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Churches Committee
Kent Churches - Architectural & Historical Information

  St Martin Church, Eynsford       TQ 541 655

Tim Tatton-Brown's Survey 1993

LOCATION: This church lies immediately S.E. of the road through the later village, opposite the ford (and later bridge) over the river Darent, at just under 150 feet above O.D. on the chalk. The Castle lies a quarter of a mile to the north.

DESCRIPTION: This fine church has been well written up by G.M. Livett (in Arch. Cant. 46 (1934), 156-178), and later important notes, (with a reinterpretation of the interpretation of the original plan by Livett) were published by F.C. Elliston-Erwood (in Arch. Cant. 59 (1946), 2-4). Livett also made a fine measured plan and longitudinal elevation, and drew all the mouldings and provided several photos. Despite this I would like to suggest a different interpretation after a careful examination of the extant masonry.

The church at Eynsford is an exceptional early Norman church that was no doubt built by one of the Archbishop's principal knights, William, son of Ralph, son of Unspac, in the years around 1100. This William, the first of six generations of 'Williams de Eynesford', 'restored' this church to Christ Church Priory, Canterbury with all its appurtenances in about 1135. A little later William himself became a monk at Christ Church.

The earliest visible church consists of a large nave, chancel and apsidal sanctuary, and I follow Elliston-Erwood's interpretation of the plan of the chancel and sanctuary (i.e. with the north wall of the nave and chancel just outside Livett's suggested north wall). The west wall of the nave however, must be the large thick wall, under the west side of the later tower, that still contains the fine early 12th century round-headed doorway with a tympanum. Both Livett and Elliston-Erwood suggest that this doorway has been reset (in the early 13th century) and that the west wall of the original nave was under the east wall of the later tower. There is, however, no evidence for this, and the curious 'wings' on either side of this doorway are surely the remains of the original west wall. They still exhibit early Norman coursed flintwork. The original south wall of the nave has also been cut off at its west end, and has been roughly patched. It must originally have run west to an original south-west corner (small-scale excavation in the churchyard could quickly resolve this). If this is correct, the original dimensions of the Norman nave must have been c. 62 feet long by 30 feet wide internally, (a double square), while the chancel was c. 30 feet long by 25 feet wide internally. The large apse is an exceptional feature here and perhaps reflects the close connection with Christ Church, Canterbury. Overall, the original external length of the whole building is just under 120 feet long, and it seems likely that William, the founder, had great ambitions for it. Apart from the west doorway, and the original coursed whole-flint masonry, there is little other visible evidence of early Norman features.

The external restoration of 1869 has been exceptionally heavy. Two (now blocked) early Norman windows were however, found in the south side of the chancel, and others may be found in the south side of the nave. There must also have been original opposing doorways on the north and south sides of the nave.

In the very early 13th century a large new south transept was built with a wide archway to connect it with the east end of the nave. It contains eight lancet windows which have Reigate stone external jambs that have been covered with heavy cement render (much now coming off). The south wall has small pilaster buttresses at the angles (now with 19th century stock brick jambs) and a circular window in the gable above. Inside there is a moulded roll below all the windows and a piscina in the south-east corner. Nearby is a possible tomb-recess (? for one of the Williams of Eynsford) and in the wall above three carved heads. There is no evidence for a similar north transept (pace Livett).

A little later in the 13th century the apsidal sanctuary was rebuilt with three new eastern lancets (totally rebuilt externally, along with the plinth, in 1869 in Bath stone). New, internal quoins to the sanctuary were made (reusing some early 12th century 'chip-carved' blocks), and a new double piscina was put in, on the south. At about the same time the north wall of the chancel was pieced by two fine moulded arches to connect with a new chapel on the north. This chapel probably of St Catherine, was demolished c. 1500 (see below) and the arches were filled up. The two new windows made in these filled-up arches do, however contain the internal jambs of 13th century windows (from the earlier outer wall, perhaps). The two stone coffins, now in the West porch, come from this north-east chapel. A little later in the 13th century, a west porch was added to the nave, though its top was apparently cut down and re-roofed in c. 1500.

In the late 13th century a new chancel arch was constructed. It has semi-octagonal jambs with comb-chiselling and bar and pyramid stops. The south jamb sits on a 12th century base, as Livett pointed out. At the west end of the nave are two splayed jambs with side-alternate quoins in Reigate stone. These must also be late 13th century in date, and possibly suggest that a tower was put into the nave at this time. Little other evidence for this tower survives, however, and I do not agree with Livett and Elliston-Erwood that the north and south walls of the present tower are 13th century.

