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Churches Committee
Kent Churches - Architectural & Historical Information

  St Peter Church, Ightham       TQ 5945 5695

Tim Tatton-Brown's Survey 1993

LOCATION: The church lies on a hill at the southern end of a Folkestone Beds ridge (with Ightham Court to the North) at just over 300 feet above O.D. The later village lies in the valley immediately to the south around the crossroads on the main Maidstone to Sevenoaks road.

DESCRIPTION: This church is perhaps best known for its fine monuments in the chancel. However, the fabric of the church itself is also of great interest, and it has been heavily restored in the 19th century.

The nave and chancel are almost certainly Norman, and perhaps date from the early 12th century. The simple eastern quoins of both the nave and chancel are still visible, and are made of local ironstone and tufa, with larger Ragstone blocks at the base. The walls themselves are of rendered Ragstone rubble, and in the east gable are two round-headed arches. The west end of the nave is now obscured by the modern shed on the north, and by the 19th century vestry on the south.

In the south wall of the chancel are traces of an earlier window jamb, just east of the early 14th century window. It is partly obscured by render, but may date from the 13th century.

The three-light east window, though restored externally, probably dates from about the mid-14th century, as does the single light trefoil headed south chancel window. Both have similar rere-arches inside.

On the north side of the chancel is the now well-known tomb of Sir Thomas Cawne of c. 1374. Above it and associated with it, is a very fine square headed window. This has been well described and illustrated by Aymer Vallance (op. cit. inf.). The simple rafter-and-collar chancel roof may also date from the 14th century.

The tower with its diagonal western buttresses was probably built in the later 15th century though many of its Ragstone quoins have been replaced in red brick. There is a 15th century tower arch with large Ragstone quoins, and the upper part of this was filled with a gallery in 1619 (according to Glynne). It now contains a modern organ case. The west doorway to the tower, and the Perp. window over have been restored with render. The upper (bell) chamfer of the tower has two-light late Perpendicular windows under square hood-moulds. Externally the iron stone and ragstone rubble was rendered. The tower is finished with a crenellated parapet.

The south aisle and porch were added a little later than the tower-perhaps in the early 16th century - and it is probable that a north aisle added at the same time, though only the arcade now survives of this, the rest having been rebuilt in 1639 (see below). All of this seems to have been part of a total rebuilding and enlargement of the nave which was given a very fine arch-braced roof and crenellated wall-plates at the same time. The south aisle roof, a continuation of the main nave roof, also has a fine 'arch-braced' roof, as does the porch. The ten trusses of the latter also have carved stops and crenellated wall plates. The south aisle has a plinth and a parapet above a concave moulded string-course. The two-light south windows (and the east window) have square hood-moulds and very late 'Perp' tracery, and are made of Ragstone. There is, however, a great deal of ironstone used in the walling and for the parapet, and in the south porch it is used for the jambs, arch and hood-mould of the doorway as well as for some of the large quoins. At the east end of the south aisle is the chapel of St Catherine (later the Selby family pew - from Ightham Mote), and it is still surrounded by its early 16th century screens, though they have been restored. No doubt the rebuilding of the nave and aisles was financed by the two main families at Ightham Court (north) and Ightham Mote (south), so that they could have family chantry chapels at the east end of each.

The north arcade, with just two wide arches with finely-tooled ragstone piers, is similar to that on the south. However, the whole outer wall, and the area above the arcade was completely rebuilt in red brick in c. 1639. Externally this can be well seen. It is in English bond set on an ironstone plinth. The two two-light windows in the north wall, and the 2-light east window also have brick mullions and jambs. They are slightly-pointed round-headed windows. The brick parapet above is restored, and there is a plain early 17th century shed-roof with but-purlins not in line. Any north doorway was removed in the 17th cent. rebuilding. The north-east side of the nave also contains the four box pews for the James family of Ightham Court. There is no chancel arch, but the cut off ends of an upper and lower moulded Rood beam can be seen (There is a modern screen of 1919). There is early 17th century panelling on the E. wall of the chancel. The plain late Medieval Ragstone font bowl in the south aisle sits on a 19th century base.

In the 19th century new pews went in and a tiled chancel floor, as well as a new vestry on the south-west.

BUILDING MATERIALS: Predominantly the local ironstone and ragstone, with tufa used in the early eastern quoins. The 14th cent. N. chancel window apparently has some Reigate stone. In the late rebuilding of the nave, south aisle, and porch ironstone as well as Ragstone is cut for dressings. The early 17th century north aisle is entirely of red brick, while 18th century repairs use red brick and some Portland stone. The 19th century vestry has Bathstone dressings, and the restored east window of the chancel apparently used Tunbridge Wells sandstone.

EXCEPTIONAL MONUMENTS IN CHURCH: Effigy + Tomb of Sir Thomas Cawne (c. 1374) on N. side of chancel. Also Sir William(s) Selby (c. 1611 + 1638) and Dorothy Selby (c. 1641) on S. and S.E. sides of chancel. There are also many fine hatchments in the church.

Size & Shape: Rectangular area around church with large extension down hill to west.

Boundary walls: Some local ironstone boundary walls - also brick.

Building in churchyard or on boundary: New churchhall recently built in N.E. corner of churchyard. c. 1919 Lychgate to S.E. (and horse mounting steps to south).

Exceptional monuments: Some fine 18th century tombs + tombstones.

Ecological potential: : ? Good

HISTORICAL RECORD (where known):
Earliest ref. to church: Textus Roffensis as 'Ehteham'.

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

Late med. status: Rectory - but part of the archiepiscopal peculiar of the Deanery of Shoreham.

Patron: The Lords of Ightham Manor.

Other documentary sources: The Will of Sir Thomas Cawne (c. 1373-4) is printed in Arch. Cant. IV (1861), 221-5 with engraving of N. chancel window by O Jewitt. In it he gives 20 for a window to be made in the north part of the church of EYGHTHAM, near the altar of St Mary. See also note in Arch. Cant. V (1863), 324, showing this window originally had the arms of Cawne + Morant. Also Test. Cant. (West Kent, 1906), 43, where 13s. 4d. is given (1420) for works to fabric, when it begins, and Hasted V (1798), 44-5.

Inside present church: ? Good

Outside present church: ? Good

To structure: A doorway has recently been made in the south wall of the tower to connect with the vestry.

To graveyard: New church hall built in N.E. corner of churchyard.

Quinquennial inspection (date\architect): 1993 PMT

The church and churchyard: A fine c. 12th century nave and chancel with a late 15th century west tower, and early 16th century south aisle and porch. North aisle of 1639.

The wider context: The exceptionally fine Cawne tomb and window of c. 1374 on the north side of the chancel is of national importance.

REFERENCES: Brief notes by J O Scott in Arch. Cant. 24 (1900), 192-4. Also notes and photographs by Aymer Vallance on 'the Cawne window and monument' in Arch. Cant. 28 (1909), 379-80, See also C R Councer, Lost Glass from Kent Churches (1980), 66-7
S R Glynne Notes on the churches of Kent (1877), 296-7.

Guide Book: Brief leaflet (undated) by Edward Bowra - Very Good

Photographs: See A Vallance (supra)

Plans & drawings: H Petrie view from S.E. (1806). O Jewitt engraving of N. chancel window (c. 1860) in Glynne (supra, 297).

DATE VISITED: 21/4/93, + 12/5/93                              REPORT BY: Tim Tatton-Brown

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