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Churches Committee
Kent Churches - Architectural & Historical Information

 St Aplhege Church, Canterbury         TR 1496 5802

Tim Tatton-Brown's Survey 1992

LOCATION: The church is situated on the corner of Palace Street and St Alphege Lane immediately across the street from the early 13th century Great Hall of the archbishop's palace in the centre of Canterbury'. It is about 35 feet above O.D. and is aligned south of east like most Canterbury churches.

DESCRIPTION: The earliest visible remains of this church date from the 12th century. They consist of the original short north wall of the chancel with the north-east quoin, (of small blocks of Caen-stone with diagonal tooling), and probably of the south-west corner of the nave, which is incorporated into the later tower. The core of the north wall of the nave may be 12th century as well, but it was refaced in the later 15th century. In the 13th century the whole church was greatly enlarged, bringing it upto its present size by making a new nave and chancel to the south, and adding a new tower to the west of the old nave. The old chancel become a Lady Chapel, and also had its east end extended up to the Palace Street frontage. In the north wall of this extended Lady Chapel chancel, there is a vertical line of Caenstone blocks which is probably the jamb of an original 13th century window. Inside this North chancel is a trefoil headed piscina in the S E corner. Immediately west of it is a 2-light early Decorated window without an external Roodmould (unlike the other 14th century windows - see below). Then west again, and set in the 12th century chancel wall, is a later 13th century lancet. There is another similar lancet at the west end of the south wall of the new nave. There are also two lancets on the north side of the tower, one above the doorway, and another in the first stage of the tower; the latter is heavily restored. There is another restored window on the west side of the tower. At the east end of the chancel a triple lancet was constructed and though replaced by a perpendicular window, the two blocked lancets on either side of the later window can still be seen internally. The tower is also 13th century without any buttresses. Originally it was entirely of stone with an upper parapet and small spirelet on top (just visible in the Petrie drawing from the north east). In the later 19th century restoration (see below), the upper stage was given a brick lining and the top stage was tile-hung on a timber frame with an elongated pyramid roof on top. There is also a simple pointed arch into the tower from the west end of the original nave.

Early in the 14th century a new 2-light window was inserted into the north wall of the Lady Chapel at the east end, as we have seen. A little later four more 2-light windows were inserted, one at the west end of the north wall of the Lady Chapel and three in the south wall of the church. All these windows have a moulded rere-arch, as does the three-light window at the west end of the main church. This west window is probably 14th century, while the 4-light east window is perpendicular and probably late 15th century indate. It may be the new window 'made in the high chancel' in 1504 (see will). Externally however it has entirely new 3-light 19th century tracery, and is shown blind in Petrie's early 19th century view. The 3-light east window of the Lady Chapel is probably later 14th century (from the tracery).

The final major changes to the church come in the later 15th century. The whole of the old arcade between the nave and chancel and the Lady Chapel and north aisle was demolished, and a completely new 5-bay arcade was erected with octagonal pillars with concave faces and arches with hollow mouldings on either side. At the east end of the arcade terminates in a small semi-octagonal corbel set in the earlier walling, while at the west end is another moulded respond. Very rarely this arcade can be dated closely to c. 1468. This is the date of Thomas Prowde's will in which he gives 'to the building of a column in the church, as much money as necessary to build the same'. The column in question (the second from the west end) is marked on its west face with a brass tablet inscribed 'Gaude Prude Thoma per quem fit ista columna' with his arms. Above the brass in a small statue niche set into the west face of the top of the column. It has a 4 -central arch and a projecting hood which terminates below in a rose and a knot. There is an almost identical niche at St Mildreds. At about the same time the north wall of the north aisle was rebuilt with an external double moulded plinth. Set in this wall were three new three-light windows. They all have square hood-moulds, but each window head is slightly different from the others. At the west end of this new north wall is a contemporary buttress, and just beyond this a new north doorway was inserted into the tower. At the east end of the new north aisle wall a small spiral staircase was built into the wall to give access to the roodloft. It has a doorway with an ogee canopy with a finial, crockets and head stops. As has already been mentioned, the four-light east window of the chancel, was probably made at this time, as were the crown post roofs in the nave and church, and the simple trussed rafter roofs in the north aisle and Lady Chapel. There is also a fine late 15th century octagonal flint with a pair of roses flanking a shield on each face of the bowl (one face has E Rex on it); the font has a late 17th century cover which is raised by a pulley attached to an elaborate wrought-iron bracket.

In 1887-8 a major restoration of the church was carried out by R H Carpenter. A doorway was made through the west wall of the nave to a new low vestry and into the tower on the north. Before the restoration, there was a western gallery with an organ in it (Glynne, 183).

BUILDING MATERIALS (incl. old plaster, paintings, glass, tiles etc.):
The outer walls are heavily refaced in flint, but this was probably the main original material along with local Tertiary sandstone and some reused Roman bricks. The original quoins are of Caenstone and some Reigate.
19th century repairs, etc. are in Bathstone.

Some fine monuments on the walls of various dates from the 17th to 19th centuries - listed in PM 1037.

Size: Original churchyard is only ? Post-Medeival, and extended up to the St Alphege Lane frontage from area S.W. of the church, (see coloured plan of 1784 church records).

Shape: Irregular

Condition: Quite good

Present Burial: closed in 1855

Building in churchyard or on boundary: Vestry built here outside W. end of S aisle. Rectory or 'Parsonage House' adjacent to church on the south was demolished in 1876 (photo before demolition in records).

Ecological potential: ? Quite good - various trees exist.

HISTORICAL RECORD (where known):
Patron: The Archbishop of Canterbury

Other documentary sources: Testamenta Cantiana (East Kent 1097), 42-44. Mentions burials in the chancel (1401), choir (1487) and in the church 'on the north side' (1503) as well as in the nave (1485) and buried 'before the altar of St James + St Erasnus' (1497), but not in the churchyard. Also in 'the Chancel of St Mary' (1523).
The making of a new pair of organs to be set at the north side of the church, as much money as necessary to build the same' by Thomas Prowde 1468.
Also 'that the steeple of the church be overcast with sand and lime, forwith a boterace "(1503)+" making of a window in the high chancel (1504) in Arch Cant (1915), 26.

Reused materials: A few Roman bricks.

Finds from church\churchyard:None, by Dr F Jenkins suggested that the south wall of the church had Roman foundations.

Finds within 0.5km: Many - Archbishop's Palace + urban Canterbury surrounds, etc.


Outside present church: Good

To structure: Removal of pews, etc., and other fittings when church became redundant in 1982. Mezzanine office made in tower with iron staircase.

To graveyard: Drains put in for vestry sink, etc.

Quinquennial inspection (date\architect): Feb 1976. Anthony Swaine.

REFERENCES: Note by A Clapham in Arch J 86 (1930) 247-8.
C.C.C. Pastoral Measure, 1037 (by Donald Findlay - dated 18.6.1981).
S Glynne Notes on the Churches of Kent (1877), 123-4.

Plans & drawings: Plan in Arch J 86 (1930) 248. Petrie view from N.E. in 1801.

DATE VISITED: 16/10/92 + 27/10/92                           REPORT BY: Tim Tatton-Brown

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