Mary & St Ethelburga Church, Lyminge TR1610 4085
DIOCESE: HISTORICAL AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL SURVEY
Tim Tatton-Brown's Survey 1991
On a chalk downland slope at the head of Elham Valley. The source of
the Nail Bourne lies a few yards N.E. of the church (and is called St.
Eadburg's well) - it is recorded as being repaired in a will of 1490).
The site of the monastery church of c. 633 lies immediately to the
south of the church, and the Court Lodge was to the west (demolished ?
The earliest part of the existing church must date from after the
Norman conquest. It was perhaps built c. 1080 and is mentioned in
Domesday book and by Goscelin (writing in the late 11th century). The
latter describes the tomb of St. Eadburga (her relics had been in c.
1085 translated to St. Gregory's in Canterbury) as 'eminentius et
augustius monumentum in aquilonali porticu ad australem ecclesiae
parietem arcu involutum'. This must confirm that the original 7th
century church (excavated by Canon Jenkins in the 1860s) was
immediately to the south of the present church with the saints body in
a north porticus that was later (from the 1080s) covered by the south
wall of the present church. There is still an open niche here with a
shallow ironstone + Roman brick arch over it, now with a 19th century
vent in its E. side wall. There is a large slab at the base of the
niche. The original chancel and nave (south wall) is made of rough
coursed masonry (flint ironstone, some Roman brick etc.), some of it
in a 'herribone' form. The chancel E. quoin and the nave S.E. quoin
are of Quarr stone (from the Isle of Wight) which confirms a late 11th
century date. Two original semi-circular headed windows survive in the
north wall of the chancel as well as one in the chancel south wall
(the inner arch of a second window is visible above the east side of a
later perp. window to the east), and one in the nave S. wall above the
door as well as the inner head of another at the west end of the nave
south wall. The windows in the chancel appear originally to have
extended downwards, but were later blocked at the base. The inner
arches of the original windows have (? later) stone jambs in the
middle but Roman brick semi-circular arches above and Roman brick
jambs at the bottom. The smaller outer openings are all of stone.
A north aisle may have been added in the 12th or 13th
century, but there is no direct evidence for this. There is, however,
a frag. of late 12th century foliage carving in the chancel wall above
the south door arch. The buttress north-west corner of the north aisle
(and thicker walls) probably indicate an earlier tower, perhaps of
13th century date. The tops of the buttresses, however, have new brick
weatherings and much of the N. wall is masked externally by the new
vestry and internally by the organ, so it is difficult to confirm 13th
masonry. The small doorways in the north (blocked externally) and
south walls of the chancel were also probably inserted in the 13th
century. There also appears to have been a contemporary vestry to the
north-east of the chancel (Canon Jenkins apparently excavated the
'ancient and deep foundations of large and rudely squared stones' of
its east wall-marked on his plan).
The two three-light windows inserted into the south wall
of the nave have 'decorated' tracery in them, dating from the late
13th century. They are made of Ragstone and have hood-moulds (the
eastern window is heavily restored), with to the east of it much 19th
century refacing of the upper wall.
The new north aisle was apparently added in the 1480s
(Hasted says that the arms of Archbishop Bourchier (died 1486) were in
the east window - they are now in the Norman window over the south
door). It has a fine 3-bay arcade to the nave with four-centred arches
on lozenge-shaped piers (with large circular shafts attached to E. +
W.; also much thinner shafts to the diagonals) - all of well-cut
ragstone. A will of 1511 may suggest that the N. aisle east altar is
dedicated to St. Lawrence (Test. Cant., 204). There are also
three two-light cinquefoil headed windows (with external square
hood-moulds) in the aisle (an east and two north windows), as well as
an external plinth and buttresses. The eastern half of the northern
wall and the east wall were all clearly rebuilt at this time from the
ground. A tall narrow two-light trefoil-headed window was also
inserted into the west wall, probably at the same time, as was the
two-light window (without hood-moulds) at the west end of the north
side of the chancel.
