Holy Trinity Church,
Dartford TQ 5440 7400
DIOCESE: HISTORICAL AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL SURVEY
Tim Tatton-Brown's Survey 1995
LOCATION: Situated on the Roman road itself,
immediately west of the ford (later 15th century bridge) on the river
Darent at c. 20ft above OD. The vicarage was immediately to the
south-east of the bridge with the detached churchyard north-east of
it. Dartford Creek (tidal) is not far to the north. The Kings Manor
house and Dartford Priory were to the north-west.
DESCRIPTION: This important parish church, which stands blocking the
end of the high street (the main road goes round it, to the south),
has been heavily restored first by Robert Mylne in 1792-3 and then by
A W Blomfield in 1862-3 and 1877. Mylne cut off the south-west corner
(for road-widening) and raised the nave wall by 3 feet and put in a
clerestory, and Glynne (in 1829) says that `the exterior has been much
patched and modernised', and `parts have been rebuilt in brick, in an
incongruous style'. He also tells us that the nave was crowded with
pews and galleries, and had an organ at the west end. A view of the
west end of the church in 1806 shows the rounded-off S W corner, and a
low-pitched pedimented west gable to the nave. There is also a view of
the interior showing the box-pews and wide, low chancel arch with the
very large 18th century Royal Arms board above it. The south porch,
which was inserted into a window space and was cut down through the
lower wall, was built by Edward Cresy in 1846. The chancel arch was
raised and rebuilt by Blomfield in 1862, and the chancel and sanctuary
floors were raised, and a new east window was put in. Then in 1877
Blomfield restored the nave with a new steep-pitched roof. All the
remaining galleries were taken out. (The nave aisles were also
restored in 1877). A W Blomfield was first brought in by his cousin,
Revd G J Blomfield (Vicar 1857-68). The only other repairs were by W D
Caröe in 1910, who restored the Norman flint facing and quoins of the
The church mentioned in Domesday Book (1086) almost
certainly is incorporated into the nave and western part of the
chancel. The rough flint and Ragstone rubble in the west wall of the
nave (seen between the south wall of the porch and the south-west
buttress) may be part of the later 11th century fabric.
Soon after this early Norman church was built, a tower
was added to the north side of the sanctuary, and most of this tower,
and many of its original windows, still survives. It is made of
coursed whole flint with Tufa quoins, and has pilaster buttresses and
a spiral stair in the north-west corner. The tower is likely to have
been a bell-tower from the first (it is/was not a defensive tower).
In the late 12th or earliest 13th century, aisles were
probably added to the nave, though the only visible evidence for this
is in the southern part of the west wall of the north aisle where the
southern jamb and beginning of an arch (blocked by the latter window)
can be seen. It is made in Reigate stone.
In the earlier part of the 13th century the chancel was
rebuilt and extended eastwards. The north chapel (of St Thomas,
apparently) was built at the same time, as is shown by the continuous
Reigate stone string course along the outside of the east wall. The
north-west wall of the chancel has two bays of fine contemporary
blind-arcading against the tower wall, and on the south-east side of
the chancel is a now-blocked lancet window. The north chapel has two
lancets (with external hood-moulds) in its north wall. There is also a
blocked north doorway, with internal Reigate stone jambs, and in the
south-east corner of the chapel is a round-headed piscina (there is
also a piscina and restored sedilia in the south-east side of the
The fine moulded west doorway to the church may be of the
very late 13th century, though it is possible (as suggested by others)
that it is part of the early 14th century work mentioned below.
The largest phase of rebuilding was in the early 14th
century, and there is a well-known reference to Bishop Hamo de Hythe's
inspecting the newly completed 5-light east window in the chancel (put
in at his expense). Unfortunately this window has disappeared, but
there is still a contemporary west window in the nave with reticulated
tracery. The nave arcades are also of the same date, and it is clear
that the nave and aisles were rebuilt, and probably enlarged, at this
time. Three of the four two-light north windows in the north aisle are
probably of this date, and there was a north door (now blocked) into
the north graveyard from this aisle. (The south aisle windows have
been heavily restored and enlarged from 2-light windows). There was
also probably an early 14th century window inserted into the north
chapel (see Petrie view of c. 1800), and a new chantry was founded in
the south-east or Lady Chapel. This chapel may also have originated in
the 13th century, but only the late 15th century rebuilding of it is
visible today. The chancel roof, with plain rafter, collar, and solace
trusses may also be 14th century, and until 1862 the low chancel arch
was also of this date.
The final medieval rebuilding of this church was in the
later 15th century. A perpendicular top stage, with two-light
square-headed windows, was added to the tower (in the 1470s from the
evidence of wills), and a west porch was added to the nave. In the
south aisle a square-headed doorway was put in (only the eastern side
The whole of the south-east side of the church was also
rebuilt in the late 15th century. First the Lady Chapel (or Stanpit
Chantry) was rebuilt with a two-storey vestry on the east side. The
chapel itself had three three-light perpendicular windows (the middle
one replaced by the 1846 porch), and on its east wall a fine
contemporary wall-painting of St George and the Dragon was
rediscovered in the early 19th century. This chapel still has its
original nearly-flat lead-covered roof, and the crenellated parapet
around it is in checkerwork (perhaps of an early 16th century date).
