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Kent Churches - Architectural & Historical Information

St Nicholas Church, Newington next Hythe  TR 1826 3738

Tim Tatton-Brown's Survey 1996

LOCATION: Situated on the Folkestone sands at c. 210 feet above O.D. at the southern end of a small village with Forstal farm immediately to the west.

DESCRIPTION: Though a church is mentioned in Domesday Book (1086), there is no evidence in the fabric of the present church of an Anglo-Saxon, or an early Norman church. The present building started as an early 12th century nave and chancel, and this perhaps fits the dedication (St. Nicholas was brought to Bari, Otaly from Myra), and the historical evidence of the church being given to the Abbess and Convent of Guines in c. 1130.
   A simple two-celled structure was probably built at about this time of the local Kentish Ragstone, with Ragstone block quoins. The round-headed chancel arch, and the blocked south doorway are original features and the dressings are apparently of Caen stone.
   In the early 13th century a lean-to to north aisle and a north-east (probably from the beginning, a Lady) chapel were built contemporaneously, after making three pointed- arches in the north wall of the nave, and a single arch in the north chancel wall. A pointed arch also connects the aisle of the chapel, and all these arches have Ragstone dressings with comb-chisel tooling. The simple north doorway with a Ragstone pointed arch with a continuous chamfer is also 13th century, though the two round-headed windows in the north-aisle wall appear to be reset and restorations (they were reopened, and are rectangular inside). The north-east chapel has two early 13th century lancets on the north, as well as the north jamb of one of the original east windows. This was replaced in the late 13th century by the present 3-light east window with decorated tracery. The pair of lancets in the east wall of the chancel are also apparently 13th century replacements for the original windows, and there appears to have been a narrow doorway (now blocked) on the south-west side of the chancel. It seems likely that the original
chancel was heavily rebuilt in the early 13th century.
   The font in the north aisle, with a round bowl on 5 shafts, may also be 13th century in origin. It had a late medieval timber cover until the late 19th century.
   In the early 14th century, the nave of the church appears to have been extended westwards with the thicker walls (really a high plinth on the south). A trefoil-headed was added on the south, and a new west doorway was put in. Unfortunately the whole of the upper part of the west wall has been rebuilt (in 1907), and only the relieving arch survives of the 14th century west doorway. The inserted round-headed (`Norman') west doorway is clearly a modern structure. The west wall also perhaps indicates that there was originally a west buttress at the west end of the nave north wall (now gone).
   This extension westwards of the nave may have been for a tower, but it was never completed, and instead a timber-framed belfry was out into the roof. This is on four `large posts and is behind the organ.
   The present shingled belfry, with its ogeed cap, was rebuilt in 1907, and the following year the five bells were rehung, and a sixth bell was added (according to an inscription in the church). The north-west vestry, which has a buff brick north-west quoin was also perhaps built at this time, as was presumably the north porch.
   Two trefoil-headed windows were put into the south side of the chancel in the early 14th century, but these have heavy external repairs in cement. There is also a trefoil-headed squint from the Lady Chapel into the chancel.
   In the 15th century two Perpendicular windows were put into the south side of the nave. A three-light window on the west, and a two light window on the east with a square hood-mould. At the south-east corner of the nave was a tall low window (perhaps originally with a transom), but the lower part is blocked, and the upper part is totally restored.
   A fine hexagonal late 15th century pulpit is in the south-east corner of the nave, but this was probably converted from the font-cover in the late 19th century.
   Until the late 19th century, and mentioned by Glynne, there was a gallery pew for the Brockman family in the arch of the north-west side of the nave. All the roofs seem to have been remade in the 19th century, and the two east gables built up with a stone coping.

BUILDING MATERIALS: (Incl. old plaster, paintings, glass, tiles etc.):
The church is mostly made of the local Ragstone rubble, Caen stone was used for the early 12th century dressings. The 13th century blocked doorway on the south side of the chancel appears to have some Reigate stone jambs, as well as Caen and Ragstone. From the 13th century all the other main dressings are of well-cut Ragstone.

For the restoration, local Ragstone, as well as some Bathstone was used, also some buff bricks.

Various late 15th century - early 16th century brasses.

Size & Shape: Irregular area around church

Condition: Good.

Boundary walls: Rag rubble with brick capping on west (? 19th century)

Ecological potential: Yes. There is one very large and ancient yew tree immediately north-
west of the church.

HISTORICAL RECORD (where known):
Evidence of pre-Norman status (DB, DM, TR, etc.): -Earliest ref. to church: Domesday Book has a church at `Neventon'. 

Late med. status: Vicarage, and united to Cheriton Rectory in 1771.

Patron: From c. 1130 - 1439 , the Abbess and convent of Guines (France) and appropriated
to them. Then from 1439 to the dissolution to Wye College. Since then in private hands till
1958 to the Archbishop.

Other documentary sources: Hasted VIII (1799) 207 -210. Test. Cant. (East Kent 1907) 230-1 mentions the churchyard from 1465, the reparation of the church (1501), various lights, the 'Chancel of Our Lady' (ie. Northchapel) (1471). T.S. Frampton's carefully documented list of vicars, with extensive notes is on the north wall of the church, by the door.

Finds from church\churchyard: One late medieval grave-marker is in the north-east chapel.

Finds within 0.5km: Large scale excavations to the north-east, in the early 1990s, before Channel Tunnel construction work started by the Canterbury Archaeological Trust.

Inside present church: ? Good.

Outside present church: Good - ground level around church much raised, but c. 3 feet
drainage slots along north and south walls.

To structure: Nave + N. porch reroofed 1958.

Quinquennial inspection (date\architect): -

The church and churchyard: A small early 12th century nave and chancel, with north-east Lady Chapel and north aisle added in the early 13th century. The nave seems to have been extended westwards in the early 14th century and contains a timber-framed bell turret, with a lead-covered ogeed cupola over it.

REFERENCES: E.W. Parkin, `The church of St Nicholas', Arch. Cant. 103 (1986), 171-3 + Rough inaccurate plan.

Guide Book: Brief undated leaflet by S.W. Molyneux - not very accurate.

Plans & drawings: Sketch plan is guide. View from S.E. in 1806 by Petrie in K.A.S. Library.

DATES VISITED: 20th June 1996                 REPORTED BY: Tim Tatton-Brown

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