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Churches Committee
Kent Churches - Architectural & Historical Information

 St Giles Church, Kingston         TR 1982 5127

Tim Tatton-Brown's Survey 1991

About 5 miles S.E. of Canterbury, half a mile S.W. of the main Canterbury-Dover (Roman) road, at about 160 feet above O.D. in the chalky Nailbourne valley (S.W. hillside).

A small church with a simple unaisled nave and chancel (no chapels, though a Lady Chapel is, oddly, mentioned in a 1525 will), and an added 15th century W. tower. There are also a 19th century vestry and N. porch.
   As Elliston Erwood has shown, the plan of the nave and western part of the chancel (and the whole flint quoins) suggest an early Norman date for the earliest part of the church. The chancel was probably extended about 10 feet eastwards in the early 13th century.
   Early in the 14th century four new windows were inserted into the east end of the nave (and by this time, any chancel arch had gone, and the east end walls of the nave cut back. On either side are 2-light windows with trefoiled heads and 'daggered bottomed' quatrefoils over - all under 2 centred arched hoodmoulds (ie just reticulated). The eastern windows in the nave are single-light cinquefoil headed windows which light the E. end of the nave very well. The window on the north is very low, and that on the south has internal shutter hooks at the bottom. Were these windows to light an altar or an early rood screen? There is a corbel (bracket) just west of the S.E. window. In the centre of the S. wall of the nave is a shallow niche under a wide pointed arch. It perhaps blocks an earlier doorway (see scar in render outside), and was perhaps originally for a tomb (Hasted says that there was a flagstone here from which the brass was gone). There was also apparently a 'Decorated' period E. window with a Rose until replaced by the present 3-light E. window in 1897 (?frags. over gateway in churchyard wall west of tower).
   In the later part of the 15th century, a massive but small tower, with western angle-buttresses, was added to the west end of the nave after its west wall had been demolished. The tower arch is perhaps earlier. It has a fine 3-light trefoil-headed window over its W. doorway. The top stage of the tower has debased round-headed windows suggesting an early 16th century date. The large Ragstone quoins for the tower are still largely intact - most of the rest of the flint face is covered in render. There is a simple corbelled top. Inside the tower, in the S.W. corner, is a fine 14th century corbelled head.
   A pair of two-light perpendicular windows, with square heads (and hoodmould on S.), were added at the west end of the nave on the N. and S. sides, and a fine new doorway with a square head and decorated spandrels inscribed (very worn):
   "Pray for the soules of .... Thomas .... and Alys his wyf". This must also be later 15th century (no related will is known), and there is a fine holy water stoup immediately west of the doorway with a square hoodmould. (The porch is 19th century)
   The chancel windows and fittings (Sedilia, Piscina and Aumbry) were also renewed in the 15th century. There are single-light windows one either side to the east, and 2-light windows on either side to the west. These have internal side jambs that come down much lower with a bench on the north - that on the south was cut away for the door into the vestry in the later 19th century. The door into the aumbry on the north was acquired, and put in, in 1928, by the Rector.
   The nave and chancel both have fine surviving (c. 15th century) crown-post roofs that butt each other. The carved angel truss at the E. end of the chancel was inserted in 1873 when the lath and plaster ceilings were removed by William White.
   There is a fine early 17th century pulpit at the S.E. corner of the nave.
   Many alterations and repairs were carried out in the 19th century. In 1846, after repair and redecoration, a new floor was laid and new pews were put in. At the same time the W. gallery and chancel screen were removed.
   In 1973, as mentioned above, the ceilings were removed, then in the 1880s more repairs were undertaken (another reflooring and reseating in 1886, with new choir stalls by Norman Shaw). The floor tiles in the chancel, also by Norman Shaw, were put in at the same time (see Newman B.O.E. (N.E.+E. Kent), 367).
   Finally the east window was renewed in 1897 and the gable top was rebuilt and heightened with a coping.

BUILDING MATERIALS (Incl. old plaster, paintings, glass, tiles etc.):
The original material was local flint, but most of this is now covered by the external render used all over the building. There is some use of Caen in windows, etc., and, for the later work, Kentish Rag (from the Sandgate, etc. - boring mollusc holes), best seen in the tower buttress quoins.

Under the tower is an early 13th century octagonal font bowl (unusual at this date) on a new base (returned to the church in 1931 after have been discarded over 150 years earlier. (Glynne visiting in 1846 saw a wooden font!).

There are 3 bells in the tower, hung for chiming only : one by William le Belyetere (c. 1350) but cracked; one by Joseph Hatch, 1610 and a treble (blank).

There is a brass indent on the S. side of the chancel (by vestry door) with only two brass shields in situ.

EXCEPTIONAL MONUMENTS IN CHURCH: Monument to John Nethersole (ob. 1627) with small kneeling figures. There are also several fine wall monuments.

At the beginning of this century, Oyler mentions many hatchments in the church.

Size: Small area N+E+S of church with larger extension to S.E.

Condition: Good

Apparent extent of burial: Churchyard burials recorded from 1481 (Wills).

Exceptional monuments: Some fine 18th century monuments and
headstones (from 1740) around church and still in situ.

HISTORICAL RECORD (where known):

Patron: The Lord of the Manor of Kingston.

Other documentary sources: Test. Cant. (E. Kent, 1907), 183 - Rood light (1472, 1475, 1479, 1491 wills). Also light of B.V.M. and a chapel of Our Lady (1525), and Image of St. Christopher (1472), and Lights of St. Giles (1475) 1491-1499 and St. Margaret (1525). Tabernacle of St. Giles (1478). Also paving the church (1479) and reparation of nave (1505). N.B. also Parish Register No. 2(1744-1812) also contains notes relating to repairs/alterations in 1846, 1873, 1881, 1882, 1886 and 1897.

Reused materials: Above a gate into the old Rectory garden (N.W. of the tower) are various architectural fragments set up (? from the earlier E. window).

Inside present church: ?Quite good.

Outside present church: Narrow trench cut all the way round the outside of the church (except N. and W. of Tower).

Quinquennial inspection (date\architect): 1989 ANDREW CLAGUE

The Church and churchyard: A small but fine parish church with fine later medieval roofs, and some good monuments in, and around, the church.

REFERENCES: Notes by F.C. Elliston Erwood in Arch. Cant. 59 (1946), 1-2 (and plan of 1927). Also by G.R. Glynne Notes on the Churches of Kent (1877), 130, and Hasted IX (1800), 348-9.

Guide book: Leaflet by Margaret Smith (n.d.)

Plans & drawings: Plan in Elliston Erwood (above).

DATES VISITED: 26th November 1991                               REPORT BY: Tim Tatton-Brown

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