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Churches Committee
Kent Churches - Architectural & Historical Information

St Nicholas Church, Thanington         TR 1315 5679

Tim Tatton-Brown's Survey 1991

The church is about a mile S.W. of Canterbury beside the main Ashford road (A28). However before Turnpike was built, the main road was further south, and the church was near the lane leading to the ford across the Stour to Tonford. The Court Lodge is adjacent on the N.W. side.

This church has been very heavily restored in 1846 by William Butterfield, and externally there is very little medieval work to see, as most of the masonry (both ashlar quoins, jambs, etc., and flintwork) has been renewed. New buttresses have also been added. On either side of the chancel, however, there are small Norman windows (that on the south is more renewed than the northern one) - perhaps of the early 12th century, and the outer chancel walls still seem to contain much original coursed flintwork. The north tower, on the other hand, has been totally rebuilt and refaced externally. All the quoins and all the knapped flintwork are of the later 19th century. The west window, which is now a Victorian 'Decorated' 3 light window was according to Glynne in 1851 'a late one of 2 lights'. He also tells us that there were 'no windows on the north of the nave'. Two new wide lancets were put in after the schoolroom was removed from the west end of the nave in 1846.
   The two tall, early 13th century, lancets in the east wall of the chancel seem to be largely original, and the south chapel (? Lady Chapel) probably had original (but partly restored windows in its E. + W. walls). The twin south windows, on either side of the buttress seem to be entirely new, with Bath stone jambs and a sill of a shelly limestone (and granite voussoirs to a relieving arches over them). The gables and roof of the south chapel have also been raised, and all the roofs in the church were replaced by Butterfield in 1846-7. (The earlier ceilings had covered the tops of the pointed 13th century windows. He also put in choir stalls into the chancel and a new pulpit in the nave. Butterfield's most notable architectural features are, however, the new chancel arch and the double arches and central 4-shafted pier to the south chapel. He also added buttresses to the east end of the chancel.
   Very little can be said of the form of the original church except that it had quite a large chancel in the 12th century. All other features in the church, including the chancel east wall date from the 13th century. The north tower and south chapel were probably new additions at this time. The shell of the nave must be at least of the 12th century, however. There was also, perhaps, a short south aisle to the nave (where the modern porch is situated), as shown by the blocked up arch in the northern part of the west wall of the south chapel. Only excavation (and possibly internal plaster removal) are likely to shed more light on the fabric's history (For example two small niches were found recently in the east wall of the chancel, and a stone coffin was found in 1991 on the north side of the tower.
   The state of the church before the 19th century restorations is graphically described in The Ecclesiologist of January 1847 (Vol.VII, 37).
   An inspection of the inside of the tower, shows that it has been almost totally rebuilt (much of the inside walls are of 19th century brick, and the whole of the bell-frame and pyramid roof has been renewed). The tower buttresses are also 19th century. The ugly 1930 parish hall adjoins the north side of the tower.
   Architecturally, the piscina (in the S.E. Corner of the South Chapel) is the finest structure in the church. It has an unusual "pointed-horseshoe" hood-mould, and a shelf above the bowl.

BUILDING MATERIALS (Incl. old plaster, paintings, glass, tiles etc.):
The main building material visible is flint (much of it heavy 19th century knapped flint). Some Caen stone for original quions, but much Bath, etc., for the 19th century restoration. There is one piece of ? Quarr coursed in with flint in the south side of the Chancel (? from earliest church).

A fragment of ? 14th century glass (head of Christ in a diamond surround) is in the west window.

There are now 6 bells (last refitted and retuned in 1981) - Treble (J. Taylor, 1966), 2 and 3 (Gillett and Johnston, 1948) 4 (J. Hatch, 1624), 5 (J. Palmer, 1638) and Tenor (J. Hatch 1623)

EXCEPTIONAL MONUMENTS IN CHURCH - Hales tablets (c. 1617 and 1623) on N. wall of chancel and two quite striking mid-19th century wall monuments in Nave.

Fine brass of Thomas Halle (ob. 1485) in full plate armour (and 2 shields above) - rubbing on W. wall of south chapel.

Size & Shape: Large extension to E. (caused by population expansion S.W. of Canterbury in later 19th and 20th century). Rectangular

Condition: Quite good

Boundary walls: 19th century wall on S. to road (partly demolished on E. for extension.

Building in churchyard or on boundary: - Lychgate (1871)

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

Evidence of pre-Norman status (DB, DM, TR etc.):

Late med. status: Vicarage from c. 1385 after appropriation. Vicars, then perpetual curates after dissolution.

Patron: St. Gregory's Priory, Canterbury from at least the late 12th century (? late 11th century) till 1538, then the archbishop.

Other documentary sources: Test. Cant. (E. Kent, 1907), 339-340, mentions burial in the churchyard from 1464; also lights of Blessed Mary, St. Anthony, St. John, St. John-the-Baptist, St. Katherine, St. Margaret and St. Nicholas, as well as the Rood light of High/Holy Cross.

Previous archaeological work (published): Excavation of large stone sarcophagus under N. side of tower 1991 (see Arch. Cant. 109 (1991), 308-11).

Inside present church: ? quite good, but burial vaults inside.

Outside present church: Drainage ditch around S. and E. side of church, but fall of ground to N. mean deposits should be quite well-preserved.

To floors: Stone sarcophagus found 1991 in N. side of tower and recorded by C.A.T.

To graveyard: - but, 1930 parish hall built immediately N. of church (now 1991, having floors redone - dryrot - and dug down).

Quinquennial inspection (date\architect): 1986? Andrew Clague.

The church and churchyard: This small 12th/13th century church has unfortunately been overrestored in the 19th century.

The wider context: Thanington parish covered a large area south and south-west of Canterbury, and excavations here would no doubt throw much more light on the 11th - 13th century history of the church.

REFERENCES: Hasted IX (1800), 25-7 and Glynne (1877), 168-9 (He visited in 1851), S.G. Wilson, A Short History of Thanington Church (1936) and The Parish Church of St. Nicholas, Thanington (1951). See also 'Church Restoration: St. Nicholas Thanington, Kent' The Ecclesiologist, 7(1847),37.

Guide book: - but guide leaflet obtained in 1984 (July 1982 by P.L.B.).

Plans & drawings: Plan (sketch) in Quinquennial.

DATES VISITED: 24th & 29th November 1991                             REPORT BY: Tim Tatton-Brown

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