Other late 15th century alterations to the chancel are
the two-light windows in the south wall (with more perpendicular
tracery in the heads) and the three-light east window (with
hood-mould). An unusual diagonal flying buttress was added to support
the S.E. quoin of the chancel (and to allow processions to pass
beneath), and a very wide 4-centred chancel arch was inserted (no
doubt after the demolition of an earlier narrow arch). The chancel
arch springs directly from the side walls (and has no capitals). It
was perhaps built for the new rood-screen and loft. A fragment of the
screen is perhaps now the front of the rector's stall. At the S.E.
corner of the nave a triangular headed door (now blocked with Roman
bricks) perhaps led originally to the roof-loft stair. There appears
to be another filled doorway above. In the nave a new south door and a
very fine queen-and king-post roof were also inserted in the late 15th
century and covered in lead. The roof has moulded tie beams - rafters,
purlins and ridge piece, and was originally of 3 bays with wall posts
on corbels supporting the four tie-beams on the north side. (Extra
trusses were inserted in between during the Victorian restoration, and
many timbers were repaired). The north aisle roof is also probably
late 15th century. A parapet was built around the nave/N. aisle roofs
which post-dates the tower - it butts the S.E. tower buttress.
In the late 15th century, work also started on building a
new west tower (it is mentioned in wills of 1508, when there was
apparently a pause in the work, and 1527). There is a fine tower arch
in well cut ragstone. The west doorway originally has the arms of abp.
Warham (N.) and abp. Morton (S.) in the spandrels. The former is very
worn, while the latter, which apparently also had Morton's Cardinal's
cap (acquired 1493), is totally worn away. Above the west doorway is a
three-light perp. window, but the upper stage above this (the bell
chamber) is of much rougher small rag rubble. The belfry two-light
windows are of poor quality rag with "plate" tracery (6
bells inside). The top is crenellated with a small spirelet on the
roof (this top stage was probably not finished till just before the
Reformation). The diagonal buttresses (including a diagonal buttress
on the S.W. corner of the nave) are of poor quality and almost all the
quoins have been replaced in brick. The tower has a plinth all around
and a semi-octagonal stair-turret on the north. The timber south porch
(very heavily rebuilt may be 15th century in origin. Most of the door
and hinges into the tower stair-turret is original (c. 1500).
Simple Jacobean pulpit.
There was a very heavy Victorian restoration in c. 1860
in which all the Norman windows were reopened, a west gallery for
singing (across the tower arch) was removed, and all the walls were
totally scraped of their plaster (see Glynne (1877) 93-5). As well as
this the nave roof was restored (see above), and the chancel roof was
replaced and covered in blue slates and the tops of the walls rebuilt.
The porch was also rebuilt (it was originally open at the sides - see
Glynne's description). This was carried out by the Rector, the Rev'd.
R. C. Jenkins, who then went on to carry out excavations in the
churchyard (see below).
BUILDING MATERIALS (Incl. old plaster, paintings, glass, tiles etc.):
The Norman nave + chancel has herringbone work in flint, Ragstone,
ironstone (? from Folkstone beds to S.), and some Roman brick. The
early quoins are of Quarr stone. The later work is almost entirely of
Kentish ragstone, though some Caen was also used. The nave and tower/spirelet
were covered in lead (early 16th century), and the chancel in slates
(replacing lead) in c. 1860.
There are a few fragments of early glass - the arms of abp. Bourgchier
(d. 1486) over S. door, and a bishop's head in a S. window of the
CHURCHYARD AND ENVIRONS:
Size: Greatly extended to the west and south-west in the late 19th +
Boundary walls: On N. + E. with part of original (pre-mid 19th
century) boundary wall on west, cut through in 1860's for
Earthworks: within: ? low mounds - ? Canon Jenkins spoilheaps only.
adjacent: To west of churchyard are mounds, terraces, etc., associated
with the demolished Archiepiscopal Court Lodge + farm buildings.
Building in churchyard or on boundary: 1971 vestry on N. side of
church. A 1508 will (Test. Cant.) (1907) 204 says "To the
building of a place within the churchyard 84, where it shall seem best
to the parishioners in which they, after an anniversary or other
times, may hold their drinkings". There is a large 18th century
Rectory immediately to the south.
Exceptional monuments: Some good 18th century tombs.
Ecological potential: Good - chalky subsoil.
