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Churches Committee
Kent Churches - Architectural & Historical Information

 St Mary the Virgin Church, Postling         TR 1455 3910

Tim Tatton-Brown's Survey 1992

LOCATION: Immediately N.W. of Postling Court, on N.W. side of (post-medieval) village at 325 ft above O.D., the church is situated on coombe deposits just below the North Downs and above the Gault Clay. The East Stour rises at springs just S. + W. of the church.

DESCRIPTION: The nave and the western half of the chancel date from the late 11th century, having rag, ironstone and flint masonry, much of it laid 'herringbone'. The nave quoins and south and west door jambs and chancel arch piers are in Quarr stone. The original east quoins of the chancel are in rough ironstone blocks. There is an original round-headed window on the N. side of the nave also with external quoins in Quarr. The blocking for another original window on the south side of the original chancel may also be seen and ? also a blocked window above the S. nave porch. In the 13th century lancets were inserted at the west end of the chancel and on the S. side of the nave; also a new S. nave door. A small western tower with W. facing buttresses was also added. This is of ragstone rubble and has small lancets half way up on the S. + W. walls; also a 2-centred W. doorway with a half-roll around it. (The upper part of the tower was added is 1852 -see below). It was originally of wood according to Glynne. The two-centred chancel arch (above original jambs) is also 13th century with only simple chamfered rag voussoirs. The unique dedication stone (on wall of N. side of chancel) is probably 12th/13th century.
   In the later 13th century (after it came to St Radigund's Abbey) the chancel was extended eastwards with slightly knapped flint and ironstone/rag. rubble walls, and on edge ragstone quoins. The eastern angle-buttresses may be later additions. The eastern lancet windows have trefoiled heads (totally restored externally in Bath stone) with original ragstone jambs and rear arches with chamfered faces (it still has its original side jambs). The east window was totally renewed in the 19th century, but had 'three trefoiled lancet lights within a pointed arch' according to Glynne (see also Petrie's view from S.E.).
   There is a renewed trefoil-headed (bathstone) piscina in S.E. corner of the chancel. The side jambs and its sink are original. Also a rough trefoiled recess in the N. wall. At the N.E. corner of the nave another ? early 14th century window has a more elaborate moulded rere-arch, mostly in chalk block. There was perhaps a pair to this on the N.W. side of the nave, but it is all renewed (internally and externally) in Bath stone.
   The roofs over the chancel (2 bays) and nave (3 bays) are fine 15th century crown-post affairs. Ceilings were removed and external boarding was added in the 19th century.
   Very unusually the ends of the late 15th century rood beam (on large stone corbels) still survive with a carved and painted west face. A slot at the back indicates a rood loft running back to an offset in the east nave wall at the level of the chancel arch springing. A second 'loft' ran across the middle of the chancel (more stone corbels and a carved beam end on the south survive).
   On the S.E. side of the nave is a two-light perpendicular window with a square hood- mould externally. It has original glazing bars (renewed cill), and internally appears to be set in an earlier pointed-headed window.
   The small square font on five shafts on a Bethersden marble base is restored, but may be 13th century.
   The south porch was rebuilt in 1825 (G.S.C.W. 1825 on stone over doorway), it is now pebble-dashed externally, and the ten commandment boards came in 1828 (George Skeene 1828 on them). They are now on the W. wall of the nave.
   The pairs of lancets at the top of the tower on the N. + S. faces were renewed in 1852 (W.S. 1852 on S.W. cill) and the tower was heightened and given a new shingled spire.
   There was a major restoration in 1896-7 when the external window jambs, eastern buttresses (and N. buttresses) quoins were renewed.
   Vallance's and Livett's articles on the church are an excellent summary of the history of the fabric (see ref. below). Virtually nothing new can be added to this.
   There are 3 bells in the tower, two are pre-Reformation with inscriptions: 'Ora pro nobis, Sancte Petre' and 'Ora pro nobis, Sancte Maria'. They were made by William le Belyetere of Canterbury in the 1320s. The third is by Joseph Hatch of Ulcombe (1623). They were repaired and rehung in 1979 by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry.

BUILDING MATERIALS: The original quoins for the nave (4 external corners, N. window and W.and S. doorways inside, and the plain jambs of chancel arch) are of Quarr stone. There are also Quarr stone abaci blocks at the top of the S. chancel arch pier. Also flint, ironstone and ragstone rubble. The west tower has rag rubble and cut quoins, and some have boring mollusc holes in them (hence quarried on Sandgate foreshore). The inner jambs of the 13th century lancets are partly in chalk block. Some later medieval jambs, etc. in Caen and ragstone.

Later 19th century repairs to masonry in Bath stone. Remains of fine late 12th/13th century wall paintings on S. and W. side of nave.

EXCEPTIONAL MONUMENTS IN CHURCH: A grave-marker (loose) now in piscina niche in S.E. corner of nave. A small fragment of a Medieval tomb slab in the N.E. corner of the chancel.

Oval tablet to Revd. John Agge Stock (ob. 1792) + wife on S. wall of chancel.

Size: Large area all round the church.

Shape: Irregular

Condition: Good

Boundary walls: Some ? 19th cent. ragstone walls on S. and W. sides of churchyard.

Ecological potential: Good - cowslips, etc. and primroses, daffodils.

HISTORICAL RECORD (where known):
Earliest ref. to church: "2 small churches" mentioned in Domesday Book (1086) for Postling + Henewood manors.

Evidence of pre-Norman status (DM, DM, TR etc): None - but ? manorial chapel from late 11th century.

Late med. status: (Vicarage): Appropriated to St Radigund's Abbey by 1384. Vicarage from 13th century (see list of vicars by Revd. T.S. Frampton on N. wall of nave).

Patron: From c. 1250, St Radigund's Abbey (given them by Philip Columbers, 2nd Lord of Postling manor). From 1445, for 2 years, the church served directly by the Abbey. After the Dissolution (1536) the Archbishop.

Other documentary sources: Test. Cant. (1907), 248 mentions "churchyard of St Mary of Postling" (1475) and the light of the Holy Cross (1475 + 1491); also Lights of St/Blessed Mary (1475+91) and St. John-the-Baptist (1475+91). Hasted VIII (1799), 215-8. These lights were perhaps on the 'loft' in the chancel.

Finds from church\churchyard: A few Roman bricks.

Inside present church: ? Good, but one or two burial vaults.

Outside present church: ? Good

To structure: Steel ties binding N. and S. walls of the chancel together at extreme E. end. Some unsuitable repairs to W. quoins of tower (high up) in ? Lepine.

Quinquennial inspection (date\architect): Sept. 1989 - Maureen O'Connor (with rough 1:100 plan + elevations).

The church and churchyard: A fine small late 11th century church with an extended 13th century chancel and small western tower. The church contains a unique ? c. 12th dedicatory inscription, and the carved + painted remains of timber beams (+lofts) in the nave and chancel.

The wider context: One of a group of late 11th cent. new churches in the area made with Quarr stone quoins (cf. Lyminge and Brook).

REFERENCES: See S. Glynne, Churches of Kent (1877), 52-3. Aymer Vallance, "Postling Church" and G.M. Livett "Postling Church: supplemental notes" in Arch. Cant. 30 (1914), 192-202 with good plan, elevation details by W.H. Elgar.

Guide Book: Not very accurate notes (from an article by A.D. Cheney in the Home Counties Magazine (July 1903).

Plans & drawings: Plan in Vallance + Livett (see above) + View from S.E. in 1806 by Petrie.

DATE VISITED: 11th April 1992                                 REPORT BY: Tim Tatton-Brown

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