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Kent Churches - Architectural & Historical Information

  St Clement Church, Sandwich       TR 3330 5800

Tim Tatton-Brown's Survey 1993

LOCATION: The church lies in the eastern part of the town, just west of one of the ? earliest north-south streets (Knightrider St.) at c. 25 feet above O.D. This street may have been moved eastwards when the chancel was lengthened. Church Street may originally have continued eastwards (through the later churchyard) to Sandown Road.

DESCRIPTION: Externally most of what is visible is renewed Bathstone tracery and quoins of the major restoration by Clarke in c. 1865-70. Much tracery had been lost by this date, as earlier drawings show (Petrie's view from the N.W. shows much Y-tracery, and ? timber mullions, etc., in the west window). The triple lancet (replacing a destroyed later medieval window) in the eastwall, the north-east vestry the top of the north-west stair turret, and the tower crenellations also date to the Victorian restoration.

The unusual dedication to St. Clement (cf. St Clement's churches in other early Kent towns - Rochester and Old Romney) may suggest that the first church here was built in the early 11th century - perhaps in Crut's time. The earliest evidence from the fabric, however, is the fine decoration used on the large crossing tower and arches below. This has parallels with the Canterbury Cathedral Priory work of the time of Prior Wibert (c. 1140-60). High quality diagonally tooled Caenstone ashlar is used for all this work. The upper stage of the tower may, however, be a little later in date. Internally the break us fairly clear with only sandstone and flint rubble being used for the later work. At this time, possibly when the roofs below were being raised, not only was the upper stage (with its pairs of windows in each fore) being built, but the central windows in the stage beneath were reconstructed (The evidence for this also internal). It is clear also that originally the lower chamber in the tower (now the ringing chamber) was open to the ground floor below, and that the windows here originally the crossing area below. There is a c. 1500 ceiling below. All of this level has high quality plain Caenstone ashlar internally. Originally the spiral staircase on the N.W. side had a spiral barrel-vault, but all of the upper section has been replaced with solid treads, and the top section was totally restored in the 19th century. There seems to have been a second narrow entrance passage (now blocked) into the first stage of the tower. This was at the extreme north end of the west wall but whether there was to be a wall-passage all the way round is not clear.

The fine crossing tower shows that, from the mid 12th century at least, this was a cruciform church. The scars for the original nave and chancel walls (and the low roof lines) still survive on the outer east and west walls of the tower. There are also scars for the east walls of the N + S transepts, but the west wall positions are not so clear (though marked by the stair-turret on the N.W). The outer faces of the large north and south tower arches are completely walled up, and covered by a thin wall supported by a early 13th century pointed arch. This suggests that by this time the transepts had been demolished, and perhaps run into continuous aisles on the west.

The chancel was probably lengthened in the 13th century (a blocked up wide lancet is visible on the north side) and a chapel was added on each side. The northern chapel (now St Margaret's chapel) was the earlier, judging from its south arcade and originally this only extended from the north transept to half way along the north side of the chancel. It was lengthened in the early 14th century when the north wall was rebuilt, the two-light windows in the north wall and the 3 light E. window are probably of this date, though restored. The roof over this chapel may, in part, be 14th century, though with later crown-posts.

The south-east chapel (possibly Lady Chapel) also has a later 13th century arcade between it and the chancel, but it too was completely rebuilt in the earlier 14th century (though the roof over it is a 15th century crown-post roof). There is a fine early 14th century ogee-headed piscina in the south-east corner of this chapel, which may originally have been double (to the west). At the north end of the east wall of this chapel, a 13th century doorway leads to a very small earlier vestry (called the bore-house on the 1767 plan). Replacing the south transept is another fine early 14th century chapel (later of St George). This also has a piscina (with carved head in basin) on its south east side. Opposite it and put into the south east crossing pier is a fine decorated statue niche over a pair of deep aumbries with their original hinges. The aisle running west from this chapel also appears to have been built in the early 14th century, but was reconstructed with a new crown post roof in the 15th century. Documents tell us that there was a chapel of St. Thomas at the west end of this aisle.
A will of 1403 tell us that the chancel received a new roof (no doubt the present crown-post one) at this date. There are some exceptionally fine 15th century stalls in the chancel, which had most of its west return-stalls until the 19th century restoration. the stalls are on their original stone base with little pilasters and acoustic holes. There are also some ? acoustic holes high up in the eastern part of the chancel, perhaps put in the early 15th century when two new two-light perpendicular windows were put into the upper part of the north and south-east walls of the chancel. Quite a large number of medieval floor tiles (some ? in situ) survive, particularly in the eastern part of the church, and the large medieval altar slabs, laid in the floor at the Reformation, have been restored to the high and N.E. chapel altars. A squint (with square hood) from the N.E. chapel and a new north door to the chancel (now leading to the Victorian vestry) were also added later in 15th century. The ceiling under the tower is perhaps of this date. The east wall was rebuilt in the 19th century though the inner N + S jambs of the side lancets are earlier. Though it clearly had earlier aisles, the nave and its aisles were completely rebuilt of shallow pitch (very unusual in Kent). There are graffiti at the east end of the nave (perhaps for paintings below the Rood) and originally the fine carved font of c. 1405-7 stood at the west end of the nave (described in detail by Rosseter in -op. cit. infrs.). A two storey north porch also added at this time. The tower was repaired at the very end of the 15th century. The spire and battlements on top of the tower were removed in c. 1672 (Hasted X, 210) when the bells were also re-cast, and a new wooden parapet and turret were built. These were destroyed by fire in the early 19th century.

