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Churches Committee
Kent Churches - Architectural & Historical Information

  St Mary Church, Hadlow       TQ 6342 4970

Tim Tatton-Brown's Survey 1994

LOCATION: The church lies in the village of Hadlow on Upper Tunbridge Wells Sand in the Low Weald at just over 100ft. above O.D. The site of the Court Lodge (later "Hadlow Castle" lies immediately to the south.

DESCRIPTION: The earliest remains of the church are called "Anglo-Saxon" by Dubreck (in guide) and "Saxo-Norman" by Newman (BoE) on account of the "long-and-short" work of the nave N.W. quoin and the arch in the nave W. wall to the tower. No other early evidence is visible, and unfortunately the outside of the church has been very heavily rendered in Roman cement - except for the tower and N.W. corner of the nave, and the mid-19th century extensions on the north.

Petrie's early 19th century view from the south-east shows that the windows in the south wall of the nave and chancel have been restored in roughly their original form, though there is a second `reticulated' tracery window on the south side of the chancel. This suggests that the shell of the nave is probably the original mid to late 11th century structure with the chancel a 13th century enlargement. The three eastern lancets are a rebuild of three earlier lancets. The fine wide 13th century chancel arch still survives.

At the very end of the 13th century, the two 3-light windows were probably put into the south side of the nave at its east end. The blocked doorway on the south side of the nave is also of about the same date, as is perhaps the whole of the lower part of the western tower. The two south windows in the chancel (one of which survives in part) were probably inserted in the early 14th century.

The top stage of the western tower, and probably the angle-buttresses on the west were probably added in the 15th century, as was the simple spire with projecting eaves. The top stage of the tower has noticeably different rubble work and pairs of Perpendicular windows on the north, south and west sides. The Perpendicular window on the south-west side of the nave is also of about the same date, and a south porch may have been added at this time (demolished in 1853).

The chancel was restored in 1847, and given a Roman cement render on the outside.

In 1853 the large north aisle, with four-bay arcade was added to the nave with a `transept' and vestry on the north-east. The inside of the church was also refitted at this time, and a west gallery was put into the nave. It was removed in 1936, but the strange little access staircase (with crenellated parapets) still survives outside the south-west corner of the nave. This was to allow the May family to come directly from the extraordinary Hadlow `Castle' through the gate in the south churchyard wall to their `pew' in the west gallery. Under the staircase is the boiler house, with a chimney flue in the east wall. All the windows, and their tracery, were restored in Bathstone, and the south wall was given a hard cement-render covering.

BUILDING MATERIALS: (Incl. old plaster, paintings, glass, tiles etc.): The rubble walls of the tower are of Ragstone and some local Tunbridge Wells sandstone; the latter being used for the side-alternate quoins at the north-west corner of the nave. One south window in the chancel still has one (west) jambstone of Reigate stone, and some Tunbridge Wells sandstone. All the rest of the window tracery on the south side of the church appears to be Bathstone of the mid-19th century.

EXCEPTIONAL MONUMENTS IN CHURCH: Wall monument to Sir John Rivers (1583).


Size & Shape: Large rectangular area around church, with extension to east.

Condition: Quite good, but the May mausoleum of c.1855 in the S.W. corner is completely overgrown with ivy, brambles, etc.

Boundary walls: Brick boundary (mid 19th century) wall with Hadlow Castle to S, and S.W.

Building in churchyard or on boundary: Mausoleum (1855) - see below.

Exceptional monuments: Barton May mausoleum (erected 1855) in a "Gothick" form, and in poor condition, is in the S.W. corner of churchyard.

Ecological potential: ? Yes.

HISTORICAL RECORD (where known):
Earliest ref. to church: Domesday Book (1086).

Evidence of pre-Norman status (DB, DM, TR etc.): Textus Roffensis

Late med. status: Vicarage. Appropriated 1287 by Bp. of Rochester to Prior and Brethren of St John of Jerusalem.

Patron: Bp. of Rochester to Knights Hospitallers, c.1216 (later in 1408 became appendage to Preceptory of the Knights at West Peckham), till 1541, then to various laymen (Fanes etc.). Vicarage separate.

Other documentary sources: Hasted V (1798), 189-193. Test. Cant (W. Kent, 1906) 33, gives 1448 to the making of a window on the north side (1447); the making of a new roof loft (1509) also in (1510 and 1513).

Inside present church: ? Good.

Outside present church: ? Good, but disturbed on S.W. by boiler house.

To structure: New gallery, etc. added in N. aisle.

The church and churchyard: A c. mid-11th century nave, with early west doorway, and 13th century chancel and west tower. Windows added on the south side in the later Middle Ages, and a top stage added to the tower. All this very heavily obscured in the mid-19th century restoration, when a north aisle and vestry were added to the church and the south and east walls were cement-rendered.

The wider context: One of a small number of buildings exhibiting Saxo-Norman features (the nave west doorway).

REFERENCES: S. Glynne, Churches of Kent (1877), 145-6. He visited in 1861 after the rebuilding.

Guide Book: By W D Dumbreck (1963 + several reprintings/revisions) - no plan.

Photographs: Some in guide.

Plans and early drawings: Early 19th century watercolour drawing by Petrie from S.E. (in guide).

DATE VISITED: 16/5/92 and 31/7/94.                         REPORT BY: Tim Tatton-Brown

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