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Churches Committee
Kent Churches - Architectural & Historical Information

 St Mary Church, Patrixbourne         TR 1895 5516

Tim Tatton-Brown's Survey 1993

LOCATION: Situated to the west of centre of the (later) village near the Court Lodge, with Bifrons (now demolished) not far to the north-west. The park was immediately beyond the churchyard on the west with its own gate. It is at c. 70ft above OD on Head brickearth (over chalk) with the road and Nailbourne to the south-east.

DESCRIPTION: The coursed whole flints in the west wall of the nave of this church suggest that its earliest fabric may date from the late 11th/early 12th century, though there is no certain evidence for this. A church is mentioned in Domesday Book (1086), so the nave of this church (or the west end of the nave) may well be the early Norman one.
   This church is well-known because of its fine late 12th century south doorway under an unusual contemporary south tower-porch. There is also a fine wheel-window in the east gable of the chancel of the same date, as is the chancel arch and other windows in the chancel. The church and particularly the late 12th century features have been discussed and described in various articles (see references below), so will only be briefly described here. As usual, it is Livetts' paper of 1909 (though unfortunately the outside walls were almost completely covered in ivy at that time), and the brief notes of Stuart Rigold (1970) that are most useful for the building history. The various 19th century rebuildings (in c. 1824, 1849 and 1857), however, complicate matters.
   As Stuart Rigold suggests, the church was perhaps rebuilt in the 1190s as a cell for the Augustinian canons of Merton Priory, Surrey. The elaborate chancel and the lean-to south aisle, straddled by the tower-porch were both built at about this time, no doubt for the canons (as well as parochial) use. Externally the chancel has been heavily restored with knapped flint and Bathstone, but the general form of all the windows on a string-course must be original, as is the small late 12th century south doorway with scalloped capitals and chevron mouldings. However early 19th century views show the south-east chancel window with 2-lights with trefoiled heads (?13th century), cutting the string-course. There is also a late 13th century piscina below it (and an aumbry) inside the chancel. The simple roof trusses over the chancel are also of later medieval date.
   As Livett has ably shown, the tower porch on the south was originally flanked by a contemporary aisle on either side with a shed roof, probably continuing the line of the nave roof. There is external evidence for this at the west end of the aisle, where the lower part of the wall can still be seen to be original. There is also an original west window, and the lower part of a blocked south window (a new two-light window was inserted in the 15th century when the aisle wall was heightened. The heavy knapped flint gable on the west is 19th century. As Livett has also suggested, there was probably a similar aisle on the east side of the tower, but this was completely replaced in the 15th century when the new chapel of ?St John was built.
   The tower itself is a fine late-12th century structure with a magnificent monumental decorated south doorway, last restored in 1939, when the flanking brick sloping buttresses were removed, and ties were put in. The upper part of the squat tower has a string-course with, above it, small round belfry windows. There is a later medieval shingled spire on top of it, and a 19th century clock inside (with south clock face). Beneath the tower, there is an original half-round arch into the south-west aisle, and simple pointed arches (?13th century) into the nave and south-east chapel. The chancel arch is also late 12th century but the arcades were replaced by Scott in 1857. A plain late 12th century north doorway to the nave (and the decorated window to the west on it) were reset in the north wall of the c. 1824 north aisle.
   The church underwent a major rebuilding in the 15th century when a five-bay crown-post roof was put on the nave, and a 3-light perpendicular window, with its new gable above, was put into the west wall (below it are traces of a filled-up earlier west doorway). Two western buttresses, with plinths, were added, and, as we have seen, the south-west aisle was heightened and given a new 2-light south window with a square hood-mould. The south-east chapel was also rebuilt at this time, but this may be a rebuilding of an earlier rebuilding. The east window of this chapel replaced a simpler perpendicular window with a square hood-mould in the 19th century when the fireplace and chimney flue above (in the gable) were put into the Conyngham `pew'. This chapel has a tomb recess in its south wall, and externally there are two south buttresses and a continuous plinth, but it too has been heavily restored and refaced externally (and given a new roof). There is a squint into the chancel from this chapel, and a reused 12th century niche in the south-east corner.
   The fine south door is 17th century (restored in the 19th century).
   The north aisle was built in c. 1824 and has triple course of buff-bricks half way up, and reused Caenstone quoins; also cement render around the windows, and some reused windows and doorway (see above). The chancel was restored by Mr Marshall of Canterbury in 1849, when the triple east windows and the south doorway were reopened. (Fine 16th-17th century glass was then put into the windows, and the Conyngham vault was made beneath the chancel. Finally (Sir) Gilbert Scott was brought in, in 1857 to restore the whole church, and he created new arcades in the nave, paid for by the Conynghams. (The screen at the west end of the nave was originally from behind the 19th century high altar - was it first a Rood screen?)
   In 1939, the brick buttresses were removed, and metal ties were put into the tower.

