Saints Church, Petham
TR 1305 5123
DIOCESE: HISTORICAL AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL SURVEY
Tim Tatton-Brown's Survey 1994
LOCATION: Situated south-east of the village, and less than ¼ mile
south of the Courtlodge at c. 230 feet above O.D. The church is
about ½ mile west of Stone Street, which runs north 4 miles to
Canterbury. It lies on the Upper Chalk hillside, with above it, on
higher ground, large areas of clay-with-flints.
DESCRIPTION: This church was unfortunately gutted by fire on 28th
March 1922, and as a result it has completely new nave and south aisle
roofs of 1922-3. The south arcade was also completely rebuilt at this
The earliest visible remains are in the north wall of the
nave where herringbone flint work can be seen. This perhaps suggests a
date for the eastern two-thirds of the nave of the late 11th or early
Above the 13th century north door into the nave, a fine
mid-12th century round-headed arch has been uncovered. It is decorated
with chevron work. The inner jambs to this doorway are made with
diagonally-tooled blocks, also suggesting a 12th century date, and
this doorway (and no doubt other features) was perhaps put in not long
after the church was given to St. Osyth's Priory in Essex.
At the very end of the 12th century, or in the early
years of the 13th century, the nave was extended westwards (presumably
due to population increase in the parish), and a contemporary tower
was constructed on the south-west. On the lower east face of the
tower, the scar for a low sloping roof can also be seen, suggesting
that a smaller south aisle was first built as this time. The tower has
simple pointed arches into both this aisle and the west end of the
extended nave. It also has simple lancets in its west and south walls.
Unfortunately all of the lower external walls of the tower have been
rended. There is, however, another early lancet on the north side of
the nave, and this has Reigate stone jambs (with some cement repairs).
The masonry around this window is contemporary, and contrasts with the
herringbone masonry further east. Some of the original Caenstone
quoins of the extreme north-east corner of the nave also survive. Two
painted roundels were found inside the west doorway, on either side,
In the later 13th century the chancel and south aisle
were both rebuilt on a much larger scale. The chancel was given four
lancets on either side and two in the east wall. Only on the south
wall, which is rendered externally, have some of these windows
subsequently been replaced. In the north wall the fine row of four
tall lancets survives with Reigate stone jambs (and many later tile
and cement repairs - of c. 1923). These windows still contained
some of their original stained glass until the early 19th century.
Some of this glass can now be seen in Canterbury Cathedral (see
Councer - op.cit. below). Also in the north wall of the
chancel, nearly at its west end, is a small contemporary doorway with
a frieze all around it of four-petalled flowers (cf some of the Henry
of Eastry work at Canterbury Cathedral).
Inside the chancel there are two piscinas in the south
wall. That on the east has a simple 'blind' trefoiled block as its
top, and there is a bar stop on the east chamfer. The seven-canted
trussed rafter roof may also be late 13th century. It was not burnt in
the 1922 fire, and was restored in 1923. The chancel arch springing
from octagonal corbels, may also be contemporary; it has pyramid stops
on its west side, however, and this may indicate a slightly later
The rebuilding of the south aisle probably took place at
about the same time as the reconstruction of the chancel. It also has
two tall eastern lancets, though its south wall windows were replaced
later. Inside the South aisle, there is a continuous internal
moulding, and a late 13th century piscina (with shelf above) in the
south-east corner. Before the 1922 fire, there was an arcade with
octagonal piers (shown in early photographs). This may have been late
13th or 14th century, but it appears already to have been replaced in
the 1857 restoration.
During the earlier 14th century, two two-light windows
were inserted into the south wall of the chancel, as well as another
into the east end of the south wall of the south aisle. These have
unfortunately been heavily restored externally and contain Y-tracery
in Bath stone, as well as some Portland stone repairs. Only a little
of the original Caen and Ragstone jambs survive.
At the west end of the nave is a Ragstone doorway with a
two-centred arch and hood over it, and above this a two-light early
Perpendicular window (with hood), above which the top of an earlier
lancet can been seen. This west window and doorway were perhaps put in
in the late 14th century.
The two two-light square-headed windows on the north side
of the nave, as well as the three two light windows in the south side
of the south aisle are all heavily restored externally in Bath and
Portland stone. They must, however, have been inserted in the late
15th century. There was also a perhaps late medieval porch on the
north side but this was replaced by the present porch in the later
19th century, probably in 1857 when the main restoration took place.