In the 14th century two new windows, in an early Perpendicular style, were put into the south wall of the chancel. The western one has a cusped transom, and the lower openings had internal shutters. They were heavily restored externally in 1869 in Bath stone but were made originally in Ragstone.

Around c. 1500 (early Tudor), major work took place at the church. The north-east chapel and the nave north wall were demolished and a new small two-bay north aisle/chapel was added with transverse arch-braced side purlin roofs (with windbraces). The nave, chancel and sanctuary roofs may also have been rebuilt at this time, though the chancel and sanctuary roofs (with crenellated wall-plates) probably contain many 14th century elements. New two-light windows were also put into both sides of the nave (and a south buttress added). At the same time the west tower was completely rebuilt, perhaps after a collapse of the 13th century tower. In its present form, the west tower is almost entirely early 16th century with its two upper stages with large Ragstone side alternate quoins and small very late Perp. windows. The small timber spire is also c. 1500. The stub-ends of Norman walls (and a 13th century wall on its east) were made into strange diagonal buttresses. There was a small internal doorway to a south-east spiral stair (now gone), and a new tower arch to the west end of the nave with large Ragstone side-alternate jambs (and Pyramid stops). The two-light window on the north side of the tower (ground floor) has brick jambs, and must be 18th century. The fine font is also c. 1500.

As we have seen, there was an exceptionally heavy external restoration of the church particularly the chancel and sanctuary in 1869 when heavy knapped-flint refacing) and the insertion of Bath stone dressings) took place. A deep drainage ditch around the east end was also built.

BUILDING MATERIALS: The original walls are of whole coursed flints/with occasional Roman bricks). No original quoins or jambs are visible, but they may have been of Tufa. The fine west doorway is in Caen stone. Reigate stone was introduced in the 13th century and Ragstone was used for the 14th century and c. 1500 work, though there appears to be Reigate stone blocks in the c. 1500 north arcade. Post-Medieval repairs in brick, and then Bath stone for the 1869 restoration. Also new knapped-flint facing.

Size: Large area around church with extensions.

Condition: Good

Ecological potential: ? Yes

HISTORICAL RECORD (where known):
Earliest ref. to church: Domesday Book, where two churches were mentioned.

Evidence of pre-Norman status (DB, DM, TR etc.): In Domesday Monochorum (ed. D Douglas, 1944) p. 108 it had two chapels pertaining to it: Farningham + Stanes.

Late med. status: See Hasted op. cit. inf.

Patron: The Archbishop of Canterbury + monks of Christ Church.

Other documentary sources: See Hasted II (1797), 535-9. Also Test. Cant. (W. Kent), (1906), 25, which mentions burial in churchyard in 1433-4. Also the image of St. Catherine in 1449.

Reused materials: Few Roman bricks.

Inside present church: ? Quite good, though floor level reduced in nave.

Outside present church: ? Good, but big drainage ditch around east end.

The church and churchyard: An exceptionally large early Norman church with nave, chancel and apsidal sanctuary. Several important 13th century additions were made (S. transept, N.E. chapel, W. porch and ? tower), and then a major rebuilding was carried out in the early 16th century, perhaps after the collapse of the tower.

The wider context: Major Norman churches with apsidal east ends are very rare in Kent. There is perhaps a close connection with Canterbury Cathedral Priory - the best evidence for this survives in the west doorway decoration.

REFERENCES: G.M. Livett, 'Eynsford church in the valley of the Darent', Arch. Cant. 46 (1934), 156-178 - measured plan + 'section/N. elevation.' F.C. Elliston-Erwood 'Further notes on St Martin, Eynesford', Arch. Cant. 59 (1946), 2-5 + new version of plan. See also Canon Scott Robertson's notes in Arch. Cant. 16 (1886), x/iv - x/viii.

Guide Book: By C Harvey (1964 + reprint 1973) with rough copy of Elliston-Erwood's plan.

Plans & drawings:Petrie's view from S.E. (in Livett op. cit. supra pl. 6).

DATE VISITED: 22/12/92 + 11-12/5/93.                         REPORT BY: Tim Tatton-Brown

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