KENT ARCHAEOLOGICAL SOCIETY  --Studying and sharing Kent's past      Homepage

Churches Committee
Kent Churches - Architectural & Historical Information

 St John Evangelist Church, Ickham         TR 222 581

Tim Tatton-Brown's Survey 1997

LOCATION: Situated close to Littlebourne, Wingham and Wickhambreaux churches at c.41 feet above O.D on the flat head-brickearth (that overlies the chalk). The church is not far from the Roman road leading 4½ miles due west to Canterbury. Ickham Court Lodge adjoins the churchyard on the west, while The Street, possibly a medieval market place (it widens in the centre near the church), is to the south-west. This is the centre of the village with houses, including the 13th century Old Rectory, on either side.

DESCRIPTION: A church at Ickham is mentioned in Domesday Book (1086), but the earliest visible remains now are of the mid-12th century. First there is a fine round-headed west doorway on the outside of the tower, which must be reset. It has typical mid-12th century ‘crenellated’ decoration over the roundarch. Inside the church at the east end of the nave, the four eastern piers indicate that there were mid-12th century round-headed arches here. The arch on the north (with a roll on the southside) still survives as does its western impost block (the main jambs, however, were renewed in the 14th century - see below), while on the south the arch has been replaced, but the 12th century piers still have much of their original quoins. This presumably indicates that the east end of the nave is still in part the late-11th century nave, pierced in the mid-12th century for aisles.
   The population of Ickham must have been growing rapidly in the 12th and 13th centuries, as the nave was greatly enlarged to the west, and given south and north aisles in the late 12th or very early 13th century. A west tower was also added at the same time, and it has a plain pointed arch (with chamfers) into the nave. The western three bays of the nave also have plain pointed arches of different sizes, and in the south arcade only, one can see flat chamfers on some arches, and flat chamfers on the piers (with bar stops at the top, and pyramid stops at the bottom). The original aisles here were as usual, lean-to affairs and evidence for this can be seen outside the south-west corner of the nave, where the line of the slope can be seen. Only in the late 13th or early 14th century were the aisle walls raised and given new higher roofs. There is also a c.1200 south doorway (in the 19th century porch) with a plain chamfered archway. (It contains a pair of c.17th century doors). The aisle windows are paired-lancets of a later 13th century date, but those on the south have been reset in the 19th century (note the knapped flint surround). On the north the western paired-lancet has a relieving arch over it of re-used Roman bricks. There is a 19th century boiler house outside this window, and the buttresses on either side of it are also 19th century, but no sign of a north doorway. The north nave arcade was apparently given new side-alternative Ragstone jambs in the late 14th or 15th century.
   In the 1230s or 40s the old chancel was demolished and replaced by a fine new chancel with four large lancets on either side, and a triplet (with moulded hoods externally and internally) in the east wall. There is also a small south doorway (with ..) and external and internal moulded string-courses, the latter rising up in steps at two stages inside the chancel. The second step-up is clearly for the altar dais, and there is a heavily-moulded trefoil-headed piscina (with two basins) in the south wall. It had separate side-shafts (now missing) which were probably of Purbeck marble. More unusually, however, there are at the west end of the chancel a pair of two-light lancet windows with quatrefoils over them in plate tracery. #there is a similar window in the west wall of the south transept which appears to be reset. When the new chancel was built, there were no transepts and it is worth noting that this new chancel is the same width as the nave, though slightly angled to the north. Several earlier legers (some late Medieval, including that of a priest, M de Hampton died 1306) are just visible beneath the modern choir-stalls, and it is recorded that 18 stalls (probably of a 15th century date) were removed from the chancel in the earlier 18th century. Some medieval glass was also removed at about this time. The chancel arch is an early 14th century insertion, but a small part of an in situ 13th century base can be seen in the western return on the north side. This perhaps relates to the earlier chancel arch. Both return walls at the west end of the chancel were refaced in the 19th century, presumably after the removal of a late-Medieval Rood screen.
   In the early 14th century two fine transepts, with external buttresses and plinths, were added to the church as separate chapels. They both have the unusual feature of gabled projecting altar-recesses, and both have fine traceried windows in their east and north (or south walls). Also each north or south window contains a fine canopied tomb (with an effigy on it) beneath the window (that on the north has now lost its canopy, and been rebuilt, unfortunately, and the effigy here of a priest is supposed to be William of Heghtresbury, a prominent churchman who died in 1372. This is not, however, certain. The tracery of these two transepts is fine work, though there are distinctive differences. For example, the north transept uses sunk-chamfers in the arches to the north aisle and to the altar recess, while the south transept has concave chamfers with pyramid stops in the equivalent positions here. Both transepts also have piscines. The architecture, and particularly the projecting altar bays, can be compared with work at Wingham and Adisham churches. The very fine south transept canopied tomb is probably of Thomas or Baa (or Boy) who died in 1339. He is sculpted as a knight, and his name and arms were formerly in the window glass. Later the north transept became the ‘Lee Chantry’, but before the Reformation there was another chantry chapel in the nave (the Denys Chantry), and a fine iron-bound medieval chest relating to this chantry survives in the north transept. All the roofs over the nave, chancel and transepts, though repaired in 1874 (chancel) and 1932-2 (nave) with no ceilings, are probably of a 14th century date. They were probably put in after the transepts and new chancel arch were built. At the west end of the south aisle is a reset early Perpendicular two-light window.
   The c.1200 west tower had a timber broach spire (probably of late medieval date), but this was demolished in 1825 when a new flat lead roof and crenellated parapet. A new spire and a clock were added in 1870 when the tower was restored (all four bells inside date to 1641). The major restoration of the church was in 1845-6 under Hezekiah Marshall (Cost £1,167), and galleries were put in, though an earlier west gallery was removed, to give the church 240 new ‘free’ seats (the I.C.B.S. gave a grant of £60). Later repairs were in 1870 (tower), 1901, and to the nave roof in 1932-3 (after the ceiling collapsed). The major masonry repairs and the south porch were probably made in 1845-6.