The chancel contains late 17th century altar-rails with turned
The top of the tower, which has an embattled parapet, was
completely rebuilt in red brick in 1760 (dated in a panel on its west
face with the name 'W. FORD C.W.'. It contains six bells. As we have
already seen much external repair was also done in the later 18th and
19th centuries. The major restoration was carried out in 1857.
BUILDING MATERIALS: (Incl. old plaster, paintings, glass, tiles etc.):
The Norman nave was of coursed whole flint with Caenstone used for the
north door. The c. 1200 western extension also used flint with
Caen and Reigate stone dressings, and the late 13th century lancets
all originally had Reigate stone jambs. In the later medieval period,
Caenstone as well as some Ragstone is used.
18th century repairs in red brick (tower), while Portland and Bath
stone was used for the 19th century restorations. In the early 20th
century more conservative repairs were done with small tiles and
13th century glass from the chancel still survives at Canterbury
EXCEPTIONAL MONUMENTS IN CHURCH: Some quite good wall monuments - see
list in Newman. In the east gable of the chancel and west gable of the
nave are two reused later medieval discoid grave-markers (recorded by
Ben Stocker). There are also two on-end later medieval grave-slabs
under the north tower arch.
CHURCHYARD AND ENVIRONS:
Size & Shape: Rectangular, with flint and brick wall around -
buttressed on steep W. side (and collapsed/collapsing on S.W.) Newer
extension to south outside walled area (? early 20th century).
Apparent extent of burial: Burial in churchyard mentioned in wills
Present Burial: Burial now in new S. extension - also cremations here.
Boundary walls: around original churchyard - ? 18th century
Earthworks: adjacent: some terracing in hillside in field to W. below
church ? old house/garden platform.
HISTORICAL RECORD (where known):
Earliest ref. to church: Two churches mentioned in DB (Petham and ?
Evidence of pre-Norman status (DB, DM, TR etc.): Paid 28d. Chrism in
DM with Waltham ('Wealtham et Pytham 28d.')
Late med: Vicarage, endowed in 1226 - united with Waltham in 1698.
Patron: Archbishop, then given by him to St. Osyth's Priory (Essex) in
1114, where it remained till Dissolution. Then briefly Crown and Abp.,
then to private hands.
Other documentary sources: See Hasted IX (1800), 317-9. Test. Cant
(E.Kent, 1907), 246-6 mentions 'To the amending of the Bells, and to
the Steeple, 20d? 1484. Also the Rood (Holy Cross) light, and lights
to Our Lady, All Souls, St. George, St. James, St. John, St.
Katherine, St. Margaret, and St. Nicholas.
Reused materials: Two reused medieval gravestones at apex of west
gable, and at apex of chancel gable.
SURVIVAL OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL DEPOSITS:
Inside present church: ? Good
Outside present church: ? Good, but drainage channel around outside of
chancel and south aisle. (However there is much build up, in the
graveyard, of soil).
Quinquennial inspection (date\architect): OCTOBER 1990 Mervyn Gulvin
ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND HISTORICAL ASSESSMENT:
The church and churchyard: A Norman nave, with remains of chevron
decorated north doorway, extended westwards c. 1200. At the
same time a south-west tower and small south aisle were added. The
chancel and south aisle were rebuilt on a larger scale in the later
13th century with many tall lancet windows. Several two-light windows
were inserted into the walls in the 14th and 15th centuries. The tower
upper stage was rebuilt in 1760, and a major restoration was
undertaken in 1857.
The wider context: One of a group of churches in the area with all
major building works being done in the 12th and 13th centuries.
The survival of 13th century glass from the church is a great rarity.
REFERENCES: C.R. Councer, 'The ancient glass from Petham Church now in
Canterbury Cathedral', Arch. Cant. 56 (1952), 167-170.
Photographs: Two pre-1922 photos are framed and placed on the south
wall of the south aisle towards the west end (an internal and external
Plans & early illustrations: Petries view from the N.W. (1808)
shows an earlier (? timber-framed) porch.
DATE VISITED: 5th September 1992 & 11th February
1994 REPORT BY: Tim Tatton-Brown