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Churches Committee
Kent Churches - Architectural & Historical Information

 St Mary Church, Kennington         TR 0223 4516

Tim Tatton-Brown's Survey 1993

LOCATION: Situated at c. 200 feet above OD on the 4th gravel terrace just under a mile west of the river Stour. The large area to the west (Kennington Lees) is now mostly built on (Ashford Suburb). Conningbrook Manor to the SE had its own separate chapel and was joined later to Kennington.

DESCRIPTION: Though the earliest dateable masonry is the 13th century walls of the chancel, it is very likely that the main walls of the nave date from at least the 12th century. Unfortunately, however, all the external quoins of the nave have been removed, and there are no other visible signs of early work. (It is just possible that all the main nave walls were rebuilt in the 14th century).
   The long later 13th century chancel no doubt replaces an earlier short one. It has fine triple lancet in the east wall with north and south shafts on the main internal jambs (externally this triple window as well as the NE and SE chancel jambs was heavily restored in 1878). On the NE side of the chancel, the east side of an original lancet window is visible. A second lancet to the west was presumably moved north to its present position in the N side of the organ chamber in 1878. Another lancet on the south east side of the chancel was later blocked by the south chapel east wall but its external east jamb is just visible. Inside most of the lancet has been reopened (? in the 19th century), and beneath it is a fine cinquefoil-headed piscine (with a shelf). Just to the west of this lancet is the east jamb of another c. 13th century opening. This was probably into an earlier south chapel. The south doorway of the present (15th century) chapel also seems to be 13th century, so it is likely that there was a 13th century chapel here, though probably not extending as far east as the present one.
   In the early to mid 14th century the nave was completely rebuilt and a new south east aisle was added to the west of the c13th century S Chapel (see above). Though the nave walls may contain earlier masonry (see above), all the main features in it, including the chancel arch. N buttresses and NE window are of 14th century date. There is also a (now-blocked) doorway in the NW corner of the nave, which may also have been 14th century. The small SE aisle is also 14th century, with its 2-light S window, though the arcade dividing it from the nave (see below) is later.
   The fine font bowl, in the SW part of the nave, is perhaps late 14th century. It has a 15th century cover with crockets and finial (see photo in Kent Churches 1954, 121).
   The crown-post roofs over the nave (with elaborate wall plate) south aisle and south chapel are 15th century, and the south porch was also probably added at this time. It is just possible however, that this is the west porch made in 1510 according to a will (though heavily restored in the 19th century). A new window was also inserted into the north wall of the nave at the west end.
   In the 15th century the west wall the nave was demolished, and the fine Kentish tower was added with its 'beacon' stair-turret. It has a continuous plinth and diagonal buttresses to the west. The eastern buttresses form the new west corners to the nave.
   Also in the c.late 15th century the south-east chapel was completely rebuilt (another will of 1518 refers to 'the reparation of St John's chancel'). The chapel also has a continuous plinth, and there is a clear butt-joint at the west end of its south wall with the 14th century aisle wall. Inside there is a fine wooden screen dividing this chapel from the south aisle. There is also a new 15th century arcade, with octagonal piers, to the chancel. They are made of finely cut Ragstone, as is the contemporary one and a half arch arcade into the south aisle. This unusual piece of work started with the demolition of the south east corner of the nave. A strange half-arch was then built to carry the wall above with only a small corbel to support it.
   Two 15th century windows were all put into the north side of the chancel. The eastern one contains four 13th century roundels, while the western one (and the 14th century NE window in the nave) contain 19th century (Kempe) glass.
   A Rood-screen was added to the east end of the nave in the late 15th or earlier 16th century, but only the fine wooden doors from this survive (photo in Kent Churches 1954, p.136). They are now on the north-side of the main doorway from the nave into the porch. Other fragments from the screen may have been reused in the fronts of the vicars stalls at the entrance to the chancel. The entrance to the road loft may have been from the south aisle, or from the NE corner of the nave (this area has, however, been totally rebuilt in the 19th century). Another will record the making of a "lucarre" window to light the rood-loft from above. This may in part survive as the existing dormer.
   There is a fine screen of c. 1700 between the nave and tower.
   There was said to be a restoration in 1851, but the most visible one is that carried out in 1878 (dates on the tops of the cast-iron downpipes). The chancel and S chapel was heavily restored externally, and a new organ chamber above a bilder house was added on the north. Also, we have seen, the NE corner of the nave was rebuilt, the NW doorway was blocked, and the porch was rebuilt. The church was presumably repewed at this time and given new tiled floors.
   In c. 1898 a small vestry was contrived between the south aisle and the porch. the small window above it, high up in the south wall of the nave has brick jambs externally.

BUILDING MATERIALS: (Incl. old plaster, paintings, glass, tiles etc.): The principal material is Ragstone rubble, with Ragstone also been used for the later medieval decorative work (windows, S aisle/S chapel columns, etc). The original eastern quoins of the chancel and the lancet jambs there are of ? hard chalk (or possibly Upper Greensand).

There are the usual bathstone repairs of the 19th century and a new ?Lepine mullion in the S aisle window.

There are 4 roundels of 13th century glass in the NE chancel window, as well as other 15th century frags. (some ? in situ) in the S chapel windows.

EXCEPTIONAL MONUMENTS IN CHURCH: Two hatchments to the Carter family over the chancel arch in the nave.

Size & Shape: Roughly rectangular around church, with ? extension to E

Condition: Good

Earthworks: within: None, but terrace down to E of church

Building in churchyard or on boundary: Lychgate on W

Exceptional monuments: Some large 18th/19th monuments and good headstones

Ecological potential: Good - some large Yews in churchyard

HISTORICAL RECORD (where known):
Earliest ref. to church: ?13th century

Late med. status (vicarage/appropriation): Appropriated by St Augustines' in 1311, and vicarage endowed c.1325

Patron: St Augustine's Abbey, Canterbury from 1045 till 1538, then in private hands till given in 1558 to the Archbishop

Other documentary sources: See Hasted VII (1798), 553-7. Test. Cant. (E Kent 1907), 180-1 mentions burial in churchyard from 1473. Also 'to the making of the Wet Porch' (1510); 'the reparation of St John's chancel' (1518); 'to the making of a Light called Lucorner (?Dormer) window over the rood-loft end in the church' (1527). Also 'Painting of the Rode, Mary and John (1488, 1494) and repair of bells (1518). Also lights of Holy Cross, Blessed Mary (Image of Our Lady next to High Alter 1525), St Christopher, ST Katherine, St Michael, St Nicholas, St Stephan and the Horse & Torch.

Inside present church: ? Good

Outside present church: ? Good

To graveyard: None, but new churchyard extension to the north proposed (1993)

Quinquennial inspection (date\architect): August 1990 Mr Harrison

The church and churchyard: A fine, largely 14th and 15th century, church with a later 13th century chancel. It is a long narrow building culminating on the west in a 15th century tower.
The wider context: This is one of a group of St Augustine's Abbey (Canterbury) owned churches.

REFERENCES: For Conningbrook chapel remains, see FC Elliston Erwood, Arch Cant 65 (1952), 140-9, + plan.

Guide Book: Brief pamphlet (Anon.) - no date c. 1988

Photographs: In Kent Church 1954, the font (p.121) and Rood-Screen doors (p.136)

Plans & drawings: Measured plan by G Beaxeley (1913) on S aisle wall - NE corner. Watercolour view from the SE in 1808 by H Petrie (KAS Library).

DATE VISITED: 1st February 1993                                             REPORT BY: Tim Tatton-Brown

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