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Churches Committee
Kent Churches - Architectural & Historical Information

St Lawrence Church, Mereworth   TQ 6603 5373,
                                                                                earlier site c. TQ 668 533

Tim Tatton-Brown's Survey 1994

LOCATION: The present church of 1744-6 is c. mile north-west of the original church, which was just behind the west pavilion of Mereworth Castle.

DESCRIPTION: Brand new church on new site (see above) of 1744-6, built for the Earl of Westmorland (architect unknown). It is like a Roman basilica with lines of columns inside, and a porch of Tuscan columns, like an apse, on the west.

Above and in the west end is a small tower, with above it a fine slender octagonal spire, which can be seen from miles around. There are clock faces at the base of the spire, and some fine neighbouring urns on the corners of the tower.

This church has been well-described in many places (including the two guides available in the church), and it is not my intention here to repeat this.

The church (particularly the tower & spire) were repaired in 1946 after War damage.

BUILDING MATERIALS: (Incl. old plaster, paintings, glass, tiles etc.): Ragstone blockwork walls with fine Tunbridge Wells sandstone quoins, window jambs, columns, spire etc.

EXCEPTIONAL MONUMENTS IN CHURCH: Brass (part lost) of Sir John de Mereworth (ob. 1366) under canopy (cf. Cobham). Also another brass to William Shosmyth (ob. 1479) - taken from earlier church. Also wall monument in recess with brass on Bethersden marble to Sir Thomas Nevell (ob. 1542). Opposite is a huge monument (built 1639 in old church) to Sir Thomas and Lady Mary Fane. There is another 16th century tomb to 3rd or 4th Lord Bergavenny.

Also old chest on N.E. side of church.

Size & Shape: Rectangular area around church with large extension to south (of c. 19th cent) which is terraced down hillside. A large number of small ? footstones have been laid flat in paths around the church.

Condition: Good

Present Burial: Open (est. per yr: a few) North part + S.E. part still in use for burial
Maintained by parish/local authority:
Boundary walls: Ragstone block wall with regular pilasters and ? T. Wells sandstone coping.

Building in churchyard or on boundary: Small ugly modern boiler house (+ oil tank) immediately south of church. Modern large wooden shed in S.E. part of churchyard.

Exceptional monuments: Some fine headstones around church

Ecological potential: Churchyard contains fastigiate yews + variegated holly trees.

HISTORICAL RECORD (where known):
Earliest ref. to church: Domesday Book (1086)

Late med. status: Rectory

Patron: Priory at Tonbridge (Black Canons) - from late 12th cent. to 1525, then Cardinals College, Oxford till 1529, then to Lord Abergavenny, Fanes, Lord le Despencer.

Other documentary sources: Hasted V (1798), 87-90.

But below ground deposits must remain at the earlier site.

The church and churchyard: An exceptionally fine mid. 18th century church on a new site, well away from the original site. The earlier (medieval) church was close to Mereworth Castle, and has been demolished, though no doubt there are below ground remains.

The wider context: This is an exceptionally rare, for Kent, new mid-18th century church built in a classical/baroque style.

Guide Books: Short guide by Jeremy Lowe (n.d.) and longer guide by Andrew Wells (1983)

DATE VISITED:  31/5/91 + 16/5/92 + 12/10/93 + 11/1/94         REPORT BY: Tim Tatton-Brown

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Kent Archaeological Society December 2011

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