KENT ARCHAEOLOGICAL SOCIETY  --Studying and sharing Kent's past      Homepage

Churches Committee
Kent Churches - Architectural & Historical Information

  St Mary Church, Sundridge       TQ 486 549

Tim Tatton-Brown's Survey 1994

LOCATION: Situated c.360 feet above O.D. on the north-facing hill above the main east-west road (A25), it lies on Hythe Beds.

Sundridge Place is immediately to the south, i.e. the manor house.

DESCRIPTION: Although a church at Sundridge is mentioned in Domesday Book (1086), the earliest visible fabric is perhaps of the 12th century. The south-east quoin of the nave (visible in the choir vestry) is small-block diagonally-tooled, and there is also part of a c.12th century moulded abacus/string course on the east side here.

The upper walls of the nave also suggest a pre-13th century date, and continuing the line of the nave westwards is a tower with very thick walls, that probably also dates from the 12th century. Its top stage is stepped in slightly, and internally round-headed arches can be seen in all four faces (in the belfry). Externally these windows were replaced in the late 15th century on the north, south and west, but on the east the now blocked round-headed window can just be seen above the apex of the roof. In the ringing chamber below low blocked pointed rere-arches can be seen (? 13th century), suggesting they replaced the earlier windows.

In the first half of the 13th century the nave and chancel were completely rebuilt. The chancel, though heavily rebuilt in 1808 and 1882, still has part of an internal string-course and a double piscina with a small column in between. The lancets on either side were totally rebuilt in 1808, but may reflect the earlier ones, while the eastern triple window was replaced in the 15th century. The northern and southern inner jambs do, however, survive with little collonettes (and capitals).

In the early to mid-13th century, both the nave and the western part of the chancel were given arcades for aisles. The mouldings on the south sides, as John Newman has observed, are perhaps slightly later. The fine round pillars and pointed arches of Kentish Ragstone are marred by their decay, and the use of hard cement for repairs and pointing. In the nave there are four fine quatrefoil openings (two on each side above the pillars) for a clearstorey (also c.mid-13th century, which appear to have a glazing slot in them. These windows originally opened out above the aisle shed-roofs, the weatherings for which (and some corbels) can still be seen in the aisles.

The arcades in the chancel suggest that there were flanking chapels here from the mid-13th century, and part of a piscina for one of these (on the south side) can be seen behind the organ. This southern chapel was by the 15th century that attached to the manor house to the south.

The fine crown-post roof over the nave, in three bays, must date from the 15th century. Also in the 15th century, the church was once again rebuilt. The aisles were given fine new three-light perpendicular windows with recesses on the inside, perhaps for seats. To put these windows in, the outer walls had to be greatly raised, and on top of them small crown-post roofs were erected. On the north, downhill side buttresses were also erected. New doorways were put into the north and south sides of the western bay of the nave aisles. That on the north in below another three light window, while that on the south led into a probable porch (which later had its top cut down and was turned into a boiler house/flower room in c.1910). Perhaps the timber-framing in the present lych-gate came from this porch.

The chancel chapels were also rebuilt at this time with new outer walls and four-light east windows. Beneath the south chapel east window is what appears to be a blocked doorway. This southern chapel was the Isley chapel (they held the manor), and it originally contained three fine brasses (now moved to E. end of nave), and the fine tomb of Sir John Isley (ob.1484), which is now the altar in the northern chapel.

In the late 15th century, the western tower was given a new tower arch from the nave and a large clasping buttress on the south-west. A spiral staircase was added on the north (to lead up to the ringing chamber), and this was contained within the walls and a north turret projection. The doorway at the bottom still contains its original wooden door. The top stage (belfry) of the tower was given new two-light north, south and west windows, and above this a fine broach spire was added (now covered with shingles). There is a little projecting turret for the sanctus bell on the N.W. side of the spire. A new west doorway into the tower, with a three-light window above, was also added.

Also in the late 15th century a small new stair-turret was added on the south-east side for the rood-loft. Two, apparently, blocked up upper doorways can be seen on the inside, though one of them may be a blocked up earlier window. A rood-screen was also put in right across the chancel and aisles, but only fragments of this survive, incorporated into the north and south sides of the 1882 screen (against the east wall of the nave). The chancel arch was also probably modified at this time, while the arches above the western entries into the chapels and presumably the continued rood-screen were also raised up greatly at about this time. The earlier bar-stopped chamfer (13th century) can be seen on the south-east side of the entry into the north chapel, showing the extent of the lower earlier arch.

Almost nothing survives of the post-Reformation/pre-19th century fittings of the church, the added vestry on the north-east may date from this period. It has a plain two-light rectangular window on the east (with original bars), and a chamfered plinth all around (higher on the west). However the doorway (and original door) into it from the north chapel suggest that it may also be pre-Reformation (i.e. late 15th or early 16th century).

