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Kent Churches - Architectural & Historical Information

St Mary the Virgin Church, St Mary in the Marsh  TQ 0648 2799

Tim Tatton-Brown's Survey 1994

LOCATION: On slightly raised mound at c. 10 feet above OD, by road junction (+ isolated pub to SE), with Evenden's (Haffenden) Farm a short distance to the north-west.

DESCRIPTION: The earliest visible remains in this church are of the mid to later-12th century west tower. Various round headed windows can be seen in the north and south faces of the tower - small ones in the lowest stage, larger ones in the first stage (blocked on the north) and smaller ones in the top (belfry) stage. The upper west face has been largely rebuilt. The slightly-pointed tower arch has scalloped capitals on half-round columns (all now rather obscured by the 1990 organ). There is as yet no real evidence for the west wall of the nave being earlier than the tower, though Elliston Erwood has suggested this.
   During the mid to later 13th century 3-bay aisles were added to the nave, but only the arcades for these now survive (and the eastern arch in the north aisle, and its respond were rebuilt in c. 1910). They have deeply moulded capitals with round pillars of Reigate stone. The western arch of the north arcade ends in a fine carved head (part of the capital), while its southern counterpart is a plain Bathstone replacement (c. 1910). At the eastern end of this arcade is a semi-octagonal capital/springer, possibly a 15th century replacement. The arches themselves mostly have double hollow-chamfers, and are of Reigate stone. However, in the southern arcade, particularly where Caenstone voussoirs are used, there are quite a few outer flat chamfers.
   The chancel was rebuilt in the very late 13th century, and has a fine 4-light early Decorated east window with a wide 2-centred rerearch on wall-shafts and capitals with an internal roll beneath. The outer jambs of the window (largely unrestored) are of Caenstone with Ragstone mullions and tracery. The east end of the chancel also has quite large contemporary angle-buttresses with large flat chamfered plinths and weatherings. On the south side of the chancel are two contemporary late lancets with internal rerearches, and (unusually) external rebates, which are presumably for wooden window frames. There is also a small priests doorway with a mass-dial on it. There is one wide northern lancet (with rerearch, but no external rebate), and there are traces of a second to the east (now completely blocked up). Inside the chancel is a fine sedilia with double piscina to the east. These are also late 13th century, and like most of the lancets have carved internal head stops. They also have pyramid stops, and one unusual stop (between the sedilia and piscina) which is both a bar and a pyramid stop. In the south-west corner of the chancel is a wide niche of unexplained purpose, just beyond it the probable 13th century chancel arch has been removed (perhaps in the 15th century). A pyramid stop at the bottom still survives on the south, with a bar-stop on the north where it joints the arcade. The jamb here had been repaired in c. 1910. The chancel roof is a simple rafter and collar affair, which has racked to the west.
   The west doorway into the tower is repaired but also has a bar stop at its base. All around it much making good and heavy buttressing of the western side of the tower has taken place - perhaps in the late 13th or 14th century. As usual differential settlement was a problem on the marsh.
   Both aisles were completely rebuilt in the later medieval period, again no doubt due to settlement problems. The south aisle was rebuilt perhaps slightly earlier than the north one with the buttresses having hollow chamfers on the plinth. The south porch appears to be contemporary with the buttress it is part of on the east, though the doorway inside it appears to be late 13th century (with a bar stop). The windows in the south aisle were all built in the late Middle Ages, but the tracery in them was perhaps renewed in the 18th century (with round-heads) and then again recently.
   The north aisle, also completely rebuilt in the 15th century, has windows with Perpendicular heads and square hood-moulds. There is also a 15th century north doorway with a rounded head, hollow chamfer and pyramid stops.
   The nave and both aisles were all given new roofs in the 15th century. Each is a separate 3-bay crown-post roof with moulded wall-plates and tie-beams. (Some later tie-beams have been added in the aisles.) The nave roof also has wall-posts on corbels and spandrel-pieces.
   At the top of the tower Perpendicular windows have been added in the east and west faces, and a timber spire has been added on top, all in the 15th century. The belfry contains there bells (one cracked) of c. 1371-92 (2nd), c. 1400 (3rd) and c. 1450 (Treble). The octagonal font bowl is perhaps 15th century, but has beneath it rounded rough `capitals' for the tops of four angle-shafts.
   There is the doorway into the rood-loft in the south-east corner of the nave.
   The main restoration was in 1910, but this was carefully done. The high box-pews were replaced by plain pinewood ones at this time (one box-pew is a cupboard in the vestry). The south wall of the porch was also repaired with cement and pebble-dash, and a new pulpit was put in.

BUILDING MATERIALS: (Incl. old plaster, paintings, glass, tiles etc.): The earliest (12th century) church is of Ragstone rubble with Caenstone dressings. Reigate stone, as well as Caenstone is used in the 13th century, with cut Ragstone being used in the later Middle Ages.

Bath stone was used in 1910.

Some Medieval floor tiles in the chancel (just possibly partly in situ); many 18th century red tiles in the nave and aisles, with dates on some and initials (eg. WD 1786, WP 1777 and WB 1807 in north aisle).

EXCEPTIONAL MONUMENTS IN CHURCH: Two fine brasses of Matilda Jamys (1499) and her son William Gregory (1502), now unfortunately hidden beneath a blue carpet. Royal Arms of 1775 in north aisle.


Size & Shapes: )Raised irregular area around church with lanes to SW and SE

Condition: Good.

Exceptional monuments: Some good tombstones around church. Hasted mentions an `ancient tomb, in the churchyard, near the porch south-east, coffin-shaped about a foot from the ground'.

Ecological potential: ? Yes

Late med. status: Rectory

Patron: The Archbishop

Other documentary sources: Hasted VIII (1799), 408-9 Test.Cant (E Kent, 1907) 271-2, mention `the Altar of St Mary on the north side of the church' (1461)

Inside present church: ? Good

Outside present church: ? Good

To structure: Much repointing has recently taken place, and an organ has been inserted under the tower arch.

Quinquennial inspection (date\architect):

The church and churchyard: A fine church with c. 1170 west tower and mid to late 13th century aisle arcades. Rebuilt late 13th century chancel with very good east window and fine sedilia, double piscina and lancets. The aisles were rebuilt in the 15th century with buttresses and south porch. Also new crown-post roofs over nave and both aisles, and a timber spire on west tower of similar date. Only a subtle restoration in 1910.

REFERENCES: Brief notes made in 1923 by FC Elliston Erwood, Arch. Cant. 37 (1925), 204-6 with plan.

Guide Book: Brief Leaflet by Anne Roper (1983)

Photographs: From south, during 1910 restoration (see Elliston Erwood, above)

DATE VISITED: 23rd June 1986, 19th February 1992, and 28th August 1994 

REPORT BY: Tim Tatton-Brown

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