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

Churches Committee
Kent Churches - Architectural & Historical Information

 St Mary & St Ethelburga Church, Lyminge   TR1610 4085

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 ? 18th century).

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 chancel.

Size: Greatly extended to the west and south-west in the late 19th + 20th century.

Shape: Rectangular.

Condition: Good.

Boundary walls: On N. + E. with part of original (pre-mid 19th century) boundary wall on west, cut through in 1860's for dig/extension.

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 (above doorway).

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.

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.

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 century alterations/additions.

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 1991.                     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