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Kent Churches - Architectural & Historical Information

 St Martin Church, Cheriton         TR 189 365

Tim Tatton-Brown's Survey 1996

LOCATION: Situated on Folkestone Sands at c. 210 feet above sea-level (O.D.) above a steep ravine leading down to the sea on the south (Horn Street). The area to the west of the church is called St Martin’s Plain, and the Court Lodge was not far away to the east, and is called an `antient gothic building’ by Hasted.

DESCRIPTION: H.M. Taylor points out that the west end of the nave almost certainly retains late Anglo-Saxon masonry with an original round-headed west doorway and above it a double-splayed window. He also suggests that the lower masonry of the west tower may originate as a contemporary west porch/annexe. The Anglo-Saxon date of the west end of the church was first suggested by Canon Scott Robertson, in 1889, and his account of the church is still the standard one. It does seem very likely that the west wall of the nave with its simple round-headed doorway and double-splayed window above is indeed late Anglo-Saxon in date as it is entirely made with Ragstone rubble and no early Norman features are visible. The east face of the exposed masonry have unfortunately, been whitewashed, but the west face in the tower (and ringing chamber above) is well-exposed, and shows areas of probable original external wall-plaster. The head of the A-S window was probably made with a wattle `centring’, as has been found in other A-S churches. The north, south and west walls of the tower, even at the bottom, appear to exhibit no A-S work (pace H.M. Taylor), and certainly abut against the west wall of the nave. The whole tower, with its diagonal buttresses, must be of c. 1300.
   No other evidence survives about ground of any pre-13th century work, and it is not possible at this stage to know where either the east end of the original nave or sanctuary were situated, though it is possible that the original nave was the same length as the present nave.
   In the mid-13th century the present large chancel was built on a projecting `podium’ which runs down the steep hillside to the east. Externally the Ragstone rubble masonry and side-alternate quoins are in mostly very good condition. There are just two east-facing pilasters on the east wall and a simple roll-moulding all the way around the middle of the wall below the plain lancet windows. On the north-west side of the chancel is an original doorway (blocked with ragstone rubble), with another doorway (or window) opposite it on the south. This is also blocked and the jambs etc. have been removed. There is also some bulging in the chancel south wall. Inside the chancel, which was heavily restored in 1873-8, there is much more architectural decoration. The pair of east lancets (with vesica-shaped window in the gable above) are heavily moulded with engaged shafts in the jambs, while there is a continuous moulding around the six lancets (three either side) in the north and south walls. Below these side lancets, is an unusual wall arcade on a bench, which continues the full length of the north and south walls (for six bays). The bottom of the last two bays on the east step up - no doubt to reflect the steps up to the dias of the altar platform. (The arcade reredos of the east wall is entirely of the 1870s). The shafts, capitals and bases of the arcades were all heavily restored in the 1870s, with most of the shafts being replacements in Victorian marble. The original blocks and shafts were probably made of large Paludina limestone (`Bethersden marble’), while the capitals and bases were perhaps of Caen stone. The chancel arch is also of the 13th century with bar-stoped chamfers in the side jambs on both the east and west arises. The circular opening over the chancel arch was restored in the 19th century. It is possible that this chancel arch was built just before the chancel itself, as it does not quite matched in. Immediately south of the chancel arch, in the north corner of the south aisle is a vertical filletted moulding for a 13th century east window, showing that there was already a south aisle or south chapel (with the altar of St Katherine) here in the 13th century.
   The north, or Enbrook, chapel was perhaps first built at the very end of the 13th century as a Lady Chapel. There is a plain wide pointed arch from the north-east side of the nave, and the east window is probably late 13th century. It contains a panel of stained glass (of the Trinity) in its top quatrefoil light. The two-light north window is heavily restored, and externally the chapel has slightly battered plinths on the north and east (down the hill). There is also a south-east squint into the chancel. In the north wall of this chapel are two large 14th century tomb niches, still containing fine but battered effigies. They were restored to their present position in 1842, and are assumed to be late 14th century members of the Enbrook family (Enbrook was about ½ mile east of the church), who took over the Lady Chapel as a manorial chapel.
   The west tower, with its two diagonal buttresses, is very plain. It was probably built in c. 1300, and has simple late lancets in all four faces of the bell-chamber (square headed inside), and a crenellated parapet above (rebuilt in the 19th century). The west doorway, with its relieving arch above, has also been restored, as has the small round-headed window above it. The inside of the tower was completely rebuilt in 1881, when the six bells were recast and rehung. The frame was again restored and supported on new concrete beams in 1963 and this time a new narrow doorway was cut through the tower south wall. The south aisle was built in the early 14th century, replacing an earlier chapel. A new 3 bay arcade to the nave was made as well as a new outer wall with 3x2 light windows in it, and all was under a separate double pitched roof. There is also an ogee-headed piscina and 2 sedilia also with ogeed heads. Immediately west of this is a fine 14th century figure (perhaps a female member of the Caseborne family) in a wall-niche (reopened in 1842), and further west is a blocked doorway (seen externally) into the south aisle. It was probably opposite the north doorway into the nave (and porch), that was destroyed in 1873. The west end of the south aisle was completely rebuilt in 1873 when a vestry was added to it. It now contains the organ, moved here in 1973 from the north chapel. The pulpit was rebuilt in 1967 (with concrete steps) using panels from the late medieval font cover. The north aisle and porch (and `baptistery’) were all added in 1873-7 when 54 new seats were created in the church. All the roofs were also replaced at this time, and the whole building was restored and repewed. The new rood screen was added in 1925.