BUILDING MATERIALS: (Incl. old plaster, paintings, glass, tiles etc.):
The 12th century dressings are of Caenstone, though the rubblework was probably of flint with some reused Roman bricks. Caenstone is also used for the c.1200 dressings in the extended nave and aisles, and in the west tower (small block quoins). The 13th century chancel has side-alternate Caenstone quoins, but some Reigate stone and Kentish Rag can be seen in the flint rubble walls. The early 14th century transepts have Ragstone (from the Sandgate foreshore) side-alternate quoins (with 1845-6 repairs in Caen) and Caenstone tracery. There is also small knapped flint coursed rubble with re-used Roman bricks and Purbeck marble fragments (the latter particularly used around Putlog holes).

The main 1845-6 restoration seems only to use Caenstone and heavy knapped flint. No old painted plaster or stained glass has survived.

EXCEPTIONAL MONUMENTS IN CHURCH: Apart from the two fine 14th century monuments (with effigies) in the transepts, there is a good c1638 wall monument, to the Southlands, in the north-east corner of the north transept.

Size & Shape: Large rectangular area around church, with 19th century extension to south and 20th century extension to the north (+ modern extension of NE.)

Condition: Good

Boundary walls: Flint on east and iron railing in the south, and brick on west, north and NE.

Building on boundary: - Early 18th century Ickham Court along SW boundary.

Ecological potential: Yes

Late med. status: (rectory): Rectory (an except parish) with many prominent Rectors.

Patron: The Archbishop of Canterbury, then to Christ Church Priory after the Norman Conquest till 1541. Henry VIII then gave it to the Archbishop again a year later.

Other documentary sources: Hasted IX (1799), 177-9. He records the (now lost) glass in the windows with the arms of Christ Church Priory, the Fitzalans, etc. Testamenta. Cantina. (East Kent 1907), 175-6, mentions ‘burial in the church before the crucifix (Rood), and 40 shillings being given to the repair of the body (nave) of the church’ (1495). Also various lights and the painting of an image of St Nicholas (1525), and the image of the BVM in the chancel (1432). A ‘Chapel of St Thomas, in the same parish’ is also mentioned, possibly at Well.

Inside present church: ?Good, except where cut through by burial vaults, eg. the Lee vault in the north transept, and the Head vault in the Chancel (13 ft long by 9 ft).

Outside present church: Good - only shallow drainage ditches around.

Quinquennial inspection (date/architect): June 1989 - Peter Marsh

The church and churchyard: A fine church belonging to Canterbury Cathedral Priory, with traces of mid-12th century arches (to aisles) at the east end of the nave, and a reset mid-12th century west doorway into the tower. The church was enlarged westwards, and given a plain new west tower in c.1200. The low lean-to aisles were heightened in the later 13th century. A fine new chancel was built in c.1230, and then large new transept chapels were added in the early 14th century (they contain important tombs and decorated tracery). Fairly heavy restoration in 1845-6, the tower restored with a new spire (and a clock) in 1870.

The wider context: One of a group of churches owned by the cathedral priory having fine new 13th century chancels and early 14th century transepts (compare Adisham church). The church is in the rich area just north-east of Canterbury, close to Littlebourne, ‘Wickhambreaux and Wingham churches.

REFERENCES: W A Scott Robertson, ‘Ickham Church, its monuments and its rectors’, Arch. Cant. 14 (1882), 113-133 and TS Frampton ‘The Chantry of John Denys in Ickham Church’ Arch. Cant. 25 (1902), 207-221. C R Councer, Lost Glass from Kent Churches (1980), 65-6.

Guide Book: Leaflet (1985) by Leonard C Combs.

Photographs: View of E side of S transept and SW side of chancel in Kent Churches 1954, 89.

Plans & early drawings: Petrie view from SE in 1801, showing old broach spire and longer porch.

DATES VISITED: 19th December 1996 and 24th February 1997       REPORT BY: Tim Tatton-Brown

To Kent Churches - Architectural & Historical Information Introduction          To Church Committee Introduction

For details about the advantages of membership of the Kent Archaeological Society   click here

Kent Archaeological Society is a registered charity number 223382
© Kent Archaeological Society October 2011

This website is constructed by enthusiastic amateurs. Any errors noticed by other researchers will be to gratefully received so that we can amend our pages to give as accurate a record as possible. Please send details too