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Churches Committee
Kent Churches - Architectural & Historical Information

 All Saints Church, Burmarsh          TR 101 320 

Tim Tatton-Brown's Survey 1994

LOCATION: Situated at only about 5ft. above OD on unstable ground in the north-east part of Romney Marsh. Abbotts' Court is just over half a mile to the north. Many new houses are now being built in the hamlet around the church.

DESCRIPTION: This small church has only a nave, chancel and small west tower. The nave and rectangular chancel must date from the mid-12th century, and there is a fine south doorway with shafts scalloped capitals, a round head with a roll and chevron and billet above, and a crudely-carved head at the top. The original round-headed window also survives on the north side of the chancel, and there are 12th century Caenstone quoins on the north-east side of the chancel, as well as on the south-east and south-west corners of the nave.
   As with many churches on the marsh, the ground on which it was built, was unstable, and the walls started to settle differentially, and to lean out in places. As a result of this the church had to be substantially rebuilt and buttressed in the later 14th century. The tower arch tells us, however that a western tower was first added in c. 1200, but only this arch now seems to remain of the earlier tower.
   The late 14th century work not only involved completely rebuilding the tower with two angled buttresses, but also rebuilding the north nave wall and adding two very large buttresses to the south side of the nave. All this new work has a hollow-chamfered Ragstone plinth and large side-alternate Ragstone quoins. There is also a new two-light Perpendicular south window in the nave with a square head (but no hood-mould), and the nave walls were given crenellated tops, and a new lower pitched roof. On the north side of the nave there is also an upper offset stringcourse, and the crenellations have Ragstone jambs with repaired (cement) cappings. On the south side there is no string course, and almost all the crenellations now have cement surrounds.
   The west tower also has a crenellated top, and in the top bell-chamber stage, there is a single-light Perpendicular window in all four faces (without a hood-mould). The 1st stage chamber has single-light Perpendicular windows, with hood-moulds, in the south and west faces only, while there is also a 14th century west doorway with a (cement repaired) two-centred head and hood-mould. Above it is a two-light early perpendicular window, also without a hood-mould.
   It is worth noting that another St. Augustine's Abbey church in Romney Marsh, Snave, also received crenellated parapets and a tower in the 14th century, and a new bell. At Burmarsh all three late 14th century bells still survive in the church (a great rarity), though sadly one was cracked in 1914, and can no longer be rung.
   The porch, on the south side, was perhaps added a little later (c. late 15th century), and it has a small low rectangular window on the west side (now blocked with bricks). Its south side and roof have been completely restored, however, and it contains c. 18th century benches. At about the same time that the porch was built, a low four-centred arch was put into the 12th century doorway.
   The chancel arch has disappeared, perhaps it collapsed at an early date, and there are few traces of the Rood (the present screen was put in in 1923). The south side of the chancel, and the south east corner, have also been rebuilt at a later date - perhaps in the 16th century, but the use of galleting also suggests an early 19th century repair. The chancel south wall contains various reused Roman bricks and earlier window fragments. Its south-east quoin is now of large Ragstone blocks.
   There was a heavy restoration of the church in 1877-9 when the whole of the interior was refurnished and reseated. Also the roofs were renewed at this time, and new two-light windows were put into the north and south-east sides of the nave. The tracery is fanciful (early 14th century in style, roughly), and perhaps replaces 18th century windows. Petrie's 1806 view of the church from the SE shows a very tall nave south-east window of two lights. The east window is also a fanciful Victorian restoration of three lights. The reredos below it inside was added in c. 1897-1900.

BUILDING MATERIALS: (Incl. old plaster, paintings, glass, tiles etc.): The 12th century church is built with ragstone rubble with Caenstone quoins and dressings. The later Medieval work has Ragstone quoins and dressings, and this was obtained from the foreshore in the Sandgate area as shown by the Pholas borings in several of the stones.

Bathstone was used for the 19th century restoration.

There are three late 14th century bells in the church, two in the tower and one (cracked in 1914) in the church.

Size & Shape: Roughly rectangular area around church with extensions to east, north and west.

Condition: Good.

Boundary walls: None - all hedges

Exceptional monuments: Some good headstones to south

Ecological potential: Yes, now has many trees around it

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

Late med. status: Rectory

Patron: St. Augustine's Abbey, Canterbury until 1539, then to the crown

Other documentary sources: Hasted VIII (1799), 262-4 Test. Cant. (East Kent, 1907) 40-1 - mentions the reparation of a window `in the west end of the church' (1508)

Reused materials: A few Roman bricks in the 12th century rubble masonry

Inside present church: ? Good

Outside present church: ? Good

Quinquennial inspection (date\architect):

The church and churchyard: A church with a small 12th century nave and chancel, with late 12th early 13th century tower arch, which was rebuilt in the later 14th century, after the main walls had become unstable. Neglected, and then heavily restored in 1878.

The wider context: One of a small group of St. Augustine's Abbey's churches. It has some parallels with Snave in having a later 14th century rebuilding with crenellated parapets, and a new small tower with bells.

REFERENCES: Brief notes by F C Elliston Erwood in 1923, Arch. Cant. 37 (1925), 203-4 with plan.

Guide Book: By Anne Roper (1985)

Photographs: Photo of nave and chancel of 1876 in the church (showing pre-restoration fittings). Kent Churches 1954, 37 shows top of south doorway, and p. 173 shows 15th century bell.
Plans and early drawings: View from SE in 1806 by Petrie

DATE VISITED: 23rd Sept 1986, 29th Sept 1990, and 30th August 1994 Report by Tim Tatton-Brown

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