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Kent Churches - Architectural & Historical Information

 St Mary Church, Chartham         TR1069 5509

Tim Tatton-Brown's Survey 1991

In the centre of the village, North of the River Stour and Paper Mill. The Court Lodge (Deanery Farm) is ½km. to the west, unusually. The church is in the valley plain at about 50ft. above O.D. To the NW of the church is a village green.

This church was totally rebuilt at the end of the 13th century, with only a few odd reused fragments in the walls suggesting the presence of an earlier church. The nave, shallow transepts and chancel all appear to have been built at the same time, though only the chancel has very high quality split-cusp tracery (reflecting probably the ownership of this rich manor by Christ Church Priory). The use of transepts may suggest an earlier cruciform church, and it is just possible that the crossing area of the new church (and the nave) were built around (ie. outside) the earlier church before it was demolished.
   The chancel, which has magnificent split-cusp 'Kentish Tracery' windows all around (4x2 light windows on the north and south, and a 4 light east window), was perhaps built first. It is heavily buttressed, and this may indicate that a stone vault (or? even a timber vault) was planned. In the event this was not built, but an unusual continuous internal hood-mould (with trefoiled loops between the windows) was put in. The roof over the chancel is still boarded in, and appears to be much restored. On the south side of the chancel is a small doorway (restored), while under a heavily moulded arch in the centre of the north side is a tomb-chest set into the wall with trefoiled arches.
   All the other chancel fittings (including the altar, stalls etc), are of the c. 1875 restoration.
  The shallow north and south transepts both have 5-light stepped cinque-cusped lancets and each has an original piscina for its altar (a will of 1533 suggests that one altar was dedicated to St. Giles). Between the transepts and nave are large cinquefoiled squints, and the north and south walls of the transepts both have an internal string course. In the transept floors (and before 1875, situated in the centre of the chancel) are 5 brasses in Purbeck marble slabs: (1) The magnificent Robert de Septrans brass (c. 1322). For this date of c. 1322, see P Binoki "The stylistic sequence of London figure brasses" in J Coales (ed.) The Earliest English Brasses Patronage, Style and Workshopes 1270-1350 (1987), 86-8 (2)(3)+(4) brasses of 3 rectors in vestments: Robert London (d.1416), Robert Arthur (d. 1454), and Robert Sheffelde (d.1508). (5) Poor brass of Jane Dowther (d.1580). The organ is now in the N. transept, while the S. transept has an altar and other fittings including the font (moved here in 1985).
   The nave is much plainer than the rest with only paired trefoiled windows in the walls. There are three of these, while the 4th pair (on the N.E.) is only of lancets. This lower window, however, is the only one to have an internal hood-mould. At the west end of the nave are two opposing N.+ S. doors. That on the north originally had a timber-framed porch on dwarf stone walls. This was however, removed in the 1875 restoration, and the doorway was blocked up. The south porch, though heavily restored (it has lost its original S. wall and doorway), was perhaps an original feature of the church. Just over a third of the way along the nave are two opposing buttresses, and a few feet to the west of these are clear signs in both north and south walls of masonry breaks. This was, however, perhaps only a pause in the work, leaving the west end of the nave to be completed a few years later. There is another buttress on the N. side, just E. of the blocked N. door.
   Over the whole of the crossing, transepts and nave (but not visible in the chancel) is a magnificent series of c. 1300 timber roofs with large scissor-trussed rafters. Over the crossing is a fine saltire of arch-braces, culminating in a huge boss of oak-leaves. In the nave which has a 28 foot span, there was originally one truss with a tie-beam and king-strut (it lay between the two opposing north and south buttresses). The tie-beam was later cut back to the walls and the king-strut cut off below the scissor crossing. See Med.Arch 27 (1983), 129 (The north rafter and ashlar piece has been restored). Lower beams run E.-W. across the transept openings (? for screens), and rest on stone corbels.
   The western tower, which has diagonal buttresses and a spiral stair turret in the north-east corner, was probably built entirely in the late 15th century after the west wall of the nave had been totally demolished. The lower stage contains quite a lot of reused material (including a 13th century quatrefoil), while above the window heads in the bell-chamber red brick is used (Wills suggest the tower was being built in 1474 and 1490, 1495 and that it was finished and getting new bells in 1500). There is also red brick in the top level of the stair turret. There are 5 J. Hatch bells of 1605 and a treble of 1728 in a relatively new frame. The tower roof has also been renewed.
   The church was described in 1861 by Sir Stephen Glynne before the 1875 restoration. It had high pews, a west gallery (put in in 1777), and a fine pulpit with sounding board on the S.W. side of the crossing. Two fine photos of the interior (framed and on the W. wall of the nave) of before 1875 show these and a series of hatchments on the walls. The scissor-braced roofs were plastered below, and this along with the gallery pews, and hatchments were removed in 1875 (also the N. porch). The pulpit was moved to the N.E. side of the crossing and the chancel was refurbished with the brasses being removed to the transepts. A new chancel screen was made (removed in turn in 1984).