BUILDING MATERIALS: (Incl. old plaster, paintings, glass, tiles etc.):
The main building material is the local Kentish Ragstone, quarried from the hillside half a mile south of the church. Ragstone dressings are also used in the fine 13th century chancel, and very well cut, in the fine early 14th century arcade to the south aisle. The arcading in the 13th century chancel, and the capitals are perhaps of Caen stone with Bethersden marble and Purbeck marble being used for abaci and shafts. Most of these have been replaced with Victorian marbles. Ragstone, and Bathstone, was used in the 19th century restorations.

Several late 15th and 16th century brasses. Also unsual gravestone of 1716 (now in North chapel) to a grandaughter of Sir Walter Raleigh. The most important monuments are the three 14th century effigies in the wall-niches, mentioned above.

Size: Very large (over 6 acres) roughly rectangular area around church, enlarged in the 19th century from small graveyard around the church. Very steep slope on the east side, down to the road (Horn Street)

Condition: Good.

Building in churchyard or on boundary: Lych-gate of 1897 on north-east
Exceptional monuments: Many military burials.

Ecological potential: Yes - many good specimen trees have been planted in the churchyard.

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

Late med. status: Rectory, united to Newington vicarage in 1771..

Patron: The Manor of Cheriton

Other documentary sources: Hasted VIII (1799) 196-7. Scott Robertson (op. cit. below) gives a documented list of Rectors. Testamenta Cantiana (E.Kent, 1907), 80-1 mentions burial in the churchyard from at least 1463. Also various lights and the altars of Our Lady (1490 + 1511), and of St Katherine (1518) are mentioned. The making of a new beam in `Our Lady’s’ Chapel in 1517, and burial of St Katherine’s Chancel `under the stole (stool) that I am wont for to sit when I am in the church’ (1533) also occur.

Reused materials: A very few Roman bricks reused in A-S west wall.

Finds from church/churchyard: 2 complete Medieval gravemarkers found in the churchyard are now in the Enbrook chapel; one was found in 1966 just west of the tower. They have been recorded by Ben Stocker.

Previous archaeological work (published/unpublished): -

Inside present church: ? Good, but perhaps some disturbance by burial vaults.

Outside present church: ? Good.

To structure: Complete re-roofing (of 19th century roofs) in June 1996.

To graveyard: Trenches on south + east side of chancel plinth - June 1996

The church and churchyard: The west wall of the nave with its original round-headed doorway and double-splayed window above survive from the late Anglo-Saxon nave. The large chancel on its `podium’ was built in the mid-13th century, and north and south chapels were added soon after. The south aisle was built in the early 14th century, and three monumental effigies in the north and south chapels also date from the 14th century. The west tower was added in c. 1300.
    The church was heavily restored, and all its roofs were renewed in 1873-7, and a new north aisle and porch were added. A vestry was also added to the west end of the south aisle.

The wider context: A rare surviving west wall of a late Anglo-Saxon church.

REFERENCES: H.M. + J Taylor Anglo-Saxon Architecture, I (1965), 155-6; Canon W.A. Scott Robertson `Cheriton Church’, Arch. Cant. 18 (1889), 353-368; S R Glynne, Notes on the Churches of Kent (1877), 119-120 [He visited in 1844].

Guide Book: Booklet (1975) by B G Corner, using earlier notes by C F Millar (1938) and
W C Chandler (1966).

Photographs: Photo of N. mural arcade in chancel, in Kent Churches 1954, 105.
Plans & early drawings: Petrie view from N.E. in 1806, in K.A.S. Library, showing N. porch. Plan 1917 by W H Elgar, published in his Ancient Buildings of Folkestone District (1921).

DATE VISITED: 20th June 1996                             REPORT BY: Tim Tatton-Brown

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