This chapel is contemporary with the Rood stair turret (on the
south-east of the south aisle, and they have a continuous plinth. It
is clear that, at this time a Rood-screen was erected across all three
aisles, and the passage between the different Rood loft sections can
still be seen in the upper nave walls. At this time, also, double
doorways were cut through the base of the tower, and a new east window
was put in the chancel (blocked c. 1783 and replaced in 1862).
BUILDING MATERIALS (Incl. old plaster, paintings, glass, tiles etc.):
The early Norman tower is of coursed whole flint with Tufa quoins, and
some Ragstone rubble is visible in the nave west wall. Reigate stone
was used in the 13th century for most dressings, though some Caenstone
is used, particularly in the west doorway. Ragstone is used for later
medieval dressings (particularly in the late 15th century).
The 18th century restoration was in red brick with some Portland stone
quoins. Then Bath stone was used in the 19th century, while Caröe
used a little Doulting stone for replacing tower quoins.
18th century font of Portland Stone.
EXCEPTIONAL MONUMENTS IN CHURCH: Some fine 15th to early 17th century
brasses and a wall tablet to John Twisleton (ob. 1682) by ? William
Stanton. (for brasses, see Scott Robertson op. cit. (below), 387-391.)
CHURCHYARD AND ENVIRONS:
Size: Only a tiny area of churchyard survives east of the church. The
northern part is now mostly covered by the 1971 hall, and the southern
area was covered over for road widening in the 18th century, and a new
larger churchyard was made east of the town on top of the hill, around
the suppressed chantry chapel of St Edmund-the-Martyr. The churchyard
around this chapel was already being used for burial in the 15th
Boundary walls: On the east-modern.
Building in churchyard or on boundary: 1971 hall on the north. A
cross, on the north side of the churchyard, is mentioned in 1523.
Exceptional monuments: Two 18th century tombs immediately south (by S
wall) and east of the church.
Ecological potential: None, but a Yew tree on the south side of the
churchyard is mentioned in 1506 (It is called a `great ewe' in 1542).
HISTORICAL RECORD (where known):
Earliest ref. to church: In Doomsday Book (1086), `the bishop of
Rochester holds the church of this manor ..... there are now here
Evidence of pre-Norman status (DB, DM, TR etc): Probably a `Minster'
church, with 3 chapels attached to it in Domesday Book.
Late med. status: Vicarage endowed from late 13th century.
Patron: St Andrew's Priory, Rochester from late 11th century (given to
Almonry by bishop Gurdulf). Then to bishop of Rochester from c. 1190
to 1253. After the dissolution it went to the Dean and Chapter of
Other documentary sources: Hasted II (1797), 320-8. Test. Cant. (West
Kent, 1906), 18-20 has various wills relating to the fabric, including
`new bells to be bought' (1474) and work on the tower (1477). The
setting up of a cross on the tower is mentioned in 1527-8. Various
pews/seats are mentioned in the Lady Chapel in the late 15th and early
16th centuries. During the later Middle Ages the Consistory Court was
often held in the church. For the chantries, see Kent Chantries Pt. I
Finds from church/churchyard: None, but guide book mentions possible
foundations to the north of the nave.
Finds within 0.5km: Dartford Priory was situated _ mile to the
north-west. Roman coffin found in East Hill in c. 1822 (put in the
church - now in local museum).
SURVIVAL OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL DEPOSITS:
Inside present church: Probably good, except where cut by burial
vault. The chancel floor has been considerably built up (in 1862).
Outside present church: ? Good, the ground-level around the church has
been much built up. There have been various floods of the river Darent
(in 1766 and 1968, for example).
To structure: Plaster removed from lower wall in south aisle, chancel,
To graveyard: Large hole dug on NE side of church in May 1995, but
mostly through c. 4ft of graveyard build up levels.
Quinquennial inspection (date/architect):
ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND HISTORICAL ASSESSMENT:
The church and churchyard: Probably an early Norman nave, with a still
existing early Norman tower on the north side of the chancel. Aisles
probably added in the late 12th century with complete rebuilding of
them in the early 14th century. Chancel enlarged in the early 13th
century with a north chapel added. Fine late 15th century south-east
rebuilt. Lady Chapel and vestry. Early detached churchyard around a
chapel of St Edmund on the hilltop to the east.
The wider context: One of a group of early churches belonging to
Rochester Cathedral (bishop and priory), it has an early north tower
(cf. Otham, Orpington, etc). It is situated on/beside the main road
from London to Canterbury, next to the ford.
REFERENCES: W A Scott Robertson `Dartford Church (Holy Trinity)',
Arch. Cant. 18 (1889), 383-398 (with list of vicars, and several
photos). S R Glynne The Churches of Kent (1877), 274-5 [He visited in
1829]. John Dunkin The History and Antiquities of Dartford (1844).
Guide book: Good guide by the late G H Porteus (1962 & revised
1974) with measured plan of the church at end (made by Robert Marchant
Photographs: View from SE in Kent Churches 1954, 23.
Plans and drawings: Petrie early 19th century view from south-east.
Also view of nave interior in c. 1840 in guide book. Engraving of E
window in 1783 in J Thorpe custmale Roffense, plate xxxix.
DATE VISITED: 13th May
REPORT BY: Tim Tatton-Brown