in 1859 by Scott (John Newman, B.O.E. (N.E. and Kent 3rd ed. 1983), 159, says it was 'done with grotesque insensitivity'). However, with the help of Glynne's description (of 1846), and various early 19th century views, as well as the few surviving medieval features, it is possible to work out something of the architectural history. Externally it has been completely refaced with heavy knapped flint, and Bathstone dressings, but the core of all the main walls, except the Vestry on the north-east and the tower stair-turret must be medieval. The west end of the north aisle also appears to have been extended westwards in 1859.
   There had been an earlier small-scale repewing in 1836, followed by a restoration by Scott in 1857. The complete rebuilding took place in 1859-60, with most of the money coming from Mrs Gregory of Bridge Hill.
   From the surviving remains, there is no doubt that the nave, chancel, south aisle and tower-base all date from the 12th century. It is also possible that the nave itself dates from the late 11th century, but there is no visible evidence for this. The west doorway to the nave is of a mid- to later 12th century date, and unlike virtually everything else on the outside of the church was not totally renewed in 1859. There is a decorated round-headed archway with water-leaf capitals, and much original Caenstone survives. The internal north jamb to the doorway is also mostly of original diagonally-tooled Caenstone blocks. On the north-east side of the chancel is a round-headed (c. mid-12th century) window, which was unblocked in 1859. Glynne in 1846 refers to two 'closed' windows on the north side of the chancel, and 'on the south a fine doorway and two windows, now closed; the former has fine chevron mouldings'. This doorway was reset on the east side of the north-east vestry in 1859, but its fine chevroned arch, over scalloped capitals, is still visible as an entrance to the vestry lobby. The south aisle and south-west tower seem to have been added in the later 12th century. The arcade had already gone by 1846, but part of a respond (with nook-shafts) still survives at the extreme east end. Just beyond this, in the east wall, a fragment of the north jamb of a 12th century window survives. This south aisle had a low southwall until 1859, and its steep-pitched roof continued the line of the main nave roof. The tower at the west end of this aisle has 1859 round-headed arches, on the north and east in a 'decorated Romanesque' style (? designed by Scott). Glynne tells us that originally they were 'very rude semicircular arches'. The south and east windows into the ground floor of the tower may be based on earlier 12th century ones.
   During the earlier 13th century, a north transept chapel and north aisle were added. Glynne tells us that 'the north aisle is very low and narrow, divided from the nave by three rude pointed arches with large wall piers having no capitals or impost mouldings'. The pointed arches survive, though a fourth has been added on the west, as well as three extraordinary double piers. The eastern respond is mostly original, however, with bar-stopped chamfers. Another original arch (with bar-stopped chamfers) divides the north aisle from the north-east transept chapel. Glynne also says that there was a lancet at the west end of this aisle. The north-east chapel still has a pair of original lancets on the north (restored externally), and earlier there was apparently a hagioscope from this chapel into the chancel. The upper stage of the tower may be 13th century.
   The one later medieval feature that survives is the 3-light early perpendicular window in the west wall of the nave. This too still contains quite a lot of original masonry, and may date from the late 14th century. The 2-light east window, now rebuilt, was probably early 14th century ('poor Middle Pointed' according to Glynne). The early 19th century views show a pair of two-light late perpendicular windows with square hoods on the south side of the chancel.
   The chancel still contains some early 16th century fittings, and a roodloft was documented as being made in 1522 (see below). On the north side of the sanctuary are two low rectangular niches which contain the two halves of the effigy for Macobus Kasey (ob. 1512). Above and just to the west of this is some relief sculpture (also ? early 16th century) in a tympanum panel. Was this set originally inside a 12th century doorway? Above this is an early 17th century painting of Robert Bargrave (ob. 1649). On the chancel south wall (at the west end) are fragments of a relief memorial to a vicar, Malcolm Ramsey (ob. 1538). He was vicar of Patrixbourne and Bridge for 44 years. These include part of an inscription.
   The tower appears to have been given brick south-east and south-west buttresses in the 17th or 18th century. These were removed in 1859 when a south-east stair-turret was added to the tower. This was apparently restored in 1891.

BUILDING MATERIALS: (Incl. old plaster, paintings, glass, tiles etc.): Virtually the whole of the church has Bathstone dressings, with heavy knapped flint on the exterior. Some 12th century and later Caenstone does, however, survive.


Size, Shape: Large Rectangular area around with church, but with the north-east side cut off by the main (Roman) road to Dover (Bridge Hill). Large new extension to the south - ? Late 19th century.

Condition: Good

Apparent extent of burial: Burial in churchyard from at least 1474.

Boundary walls: To road on north-east, with gateway with brick piers and iron arch.

Ecological potential: ? Yes - many fastigiate yews (and other trees) in southern part of churchyard.

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

Late med. status: Vicarage (with Patrixbourne).

Patron: Goes with Patrixbourne church to which it was a chapel. After the Reformation, the patron was the owner of nearby Bifrons.

Other documentary sources: Hasted IX (1800), 289-290. Test. Cant. (E. Kent, 1907), 35-6 mentions the Holy Cross (Rood) light, as well as lights of Our Lady, St. Nicholas, St. Erasmus, the Trinity, St. Loye, St. Trunion, as well as St. Peter (? in the chancel). The Eastern Sepulchre mentioned in 1535, and 'the painting of the High Cross in the Roodloft in 1504 - also 'to the making of the Roodloft, 1522'.

Inside present church: ? Good, except under east end of south aisle, where there is a sunken boiler house.

Outside present church: Good, but perhaps disturbed by the 1859 refacing and rebuilding.

Quinquennial inspection (date\architect): MAY 1993 A. CLAGUE

The church and churchyard: A 12th century nave, chancel, south aisle and south-west tower base, with an added earlier 13th century north aisle and north-east transept chapel, which was very heavily restored and refaced externally in 1859-60.

The wider context: One of a group of medieval parish churches, which was technically only a chapel-of-ease (to Patrixbourne, in this case).

REFERENCES: For the vicars, see W.A. Scott Roberton 'Patricksbourne church, and Bifrons' Arch. Cant. 14 (1882), 169-184. (A list of vicars, by T.S. Frampton (1900) is on the S.W. side of the nave). S.R. Glynne Churches of Kent (1877), 131-2 (he visited in 1846).

Plans and early drawings: Petrie view from S.W. in 1807, and views from S.W. and S. in 1828 in Victoria and Albert Museum. Also view of church from S.W. in oil (? early 19th cent.) and Watercolour of church from S.E. (June 1869) in the vestry and plan of graveyard (new part) in 1942 (also in vestry).

DATE VISITED: 21st February 1994                                               REPORT BY: Tim Tatton-Brown

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