BUILDING MATERIALS (Incl. old plaster, paintings, glass, tiles etc.):
The main materials are knapped flint and ragstone quoins. However, Roman brick, Caen + Reigate stone (+ a little Purbeck marble) are also reused in the wall faces (? from earlier church). At the top of the tower, red brick is used (from c. 1480) for window heads + in stair-turret top. The side windows of the chancel still contain some very fine c. 1300 glass (restored 1881, but drawn beforehand by Winston).

EXCEPTIONAL MONUMENTS IN CHURCH: Monument to Revd. J.M. de l'Angle (d. 1724) in N. Transept. Large monument to Sir William Young and his wife Sarah née Fagge by Rysbrack (dated 1751 but not placed in S. Transept till 1788. Also several brasses (including the famous Sevtrans brass in N. transept) of the early 14th century - see list in Newman (1983), 267.

The Bungey memorial (c. 1597) on the S. side of the E. window caused a dispute in the 19th century.

Shape: Rectangular - extended eastwards 1815/16 (see guide).

Condition: Good

Apparent extent of burial: Burials recorded here from at least 1474 (Wills)

Boundary walls: Stone wall on N. + E. (the later extended 1815/16).

Building in churchyard or on boundary: - except 1925 "Lychgate".

HISTORICAL RECORD (where known):
Earliest ref. to church: Domesday Book

Evidence of pre-Norman status (DB, DM, TR etc.): Pays 28d. 'Chism' in D.M. + 45 shillings. 'Romscott'.

Late med. status (rectory\appropriation): A rich rectory, held by many prominent men (see Hasted VII (1797), 317-9 for post-dissolution ones).

Patron: The Archbishop.

Other documentary sources:
In 1294 the Patent Rolls record that Edward I remitted part of a fine to the rector 'towards the works of his church begun by him'. Test. Cant. (E. Kent, 1907), 80 mentions wills giving 6s. 8d. to bell tower (1474) + 6s. 8d. for reparation of steeple (1490) and "towards renewing of a bell in the steeple" great brass pot "(1500)". Also "to the making of a door on the south side of the church, whensoever they do make it, 55 shillings", - and "to the tyling of the church 105 shillings" (1533). A chapel of St. Giles is also mentioned (1533). Another will in Arch. Cant. 31 (1915) gives 13s. 4d. "to the steeple when it is begun" (1495).

Reused materials: A few Roman bricks in church walls.

Previous archaeological work (published\unpublished): 1991 (Jan.) small trench beside S.W. quoin of S. transept to investigate foundations (plan + section drawn + copy to T.T-B. 24.9.91.)

Inside present church: ? Good - earlier church foundations should be below the nave/chancel, etc.

To structure: In 1985, a large new screen was put in at the W. end of the nave (to form a 'narthex'). The font was moved to the S. transept, and some of the brasses here are getting scraped by the plethora of fittings.

To graveyard: All the gravestones have been moved to the edge of the churchyard.

Quinquennial inspection (date\architect): 1988 (December) by Howard Jones - of Lee Evans Partnership, Canterbury.

The church and churchyard: An exceptionally fine new church of c. 1300 with original roofs and some original glass; also some fine brasses. There is also a good late 15th century western tower.

The wider context: The Court Lodge (Deanery) at Chartham is also a fine complex of buildings which can be contrasted with the church (see Arch. Cant. 89 (1974), 169-182). It has a hall roof of 1303.

REFERENCES: Notes by A. Clapham + G. Rushforth (glass) in Archaeol.J. 86 (1930), 306-7. + by S Rigold in Archaeol.J. 126 (1970), 265-6. Also S.R. Glynne, Notes on the Churches of Kent (1877),225-7.

Guide Book: by G. Haslam (1987).

Photographs: In the church, two fine views (looking E. + W.) before the 1875 restoration.

Plans & drawings: Plan in The British Architect, Nov.13th 1885, reprinted in Archaeol.J. 86 (1930), 305 + Petrie view from the S.E. (1806).

DATES VISITED: 11th July 1991 & 24th September 1991.               REPORT BY: Tim Tatton-Brown

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