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Kent Churches - Architectural & Historical Information

St Peter & St Paul Church, Dymchurch      TR 103298

Tim Tatton-Brown's Survey 199

LOCATION: Not far to the west of the sea wall with the road between Hythe and New Romney running between, the church is only a few feet above O.D. New Hall, the centre of administration of the Liberty and Level of Romney Marsh is just to the south-west.

DESCRIPTION: Until the beginning of the 19th century, this church consisted of just a nave and chancel of the mid-12th century, and two large western buttresses (of perhaps the 14th century). Then, in 1821, the north wall of the nave was demolished and the whole nave was extended to the north by about 14 feet. A new shallower-pitched queen-post roof (with a span of about 36 feet) was then put on, and a western gallery was inserted and the whole church was reseated. At the same time, a very small turret with porch below, was built in timber between the western buttresses. It has a small weather-boarded top (containing three 1685 bells, made by Christopher Hodson), and a pyramid roof.
   In 1910 major repairs were carried out, including the underpinning of the chancel arch, and the south side of the church. A new semi-octagonal vestry was built on the north-east, with a new door from the chancel, and the old south porch was replaced by the present one. At the same time, four two-light `Perpendicular' windows of Bath-stone were apparently put into the north and south sides of the nave, and two other windows were put into the west end of the north extension. The upper `Perpendicular' one which lights the gallery has one reused (?15th century) spandrel fragment. The zig-zag tile filling of the tympana of the 12th century doorways also perhaps dates to this time.
   The bells were rehung in 1931, and a niche was rediscovered on the north-east side of the nave in 1934, but the final major repairs came in 1958, when the chancel roof was completely replaced (apart from a few ashlar pieces), and the walls were again repaired. The 1821 pews were also replaced from 1958 onwards with modern ones. The organ had been put in the gallery in 1923.
   With all this repair and restoration, there is not much left of the original medieval church. However the shell of the nave and chancel survive from the mid-12th century, and the original nave quoins of Caen stone can still be seen on the south-east and south-west corners of the nave. The lower eastern quoins of the chancel, also in Caen stone, survive, but the upper quoins have been rebuilt in red brick. The quoins to the 1821 north extension to the nave are also partly of reused Caen stone, with some larger Ragstone quoins and two ? Reigate stone blocks.
   The finest survivals of the mid-12th century church, however, are the south and west doorways to the nave, and the chancel arch. All have imposts with scalloped capitals, surmounted by a roll-moulding and chevroned voussoir blocks. The original bases to the chancel arch, (with nailhead decoration), were uncovered in the 1910 underpinning. There was a third smaller doorway on the north side of the chancel, but this was most-unfortunately destroyed in 1910. It was described by Glynne in 1868 as a `Norman doorway with cylindrical mouldings and shafts'. The west doorway to the nave is more hidden because it is between the later buttresses in the 1821 western porch.
   In the late 13th century three wide lancets, with rere-arches were put into the chancel. The eastern lancet has, however, been much rebuilt, and externally there are several areas of cement repairs. In the south-east corner of the nave, there are niches in the walls covered by pointed arches with chamfers around the edges and bar-stops at the bottom. They must also be later 13th century, though their function is not clear. The larger niche in the south wall has some original painted plaster (a false ashlar design) in its back wall, though only the upper part is now visible.
   The one other later medieval addition to the church, perhaps of the 14th century, are the two large western buttresses to the nave. They have a plinth and a higher moulded string-course, and may be associated with the putting in of a small timber bell-turret at the west end of the nave, with a shingled spire over it. Unfortunately all this was replaced in 1821 (for earlier details, see Petries' 1806 view from the south-west).
   There are two mass dials on the eastern side of the south nave door, and a third one (slightly more elaborate) was put on the south-east nave quoins, perhaps after the first (late medieval) south porch was built.
   The slightly strange font has tooling that may suggest a 17th century date. It has a circular bowl on an octagonal shaft `spurred' base.

A few c. 18th century large red tiles in the church.

BUILDING MATERIALS (Incl. old plaster, paintings, glass, tiles etc.): The original 12th century church is made of Ragstone rubble with Caen stone dressings. The later western buttresses have Ragstone quoins, string course and plinth, and some blocks exhibit holes bored by Pholas - hence they came from the Sandgate foreshore.

The 1910 rebuilding uses Bath-stone, with the porch rebuilt in brick and covered with pebble-dash.

EXCEPTIONAL MONUMENTS IN CHURCH: None, Royal Arms of 1778 on north wall of nave.

Size & Shape: Trapezoidal area around church, with large extension to NW.

Condition: Good - all neatly mown.

Boundary walls: Low Rag rubble and brick to East (Road), North and South

Exceptional monuments: Some good early headstones around church.

Ecological potential: ? Yes - various specimen trees in churchyard.

HISTORICAL RECORD (where known):
Earliest ref. to church: 12th century.

Late med. status: rectory

Patron: St Augustine's Abbey till 1538, then the crown.

Other documentary sources: Hasted VIII (1799), 268-270. Test. Cant. (E Kent, 1907), 105 - mentions `to the railing of the church-yard, 10 shillings' (1520).

Finds from church/churchyard: Part of a censer top was found, in 1821, `in a blocked arch' - see J.B.A.A., Vol 1 (1844), 47.

Inside present church: Good, except that the chancel arch was underpinned in 1910.

Outside present church: ? Good - drainage trench around eastern end of church, but this is because of a raised ground level. East wall foundation may have been rebuilt, and south wall underpinned in 1910.

Quinquennial inspection (date/architect):

The church and churchyard: An important surviving mid-12th century shell of the nave and chancel with a fine chancel arch and south and west nave doorways. Late 13th century lancets in the chancel, and two c. 14th century west buttresses. The whole church was enlarged and rebuilt in 1821 and 1910.

The wider context: Part of a group of churches having mid 12th century architectural features in the eastern part of Romney Marsh.

REFERENCES: S R Glynne, Churches of Kent (1877), 265-6 (He visited in 1868).
Brief notes (made 1923) by F C Elliston Erwood, Arch. Cant. 37 (1925), 202-3. Also J.B.A.A. Vol. I (1844), 41-7.

Guide book: By Revd. J H Edinger (c. 1960, revised 1986)

Photographs: Kent Churches 1954, 120 shows the font and cover.

Early Drawings and Plans : Petrie 1806 view from SW, which is reproduced in the guide.

DATE VISITED: 31st July 1987, 16th June 1990 and 26th to 29th August 1994. 

REPORT BY: Tim Tatton-Brown

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