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Churches Committee
Kent Churches - Architectural & Historical Information

 St Magdalene Church, Monkton          TR 279 653

Tim Tatton-Brown's Survey 1993

LOCATION: In the south-west part of the Isle of Thanet at c. 50 feet above O.D. and just north of the Wantsum Channel. Ancient main route across the southern part of Thanet runs immediately north of the church, and Monkton Court was just to the south.

DESCRIPTION: The large manor of Monkton in the western part of the Isle of Thanet was given to Christ Church, Canterbury in the late Anglo-Saxon period. Two churches are documented here in Domesday Book (1086), and one of these was probably on the site of the present church.
   The only evidence for an early Norman church in the present fabric, however, is the reused Quarr stone in the broken-off wall fragment at the north-west corner of the nave. It seems likely, therefore, that the west wall of the nave may contain part of the early Norman church. The same may be true for the nave south wall, but this is now completely covered in render.
   High up in the south-east side of the nave south wall is a, now-blocked round-headed 12th century window. The east side of the top of a similar window was visible on the south-west side of the chancel until covered by new render a few years ago. There was also some evidence to suggest two more blocked 12th century windows on the north and south sides of the chancel at the east end. There is also a 12th century piscina in the church. The large nave and chancel which has eastern Caenstone quoining, must, therefore, date from the 12th century at the latest; there is a similar long Norman nave at the nearby church of St. Nicholas-at-Wade.
   In the very late 12th century, the area of the nave was greatly increased by making a north aisle along the whole of the north side. The five bays of (now-blocked) arcade for this are still visible in the nave north wall, and some of the mouldings at the top of the rectangular piers can just be made out.
   The wide chancel arch is also late 12th century, with semi-circular responds, and scalloped capitals (a head on the southern one) and spurred water-holding bases.
   The square western tower was perhaps added in the late 12th century or early 13th century. It is unbuttressed and has a plain pointed arch into the nave, and is of three stages with string-courses between each stage (the bottom stage is slightly larger in area). In the lowest two stages, there were lancets on the north, south and west sides. These are now blocked on the north and south sides and the single lancet on the west has been renewed in Bath stone. Above this a small rectangular window has been inserted. The west doorway with continuous mouldings and hood-mould is very worn indeed. The tower has Ragstone side-alternate jambs at the base (? replacements) and then Caenstone quoins above. The top stage of the tower has pairs of trefoiled lancets on all sides, with the bottom parts of the windows blocked. They perhaps date from the early 14th century. The plain parapet above a moulded string-course is of small flint pebbles and was perhaps added in the 15th century (behind it is a lead roof).
   No other early features (ie. before the major late-medieval rebuilding) area visible. Unusually there was no 13th century rebuilding of the chancel, or adding of chapels.
   In the very late 14th or early 15th century, no doubt as a result of Black Death depopulation, the north aisle was demolished and the church was rebuilt. The north arcade was filled up and a north porch was built, and the church was given a uniform new fenestration. There are three equally spaced two-light windows on either side of the nave, and one on each side of the western part of the chancel. All are in an early Perpendicular style with rounded rere-arches. The east window is larger with three lights.
   At this time also, the nave and chancel were reroofed with crown-post roofs on slightly chamfered tie-beams.
  There is also a stoup just inside the north door (on the east), and a, now-blocked, small south door.
   The church contains a 17th century communion table, as well as an early 17th century (hexagonal in plan) pulpit. There are also three 17th century bells (of 1615 and 1633 by Joseph Hatch and 1661 by Thomas Palmer).
   Edward Hasted mentions 'a very ancient spiral staircase of wood' in the tower, and twelve stalls in the chancel 'used formerly by the clergy and the monks when they visited this place'. Glynne also mentions an octagonal font 'cased in wood', and an organ in a west gallery.
   In 1860-1 the church was restored by C. A. Beazley, and most of the fittings inside are of this date (though the font was perhaps added a bit later). The chancel floor was raised quite a lot (see Piscina nearly at floor level), and a vestry was made under the tower behind the organ. The north porch was also rebuilt, and outer doors were inserted.

BUILDING MATERIALS: (Incl. old plaster, paintings, glass, tiles etc.): Quarr from early Norman church, with flint and Thanet-beds sandstone for the tower early work (the nave + chancel mostly covered in render). Caenstone and Ragstone for quoins. In the late 14th/15th century rebuilding, small rounded flint pebbles are used, and some other materials (including Purbeck marble) are reused. Bath stone was used for the 1860 restoration.

One medieval stained glass frag. (leopard) at top of east window, as well as 'some scraps' in the south side of the chancel.

EXCEPTIONAL MONUMENTS IN CHURCH: Brass of priest in mass vestments with missing inscription (? John Spicer, vicar ob. 1460).

Size & Shape: Large rectangular area around church

Condition: Good, except ivy being allowed to grow up church walls; recent burials to N.E. of church.

Boundary walls: Brick etc. - 19th century - Rotting stocks, outside churchyard wall to N.E.

Building in churchyard or on boundary: Row of houses along N. boundary wall, west of gate.

Exceptional monuments: Two early 19th century table tombs of the Denne family are listed Grade II, also a Smith family tomb - all north of the church.

Ecological potential: ? Good, with some trees around the edge.

HISTORICAL RECORD (where known):
Earliest ref. to church: Domesday Book, where two churches are mentioned - the other Acol (Woodchurch) or Birchington, which were its dependant chapels.

Evidence of pre-Norman status (DB, DM, TR etc.): ? One of two 'Minster' churches (the other Minster) in the Isle of Thanet.

Late med. status: Vicarage, endowed in 1377. It was appropriated in the late 12th century, but became a Rectory again a few years later. It was then appropriated again in c. 1366 to the Cathedral almonry.

Patron: Christ Church Priory, Canterbury - then Dean + Chapter after the Dissolution, later the Archbishop.

Other documentary sources: Hasted (2nd ed) X, 258-64.

Reused materials: Early Norman Quarr stone on N.W. corner of nave.

Inside present church: ? Good (chancel floor buried in 1860).

Outside present church: Good, except where cut by deep drainage trench along N. side.

To structure: Chancel external wall re-rendered. Tiled nave and chancel roofs and tower lead roof all renewed in 1988-9 (after Great Storm).

Quinquennial inspection (date\architect): October 1991/M. O'Connor

The church and churchyard: Possibly the site of a late Anglo-Saxon church, rebuilt in the late 11th century. A large Norman nave and chancel, with an added west tower of c. 1200. The late 12th century north aisle was demolished in c. 1400 when the church was rebuilt with new windows and roofs.

The wider context: An early 'Minster' site with daughter chapels at Birchington and Woodchurch.

REFERENCES: Arch. Cant., 269-282, Revd. E.H. Maclachlan, 'Monkton Manor and Church'. S. Glynne, The Churches of Kent (1877), 34-5.

Photographs: The Norman piscina is depicted in F. Bond, The Chancel of English Churches (1916), 150.

Plans & early drawings: Petrie view from N.W. (early 19th cent.)

DATE VISITED: 11th October 1993                            REPORT BY: Tim Tatton-Brown

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