Trinity Church, Queenborough
TQ 909 723
DIOCESE: HISTORICAL AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL SURVEY
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
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
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
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.
CHURCHYARD AND ENVIRONS:
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.
Boundary walls: Modern brick walls, with 1897 lych to High Street on
Building in churchyard or on boundary: Corrugated hall/vestry built
out from north door (? early 20th century) with stock brick chimney on
Exceptional monuments: Huge obelisk tomb monument to Greet family
(1829) in southern churchyard.
Ecological potential: ? Yes - chestnuts and other specimen trees in
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
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
SURVIVAL OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL DEPOSITS:
Inside present church: ? Good, but probably many burial vaults.
Outside present church: ? Good, but disturbed by burial vaults/graves.
ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND HISTORICAL ASSESSMENT:
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
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
REPORT BY: Tim Tatton-Brown