Saints Church, Burmarsh
TR 101 320
DIOCESE: HISTORICAL AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL SURVEY
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
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.
CHURCHYARD AND ENVIRONS:
Size & Shape: Roughly rectangular area around church with
extensions to east, north and west.
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
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
SURVIVAL OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL DEPOSITS:
Inside present church: ? Good
Outside present church: ? Good
Quinquennial inspection (date\architect):
ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND HISTORICAL ASSESSMENT:
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
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