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Kent Churches - Architectural & Historical Information

St Catherine Church, Preston near Faversham  TR 0168 6076 

Tim Tatton-Brown's Survey 1994

LOCATION: Now swallowed up in south-east Faversham, and cut off from the town centre by the railway. It is at c.50 ft. above O.D. on Head Brickearth above the Chalk/Thanet Beds boundary. The vicarage is immediately to the west (and has been here for at least 500 years).

DESCRIPTION: As usual the walls of the nave of the church must contain the earliest surviving fabric above ground, though this now only really survives at the west end of the church, and possibly in the south-east and north-east corners. Outside the west wall of the nave at ground level can be seen what is probably the west face of the Romanesque west wall (above this the wall was `recased' in 1857. There are also some (?12th century) Caenstone quoins at the north-west corner. Scott Robertson tells us that when the nave north wall was pulled down in 1866, for the new arcade, `remains of the original Norman windows, high up and widely splayed' were discovered. Other Norman features may have been cut away when the new south arcade was made in 1853-5.
   There was probably an early 13th century south aisle, with an arcade destroyed in 1853-5, but described by Glynne.
   The chancel, which is the same width as the nave, was rebuilt in the later 13th century. It has a fine row of five lancets on the north side (some of which were unblocked in 1866). There were probably a similar number on the south, but only the three eastern ones survive. They all have internal shafts and a moulded string course below. (There is a little stiff-leaf on the easternmost capital of the south lancets.) An internal continuous hood-mould also joins all the windows, and the rere-arch of the east window (the outer part of the east window was redone by George Austin in 1855).
   Other similar lancets were put into the north wall of the nave at about the same time (now relocated, in part, in the 1866 north aisle north wall).
   In the early 14th century, the south aisle was completely rebuilt with a new tower at its east end (it is possible that this tower was first built a little earlier - in the 13th century). At the same time a new chancel arch was built (the plinth for this continues along the north side of the tower), and an external buttress was added on the north side of the chancel arch. The tower also has a high plinth and a major buttress on the south-east side of the tower. The high plinth goes around the top of a south lancet, as a sort of hood-mould. The jambs of this window are partly made of Bethersden marble (as are some of the windows on the north side of the chancel). The fairly narrow chancel arch has corbelled heads under the arch, and in the south-east corner of the nave is a contemporary trefoil-headed piscina. Just to the west of this is the early 14th century doorway (and door) into the vestry under the tower. It has pyramid/brooch stops on it.
   The south aisle itself has three two-light early trefoil-headed windows, with a trefoil in the spandrel above, though the nearly flat roof over it must be later (15th century). It has two decorated panels in it at the extreme east end, with beneath a trefoil-headed piscina (and shelf) in the south-east corner. The west wall of the nave shows traces of two lancets (with chalk block jambs), but these have been cut away by the 3-light 15th century square headed window put here in 1866 (it was taken from the north-east side of the nave). There is also an inserted 14th century doorway at the west end of the nave (with head mould). Above it is a 3-light early Perpendicular window. It is apparently set in an earlier wide arch (visible above it, inside). The north doorway to the church is apparently an early 14th century one (with brooch stops) reset in 1866. The nave roof with double collars, rafters and soulaces may also be 14th century. The chancel roof is behind a plaster ceiling, but it too has a rafter, collar and soulace roof, also perhaps of the 14th century. An ogee-head tomb recess from the north side of the nave (brooch stops) was reset in 1866 in the north aisle.
   The chancel also acquired some very fine additions in the early 14th century. On the south-east is a quite exceptional sedilia and piscina (see Matthiesen op.cit. below), which originally had traces of painting and gilding (according to Glynne), and was restored in c. 1855 by George Austen. He rebuilt the top and partly retooled the surface. At about the same time, a new ogee-headed tomb-recess was made on the north side of the chancel and a fine two-light decorated window was inserted into the south-west side of the chancel. Immediately east of this window are faint traces of a possible blocked doorway (reused fragments in the north side).
   In the 15th century, some stalls were inserted into the west end of the chancel (with eastern `poppy-head' ends), though the return stalls are late 19th century. At about the same time, a way up into the rood loft was made through the north-east tower wall. The sawn off ends of the rood-beam can be seen under the corbelled heads of the chancel arch.
   The major restoration and enlargement of the church came in the mid-19th century. A new east window was made by Austen in c. 1855 and the south arcade was completely rebuilt by Hussey in 1853-5. The north aisle and porch were built in 1866 (there was much expansion of population after the railway came to Faversham in 1858). A new south porch was also made and the tower was given a new upper stage (with pairs of lancets) and a new shingled spire (there had been a shallower brooch spire on the lower tower). A spiral staircase, of flint-faced brick, was added to the external south-east corner of the tower. The eastern (chancel) buttresses and those on the south-west corner were completely rebuilt.