BUILDING MATERIALS: (Incl. old plaster, paintings, glass, tiles etc.):
The principal earlier building material is water-rounded flint and large boulders of Tertiary sandstone with much fine Caenstone ashlar. The 13th century arcades also use some Purbeck marble and a very glauconitic Lower Greensand (? from Hythe/Folkestone).

The later 19th century restorations use much Bathstone.

There is a 12th century capital in the early 14th century niche just inside the south aisle door on the east. The outer doors of the north porch were put in in 1655.

Ring of 6 bells from Kirkheaton, Yorks, installed early 1990 - the earlier ring of 5 was sold in the last cent.

Some fine monuments in the church, including an early 18th century brick tomb S.W. of crossing with polished "Touch" slab over. Also one very worn early 15th century brass. The two 17th century helms from the north side of the chancel were stolen in 1992.

Size & Shape: Large area to N + S of the church, with recent extension to the S.W. (ie. west of Rectory).

Condition: Good

Building in churchyard or on boundary: Vicarage House on S. boundary in later 18th century (now site of new Rectory).

Exceptional monuments: Some fine 18th century monuments.

Ecological potential: ?

HISTORICAL RECORD (where known):
Earliest ref. to church: ? Late 13th century.

Late med. status (vicarage\appropriation): Appropriated by Archdeacon with Vicarage created.

Patron: The Archdeacon of Canterbury.

Other documentary sources: Wills (Test. Cant. (E. Kent 1907) 277-281 mention the "high choir", Lady Chapel or Chancel Our Lady, Chancel of St. George (+ Brotherhood of St. George), Chapels of St James + St Margaret + Altars of St Christopher + St John-the-Baptist (Light of St John over S. door), Chapel or Chancel of St Thomas-the-Martyr "on the left hand as you come at the west door" (ie. S.W. side) Also Roodloft (1485).

See also Hasted X (1800), 210-215, and Arch. Cant. 31 (1915), 33 quoting to Dom. Thos. Covenor (vicar) "sufficient timber for one roof for the great chancel "John Stille" (1403). Also repairs to the tower in 1493, 1496, 1498, 1516.

Reused materials: Occasional Roman Bricks.

Inside present church: Good, much of the floor area appears not to have been disturbed in the 19th century.

Outside present church: ? Good

To structure: Insertion of 6 new bells and frame, and strengthened floor, into tower (1990). Earlier the bells were probably rung from the crossing area (see rope marks on the north and west crossing arches).

Quinquennial inspection (date\architect): October 1992 - Ann Stocker.

The church and churchyard: This is a very fine town church with a larger earlier 12th century crossing tower for a cruciform church. Various later chapels of the 13th and earlier 14th century have been added and a magnificent new 3-bay nave was built (with a clerestory and angle roof) in the later 15th century. There is also a very fine early 15th century font, and some fine 15th century choir stalls.

The wider context: The sculpture decoration of the crossing tower is of a high quality, and of the earlier to mid 12th century 'Canterbury' style.

REFERENCES: J.B. Rosseter 'The font at the church of St. Clement, Sandwich, and the Hallum-Berney problem', Arch. Cant. 103 (1986), 127-140. Also P A Blake's not in Arch. Cant. 104 (1987), 384-6.

Guide Book: c. 1970s (Anon + Undated) with plan - now sold out. Good general summary.

Photographs: Photo in Vestry of late Victorian high altar + reredos. Several photos in Kent Churches 1954, 24, 54, 64 + 141 of the tower and chancel.

Plans & drawings: 1767 plan (Scale 1:96) of church with old pews, galleries (+ names) in Vestry. Architectural details in W. Boys (1791).

DATE VISITED: 9/1/93                                     REPORT BY: Tim Tatton-Brown

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