HISTORICAL RECORD (where known):
Earliest ref. to church: Domesday Book - Monastery founded in c. 633 -
See also the description by Goscelin (in the 1080's) of the old + new
church: 'a lofty and dignified memorial enclosed by an arch, in the
north porticus, beside the south wall of the church'.
Evidence of pre-Norman status (DB, DM, TR etc.):
7th century monastery - then Minster church (with Stanford,
Paddlesworth, Acrise, Stelling, Stowting, Monk's Horton etc.
attached). - see Dom. Mon. (Stanford and Paddlesworth were still
attached chapels till the 19th century).
Late med. status: Rectory and Vicarage.
Patron: Held by rector from 1776, but earlier the Archbishop was
patron (till 1547) then to King till he gave it to the Archers of
Otterden, etc. There were both rectors (a sinecure) + vicars until the
two were joined in 1776.
Other documentary sources: See Hasted VIII (1799), 78-91.
Reused materials: Roman bricks in A.S. church + Norman church -also a
reused c. 12th century arch. frag. in the S. side of the chancel
Finds from churchyard: - From c. 1860s excavation (then just outside
churchyard on W. and immediately S. of church (? the original 7th
century apsidal church).
Finds within 0.5km: A.S. (c. 6th century) cemys 0.4km. E.S.E. + 0.8km
N.N.E. (see Arch. Cant. 69 (1955), 1-40. Also ? A.S. Cemy. c.
0.5km S.S.E. (see Arch. Cant. 99 (1984), 59-65.
Previous archaeological work (published\unpublished): Excavation in
the 1860s by Canon R.C Jenkins S.+ S.W. of church (see Arch. Cant.
9 (1874), 205-223; ibid (1875), ci-ciii (with plan); ibid 18
(1889), 46-54; also JBAA 43 (1887), 363-9. Jenkins thought he
had a Roman basilica reused in the 7th century for the monastery, and
that the present church was 10th century. For later views see C.R.
Peers in Arch. J.58 (1901), 419-20 + J.T. Micklewaite in Arch.
J.53 (1896) 293-351. Also A.R. Martin in Arch. J.86 (1930),
307-9 and E.C. Gilbert in Arch. Cant. 79 (1964), 143-8, and
H.M.+ J. Taylor A.S. Archit. (1965), 408-9 and H.M. Taylor in Arch.
J. 126 (1970), 257-260. Also notes by C.E. Woodruff and G.M.
Livett in Arch. Cant. 30 (1914), lvi - lix.
SURVIVAL OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL DEPOSITS:
Inside present church: ? Not very good - partly dug into by Jenkins.
Outside present church: Not good, except for in a few places, due to
much grave-digging, and R.C. Jenkins diggings.
To structure: Two new mullions (in unsuitable Weisse stone) were
inserted in the E. window in 1988.
To floors: The chancel floor was raised (by faculty) in 1899 - 1900.
To graveyard: New two-storey vestry added to N. side of N. aisle in
1971. In 1953 levelling is recorded as having taken place in the
churchyard (by faculty). The Garden of Remembrance was installed in
1958, footstones and uninscribed kerbs were removed in 1964.
Quinquennial inspection (date\architect): July 1989 C.F. Northover.
ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND HISTORICAL ASSESSMENT:
The church and churchyard: This is an extremely important site with
its 7th century monastic church and associated buildings. the present
church is also an important early Norman structure, with late 15th
The wider context: The site must count as one of the most important in
Kent for the pre-christian (6th century) A.S. Cemys as well as the c.
633 and later churches. It was almost certainly the site of a very
early Royal vill., at the centre of the "Limen district" (a
"Gau" place name).
REFERENCES: - see previous page (under previous archaeological work).
Guide book: Brief leaflet.
Plans & drawings: Original plan (rolled + heavily varnished) by
Canon Jenkins is at the Rectory. It differs in detail and has more
information than the published plan. There is a sketch of the
excavation of his aspe of the original church from the eastin the
church (Reproduced in Arch. J.126 (1970), op.p.272pl.xx).
Watercolour by H. Petrie from N.W. in c. 1809.
DATES VISITED: September 1991 & October
REPORT BY: Tim Tatton-Brown