BUILDING MATERIALS (Incl. old plaster, paintings, glass, tiles etc.): The west wall has coursed whole flints, and all the late 12th century work is in fine quality Caenstone, with Ragstone quoins being used in the 15th century for quoins, etc.

There are some brick repairs, but much 19th century knapped flintwork with Bathstone dressings. The east quoins of the chancel appear to be of Tunbridge Wells sandstone, as well as the original Caenstone.

EXCEPTIONAL MONUMENTS IN CHURCH: Various Conyngham monuments of the 19th century.

Size & Shape: Rectangular area to south and west of church with small 19th century extensions to south and west.

Condition: Good

Boundary walls: 19th century iron-railings and low flintwall to road on south east.

Exceptional monuments: Some good 18th century headstones and memorials.

Ecological potential: ? Yes, but mostly now neatly mown. Line of fastigiate yews from south door to iron gate into Bifrons grounds. [It is worth noting that on 19th December 1668 (according to the Registers) the vicar had some Ash trees planted in the churchyard, to replace two very old rotten ash trees.]

HISTORICAL RECORD (where known):
Earliest ref. to church: Doomsday Book, where it is just called Bourne.

Evidence of pre-Norman status (DB, DM, TR etc): Possibly an early Minster church; it had the Chapelry of Bridge attached to it after the Norman Conquest.

Late med. status: Vicarage, appropriated from 1258, with the Chapelry of Bridge attached to it.

Patron: Given by the Lord of the Manor to Beaulieu Priory (near Rouen in Normandy) c. 1190. In c. 1410 it was transferred to Merton Priory in Surrey. After the Dissolution to the crown. Then to the owners of Bifrons.

Other documentary sources: Hasted IX (1800), 284-6. Test. Cant. (E Kent, 1907), 245 mentions lights of Our Lady and the Holy Cross; also the chapel of St John (? that on the south east).

Finds within 0.5km: Pagan Anglo-Saxon cemetery on the higher ground _ mile to the south.

Inside present church: Good.

Outside present church: Good, except ? disturbed on the north by new aisle.

Quinquennial inspection (date/architect): JUNE 1993 A Clague

The church and churchyard: An important church because of its late 12th century rebuilding with high quality sculpture. It was, however, over-restored in the 19th century (and given a new north aisle in c. 1824). There was a major rebuilding in the 15th century when the nave was rebuilt along with the south east chapel.

The wider context: One of a small group of churches in East Kent showing high quality later 12th century architectural sculpture.

REFERENCES: Note by S Rigold Arch J 126 (1970), 214-5 + plan. Note by G M Livett Arch J 86 (1930), 316-7 + plan. W A Scott Robertson `Patricksbourne Church, and Bifrons' Arch. Cant. 14 (1882), 169-184 (with list of vicars). G M Livett `Architectural notes on Patrixbourne church? Arch. Cant. 28 (1909), 305-310. S R Glynne Notes on the Churches of Kent (1877), 26-7 (He visited before 1849).

Guide book: Recent leaflet (undated and anon) - not very accurate.

Plans and early drawings: Early 19th century view from SE in V+A Museum (nave is covered in ivy). Also Petrie view from SE in 1807 (No Ivy!). Also engravings of Norman doorways in Antiquarian Itinerary, Vol VI.

DATE VISITED: 22nd August 1993                                        REPORT BY: Tim Tatton-Brown

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