Mary Church, Patrixbourne
TR 1895 5516
DIOCESE: HISTORICAL AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL SURVEY
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
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
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
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
CHURCHYARD AND ENVIRONS:
Size & Shape: Rectangular area to south and west of church with
small 19th century extensions to south and west.
Boundary walls: 19th century iron-railings and low flintwall to road
on south east.
Exceptional monuments: Some good 18th century headstones and
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
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
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
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.
SURVIVAL OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL DEPOSITS:
Inside present church: Good.
Outside present church: Good, except ? disturbed on the north by new
Quinquennial inspection (date/architect): JUNE 1993 A Clague
ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND HISTORICAL ASSESSMENT:
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,
DATE VISITED: 22nd August
REPORT BY: Tim Tatton-Brown