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Churches Committee
Kent Churches - Architectural & Historical Information

 Holy Trinity Church, Queenborough         TQ 909 723

Tim Tatton-Brown's Survey 1995

LOCATION: Situated in the centre of the new town created by Edward III in 1368, at only about 20 feet O.D. The site of Queenborough castle is about 300 yards to the south-east. The church is on London Clay just above the marsh level.

DESCRIPTION: The famous round castle of `Russhyndone' was built by Edward III from 1361 -9, and so it would seem unlikely that work on the new parish church (only a `chapel' to Minster-in-Sheppey till the Reformation), in the new town of Queenborough (thus named only from 1367), would started until 1366, at the earliest. However, Royal accounts for 1366-7 (see Kings Works pp. 802-3 ref. below), tell us that John Rokesacre was paid 16 for making the walls of the church, and John Beneyt received 40 shillings `for the steps before the altar in the chancel.' Also Robert Scotland was paid 30 shillings for plastering both church and chancel. Others worked on tracery for the windows, including in the `gable' (? east end), and on the roof and `desks' in the chancel. Work on building the timber-framed houses of the town started at the same time, but after the death of Edward III (1377) the new town seems to have stagnated, though repairs were done to the castle after much earthquake damage in 1382, and also in the later 15th century. The church was therefore built in 1366-7, and the main walls, with its continuous plinth, were all presumably built at this time. The window tracery and upper part of the tower were all, however, rebuilt at a later date (the tower was perhaps never finished in 1366-7 or was damaged in the earthquake). There is a fine original ogee-headed piscina in the chancel. The building is, in plan, a simple rectangle of the three bays, with north and south doorways in the western bay, and a co-terminous tower with diagonal western buttresses beyond that (two further western buttresses were added in 1636 see some documentary evidence for this in Arch. Cant. 15 (1883), 364-6 when money was collected for restoring the tower). The eastern two bays contain tall two-light windows in them, but all the original tracery has gone. There is also a 3-light Perpendicular east window, but this too has been completely restored (lastly in Bathstone in 1885). The tower was perhaps completed in the late 15th century. A Will mentions the work in 1481, and the square-headed two-light windows in the belfry, with rounded heads also suggests this date. Until this century(c. 1930) the top of the tower was capped by a lead-covered small spire. There is also a semi-octagonal stair-turret on the south-east with a higher crenellated top (restored). The south porch was also perhaps added in the late 15th century.
   The very fine octagonal font was given in 1610. It has a depiction of the castle on it, which was demolished in 1650. The tower was repaired in 1636 (see above), and there is a worn inscription (of ? 1636) over the south doorway, visible in the south porch.
   The church may have been damaged in the Dutch raid of 1667, and by the end of that century was in poor condition. However, as the board under the tower tells us: `This church was raised, paved, pewed and ceiled and the gallery erected with the altar and the painting to it at the costs and charges of Thomas King, Esq. who was the first elected, Anno 1695, Member of Parliament for this Corporation: James Goblo, Esq. Mayor, James Ongle, Churchwarden, Anno Domini 1721'.
   Evidence for the painted ceiling (though very faded) still survives, and there is contemporary black and white paving in the chancel. The two western dormers may also have been added at this time.
   The church, in this form, survived with its west gallery, (containing a `seraphine' iron altar rails, etc. until the heavy restoration of 1885. It was seen and described by Sir Stephen Glynne in 1852, when it also still had its box-pews and 3-decker pulpit.
   In 1883 60 was granted by the I.C.B.S. for reseating the church and in 1885 a major restoration of the church was undertaken with new pews being put in, and all the tracery restored. The old Rood beam to the chancel was also apparently removed at this time, and new choir-stalls and a mayoral pew were made. In the west wall of the tower, a new 3-light window, and a wider west doorway were made. The spiral stair is now entered via a higher doorway, from a small gallery on the south side of the tower.
   In the 1930's, a serious fire gutted the tower.

BUILDING MATERIALS (Incl. old plaster, paintings, glass, tiles etc.): Built almost entirely of Kentish Ragstone - rubble with cut dressings. Repairs in Portland stone, and Bathstone for 1885 restoration. A few granite pieces can also be seen in the restored crenellation on the tower.

EXCEPTIONAL MONUMENTS IN CHURCH: The `Whale tablet', in fact a gravestone of 1657, fixed just inside north doorway. Also some other large monuments, and Mayoral pew of 1885. Also a Royal coat of arms of 1713, and fine candelabras of 1718 and 1724.

Size & Shape: Rectangular area around church containing many monuments and tombstones. Extended in 1813, and large extension on N.E. There was perhaps no churchyard here before the Reformation.

Condition: Good

Boundary walls: Modern brick walls, with 1897 lych to High Street on the south.

Building in churchyard or on boundary: Corrugated hall/vestry built out from north door (? early 20th century) with stock brick chimney on the north.

Exceptional monuments: Huge obelisk tomb monument to Greet family (1829) in southern churchyard.

Ecological potential: ? Yes - chestnuts and other specimen trees in churchyard.

HISTORICAL RECORD (where known):
Earliest ref. to church: 1366

Late med. status: Chapel to Minster-in-Sheppey

Patron: In private hands after Reformation, before this the Abbess of Minster-in-Sheppey.

Other documentary sources: Hasted VI (1798), 244. Test. Cant. (E. Kent, 1907), 251-2 mentions `to the work of the tower' (1481).

Finds within 0.5km: Large Royal castle (site of), quarter of a mile to the east.

Inside present church: ? Good, but probably many burial vaults.

Outside present church: ? Good, but disturbed by burial vaults/graves.

The church and churchyard: This is a rare example of a small new church built in 1366-7, and then rebuilt in the late 15th century (tower and porch), and restored c. 1700 and in 1885.

The wider context: One of a small number of new later 14th century churches in the diocese (like Holy Cross, Canterbury and All Saints, Maidstone), this was, however, built on a very small scale.

REFERENCES: R.A. Brown + H.M. Colvin, The History of the King's Works II, (1963), 793-804. S.R. Glynne, Churches of Kent (1877), 179.

Guide book: Leaflet (Anon + undated).

Photographs: Detail of 1610 Font bowl in Kent Churches 1954, 123. See also late 19th cent. view from north in T.H. Oyler, The Parish Churches of the Diocese of Canterbury (1910), 171.

Plans and drawings: Petrie pencil sketch of 1809 from the S.E.

DATE VISITED: 7th July 1995                                        REPORT BY: Tim Tatton-Brown

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