There is a magnificent 1726 chandelier in the nave, and the sounding board for the old pulpit has been reused, as a table (under the tower). There are also Royal Arms (CR) on the south aisle wall, and the octagonal font is perhaps 15th century (restored in the 19th century).

The chancel was remodelled in 1808 by John Carter and the north and south lancets, and their associated monuments inside date from this time. The external render all round the outside of the chancel may also date from this time. Much external repair work, in Bathstone was also carried out during the 19th century, with new stained glass being added.

In March 1882, there was a major fire in the chancel which destroyed all the roofs here. In the rebuilding, the sanctuary was given a raised floor, and new tiling was done. The 15th century east window was also renewed in Bathstone, and the gallery at the west end of the nave was also removed at this time, and new screens were made for the chancel and chapels. The south chapel, which had been the Hyde family chapel, was now given an organ.

The ?south porch was turned into a flower room above a boiler room in c.1910. A chimney was added on the north, and a dormer window to the east. The north chapel was refurnished in 1936 as the Plender chapel.

BUILDING MATERIALS: (Incl. old plaster, paintings, glass, tiles etc.): The local building material is `western' Kentish Rag and this is used for almost all the rubble work in the walls (with a little ironstone). All the earlier quoins, jambs, etc. and the nave and chancel arcades were made in the soft Reigate stone, which is now much repaired with cement.

Some Kentish Rag was used externally, for side-alternate quoins for example, in the 15th century.

19th century repairs have been done largely with Bathstone, though there appears to be some Tunbridge Wells sandstone in the south window of the south chapel.

Quite a lot of earlier render survives on the outside faces of the tower, and some of the windows contain their original late medieval glazing bars. There are some ?Horsham slates on the western side of the N.E. vestry roof.

EXCEPTIONAL MONUMENTS IN CHURCH: 3 brasses at E. end of nave: Roger Isley (ob.1429) - man in armour; Sir Thos Isley + family (ob. 1518); ?Wm Isley (ob. 1463) - barrister. Also 5 hatchments - early 19th century, and some good 18th century monuments.

Size Shape: Rectangular area around church with large extension downhill to N.E.

Condition: Good - neat mown grass.

Boundary walls: Large Ragstone wall to south and south-west.

Earthworks: within: None, but terracing down to N. and E.

Building in churchyard or on boundary: Lych Gate to west, with quite a few reused late medieval timbers - ?from a porch.

Exceptional monuments: Monument S.E. of chancel of Dr Beilby Porteus, Bp. of London (ob. 1809). Neo-classical and surrounded by iron railing.

Ecological potential: ? Yes - many mature trees (+ Fastigiate Yews) in churchyard.

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

Late med. status: Rectory.

Patron: The Archbishop of Canterbury (in exempt Deanery of Shoreham).

Other documentary sources: Hasted III (1797), 143-5.
(W.Kent, 1906), 77 gives John Isly's burial in the church in 1375. Also the donation of Thomas Issley's `portatyf organes' in 1518/19.

Inside present church: ? Good.

Outside present church: Good.

To structure: Windows at top of tower renewed (including tracery on W. side) recently. New glass screen put into tower arch.

The church and churchyard: A fine 12th century western tower (with late 15th century windows and spire on the top), with remains of the shell of the 12th century nave. The rebuilding in the early to mid-13th century produced fine arcades to the aisles with unusual quatrefoil windows in a clerestory above; also two new chapels flanking the rebuilt chancel. The 15th century rebuilding heightened the outer walls to allow fine new Perpendicular windows to be inserted, and above them high crown-post roofs. Chancel rebuilt in 1808, and then major restoration in 1882.

The wider context: One of a group of `exempt' churches in Rochester diocese belonging to the Archbishop.

REFERENCES: S. Glynne, Churches of Kent (1877), 346-7. (He visited in 1854.) Notes by G M Livett in Arch.Cant. 31 (1915), lix - lxiii.

Plans and early drawings: Plan by B.C. Worssam - 1802 view from S.E. by Petrie, showing S.W.?porch.

DATE VISITED: 29/7/94.                                               REPORT BY: Tim Tatton-Brown

To Kent Churches - Architectural & Historical Information Introduction          To Church Committee Introduction

For details about the advantages of membership of the Kent Archaeological Society   click here

Kent Archaeological Society is a registered charity number 223382
Kent Archaeological Society December 2011

This website is constructed by enthusiastic amateurs. Any errors noticed by other researchers will be to gratefully received so that we can amend our pages to give as accurate a record as possible. Please send details too