BUILDING MATERIALS: (Incl. old plaster, paintings, glass, tiles etc.): Coursed flint with Reigate and Caenstone dressings were used in the late 13th century chancel as well as some jambs of Bethersden marble (also used in the south tower window). The early 14th century introduces Ragstone (for west doorway etc.) with some chalk block visible inside the south aisle at the west end. The very heavy 19th century restorations have covered the outside of much of the church in heavy knapped flint with Bathstone dressings.

A 13th century stained glass grisaille roundel survives in the north-east lancet, and there are some medieval floor tiles reset in the dais around the high altar.

EXCEPTIONAL MONUMENTS IN CHURCH: Very fine Boyle monument (of 1629) on N.E. side of chancel, of alabaster. Also various other brasses (see description in Scott Robertson, infra), including two 15th century ones in the chancel floor.

Size & Shape: Large rectangular area around churchyard with extension on north to railway line.

Condition: Good.

Boundary walls: 19th century knapped flint and sandstone on west (to Vicarage garden) + brick capping.

Building in churchyard or on boundary: Hasted (op.cit.inf.) 547 tells us that `at the east end of the vicarage-house adjoining to the west end of the churchyard, was a small chapel, now converted into part of the dwelling-house, in the east window of which were painted the figures of St Anthony with his pig, and of St Catherine under whom was the portraiture of the vicar of Preston, J. Sturrey' (?c. early 15th century) - see C R Councer, Lost Glass from Kent Churches (1980), 100.

HISTORICAL RECORD (where known):
Earliest ref. to church: Domesday Book

Evidence of pre-Norman status (DB, DM, TR etc.): The manor (and ?church) was perhaps cut out of the large Royal manor of Faversham int he early 9th century. See G Ward `The topography of some Saxon charters relating to the Faversham district, Arch. Cant. 46 (1934), 123-136.

Late med. status: Vicarage.

Patron: The Archbishop, till in 1341 he exchanged it with Boughton-under-Blean, with Faversham Abbey. It was then appropriated to the Abbey. Then in 1539 to the Crown, and 3 years later to the Dean and Chapter of Canterbury.

Other documentary sources: Hasted VI (1798), 546-9.Test.Cant. (E. Kent, 1907), 249 mentions burial `in the churchyard beside the Palm cross' (1525), as well as lights of the Cross (Rood), Our Lady of Pity (`in the high chancel'),`Old Lady at the belfrey door (a tabernacle, to be made, 1525), and St John. Also an image of St Katherine at the high altar (to be painted, 1512).

Finds from church\churchyard: A later Anglo-Saxon carved fragment (possibly part of a cross-shaft) is kept in the vestry.

Inside present church: ?Good.

Outside present church: Quite good, though there are some drainage gulleys.

Quinquennial inspection (date\architect): 1989 RALPH WOOD

The church and churchyard: Though enlarged and heavily restored in the later 19th century, this church still retains a very fine late 13th century chancel with added early 14th century features, including an exceptional sedilia. There is an early 14th century south aisle and south tower and chancel arch, with 1853-5 south arcade and 1866 north aisle and porch.

The wider context: The finest of a group of exceptionally fine early 14th century sedilia.

REFERENCES: Canon W A Scott Robertson, `Preston Church, next Faversham', Arch. Cant. 21 (1895), 126-134 and `Rectors and Vicars of Preston-by-Faversham', ibid., 135-156.

O. Matthiesen `The stalls in Catherine's Church at Preston', Arch. Cant. 77 (1962), 77-81.

S R Glynne, Churches of Kent (1877), 16-18. (He visited c. 1840 before the restorations.)

Guide Book: By Michael L Taylor (undated, c. 1992).

Photographs: Kent Churches 1954, 112 of the sedilia and piscina. Petrie view from S.E. in 1806. also engravings of 15th century brasses and Boyle tomb in Scott Robertson (op.cit.supra.).

Plans and early drawings: Plan by Joseph Clarke (of c. 1866) behind vestry (under tower) door.

DATE VISITED: 25th March 1994                                REPORT BY: Tim Tatton-Brown

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