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Churches Committee
Kent Churches - Architectural & Historical Information

 St Mary Magdalene Church, Canterbury          TR 

Tim Tatton-Brown's Survey 1992

LOCATION: The church lies on the south side of Burgate Steeet, about 100 years NW of the Burgate. It is at about 40ft above OD and faces well south of east.

DESCRIPTION: This church was unfortunately demolished in 1871 except for the tower. At this time parts of the late 12th century arcade that divided the nave from the south aisle was taken to St George's church which was being enlarged, with a new chancel, aisle and arcade.
   Documentary evidence shows the church was in existence by the mid 12th century (Urry), and the now-demolished capitals and arcade seem to be of this date. However all the surviving remains, the tower and wall-fragments to the south and east are much later in date and probably relate to the documented rebuilding of the tower in 1501.
   The tower itself was built with large blocks of Ragstone ashlar facing where it could be seen, that is on the whole of the north side and above the roof-line of the east side, but only at the very top on the west side. The upper wall on the south side is all of knapped flint. Since the bombing of the last war the whole of the west face of the tower has been exposed, and this shows rougher facing with much reused materials. Before this it was covered by a timber-framed building. The top stage of the woes holding 3 bells originally has flat cinquefoil-headed windows in all four faces covered by a square hood-mould (much worn in places). On the north face there is another cinquefoil-headed window, below the string-course, which light a ringing chamber that was entered from a still visible door on the south (there are traces of a spiral stair here). There was then a two-light cinquefoil-headed window above a contemporary doorway, both having square hood-moulds. These open into the ground floor porch area with above it a contemporary moulded beam ceiling. On the east and south sides are two-centred arches with deep hollowed mouldings leading into the nave and south aisle. The tower now contains the Whitfield monument and several other (now very dirty) wall monuments.
   The north wall of the church seems also to have been rebuilt in the early 16th century. It buts the tower wall and had, from east to west (and shown in pre-1871 photos and drawings), a two light, the eastern 2-light window appears to have no hood mould in Petres drawing, another two-light and then a three-light window, all under square hood-mouldings. A much smaller cinque-foil headed window still survives, though blocked, at the extreme west end of the wall, butting the tower. There was also a continuous plinth along the north side of the church. There was a dormer window above the west end of the nave.
   There seems to have been a single-pitched roof over both the nave and south aisle - the scar for this is still visible on the tower east wall.

BUILDING MATERIALS: (Incl. old plaster, paintings, glass, tiles etc.): Apart from the large well-cut (but worn) Ragstone ashlar blocks in the tower, its west was contains a mixture of materials including knapped flint, a few tiles and some local sandstone (with pyddocke holes). There are also some revised materials including Roman bricks, rag and occasional Caen and Reigate store small blocks.

EXCEPTIONAL MONUMENTS IN CHURCH: Whitfield Monument (1691) moved from south aisle to under tower in 1871 when the rest of the church was demolished (cleared and conserved in May 1977 by Deobrah Carthy).

HISTORICAL RECORD (where known):

Late med. status (rectory):

Patron: St Augustines till 1539, then to Dean and Chapter of Canterbury till in 1681 united to St Georges

Other documentary sources: Hasted XI (1800), 241-4 Test. Cant. (E Kent 1907), 57-9. Wills mention "the making of the steeple" and "restoration of the Bell tower" in 1501

Inside present church: ? good, but burial vaults

Outside present church: Good

The church and churchyard: only the c. 1501 tower for this church still survives above ground. There should, however, be useful archaeological remains below ground of the pre-1871 church.


Photographs: Photo from NW before 1871 demolition

Plans & drawings: Petrie view from NE in 1801 (KAS library photo)

DATE VISITED: 31st October 1992                                     REPORT BY: Tim Tatton-Brown

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