John the Baptist Church, Tunstall
TR 8956 6190
DIOCESE: HISTORICAL AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL SURVEY
Tim Tatton-Brown's Survey 1996
Situated at just under 200 feet above O.D. on the Upper Chalk, the old
manor was apparently (Hasted) situated at Grove-end c ¼ mile to the
south-west of the church. It was moved to a site nearer the church in
the early 17th century by the Cromers (this building was not finished,
This church was thoroughly restored by R.C. Hussey 1848-56, and
externally there is much evidence of this restoration with renewed
flint facing and Bathstone dressings covering most of the nave aisles
and tower. The top of the tower has been completely rebuilt, with east
and west gables, in a `saddleback' form that was apparently suggested
to Hussey by churches in Normandy. Petrice's 1807 view of the church
from the south-west also tells us that the south nave aisle had a
crenallated parapet and that the porch originally had a parapet and
flat roof. Glynne (in 1850) describes a `low west tower' with a
`moulded parapet' and the belfry-window single and trefoil-headed?
Despite this the church still has a fine later 13th
century chancel, and an early 14th century nave, aisles and west
tower, and a south-east chapel that was built in two stages in the
15th and probably 16th centuries. The architectural history has been
well-described by Grayling and Greensted (1908 op. cit. below), and
only needs a few minor points to be corrected.
The earliest visible part of the church is the 13th
century chancel, but this must have been built onto an earlier nave
underlying the present nave. It is noticeable that the chancel and
nave are continuous. The chancel has three late lancets on the north
side, and one of the original three survives on the south side (east
end) with its iron glazing bars (It was presumably reopened in the
early 1850s). These lancets have rere-arches springing from small
carved corbels at the top of the internal side-jambs. The east window
is now a late 15th century one with hollowed out side jambs, but in
1907 part of the north side of an original 13th century lancet was
uncovered. This was presumably one of a triplet. Externally a
roll-moulding ran around the chancel, and it appears that all the
original dressings were of Caen stone. On the north side of the
chancel, at the east end, is am aumbry, and opposite it is a double
piscina within a double trefoil-headed niche, though only one basin is
The whole of the nave, two side aisles, west tower and
south porch were all rebuilt in the early 14th century at about the
same time, and no main building breaks can be seen. However, the
engaged piers at either end of the south arcade have smaller blocks of
Caen stone for the lower part of the main shafts, and more elaborate
moulded bases, also Caen stone. This suggests that work started here.
The other octagon piers and all the capitals, including those in the
tower arch, are all of well-cut Kentish Ragstone, and the capitals
have the same moulded form. The arches above are mainly of double
hollow chamfers, though this is not uniform, and the tower arch has
two flat chamfers. The contemporary chancel arch has double hollow
chamfers and springs from shallow corbels. The octagonal piers appeal
to have different mason marks on each one (particularly noticeable are
small squares and `alphas').
The tower has a circular stair-turret on the north east,
and a fine ogeed and crocketed west doorway (but with the top finial
gone). This has recently been restored, though the Victorians left it
alone! A continuous plinth runs all the way round the outside of the
tower and aisles and much of the knapped flintwork above it was
restored in the 1850s. The original aisle windows also have ogeed tops
and finials, though all the masonry was restored in 1854. Before this,
Glynne (visiting in 1850) tells us that the ogee heads were mutilated
and had mullions mostly wood, `but the finials remain'. The south
doorway inside the south porch is a particularly fine deep moulded
doorway, and it still contains its original door. This door has later
had a pair of openings (with grates) made in it, with a shutter
behind. The north doorway opposite is much simpler and was reopened in
1987 to give access to the new hall. The tower is unbuttressed, but
the aisles have diagonal buttresses at the corners (that on the
south-east was probably replaced by a straight buttress in the 15th
century, when the chapel was built). Another usual feature of the
aisles is the use of a continuous roll moulding (now much restored)
below the windows. Internally this runs up and over the top of the
north and south doorways.
In the later 15th century three new 3-light windows were
put in at the east end of the north aisle, and a large new 5-light
east window was made (restored and regaled in 1850). Also the
south-east chapel (probably dedicated to St. Margaret) was created as
a manorial chapel for the Crummier family. It has two 3-light windows
on the south and two (unequal in height) arches into the chancel, as
well as an arch into the south aisle. This chapel was extended
eastwards, in brick, probably just before the Reformation, as it
contains a piscine in the extension. When the fine Hales tomb was put
in, in 1655, the chapel was apparently refurbished (some black and
white marble paving survives at the wasted), and a new brick parapet
was put on, with a plague inscribed E.H.1655 on its east side.
The nave and chancel were probably given new 4-centred
arched ceilings in the later 15th century. The nave timbered and
paralleled ceiling on carved corbels in a fine example. Part of a Rood
Screen, a corbel for the north side of the Rood beam survey, and the
medieval font (mentioned by Glynne) were unfortunately removed in the
1850s when whole interior was given expensive new pews, pulpit, font
etc. R.C. Hussey's restoration started in the chancel in 1848-50, and
then moved on to the nave, as we have seen in the early 1850s. The
ring of six 1843 bells were increased to light, and rehung and tuned
in 1975. They were recast in 1995.
BUILDING MATERIALS: (Incl. old plaster, paintings, glass, tiles etc.):
Being on the upper chalk, the principal rubble and facing material is
flint. Caen stone was, however, used for 13th century dressings, and
for the beginning of the early 14th century work. Some Reigate stone
was also used, but finely cut Kentish Ragstone was used for the 14th
and 15th century main works. The mid-19th century restorations done
with some new knapped flint, with Bathstone dressings.
EXCEPTIONAL MONUMENTS IN CHURCH:
Brasses of Ralph Wulf (ob. 1525), and a late Elizabethan Lady
(rubbings on W. wall of nave). Also fragments of Cromer tomb of c.
1613, and a fine tomb for Sir Edward Hales, made by W. Sweet and M.
Miles in 1655 (signed) with his white marble effigy on it. Wall
monuments to Robert Clarke (ob. 1647) , and Edward Mores (ob.1740).
There is also a fine uninscribed alabaster tomb that is now used as
the altar in the south chapel.
CHURCHYARD AND ENVIRONS:
Size & Shape: Irregular area around church with main rood curving
around in to the south and east. Extensions terraced down to north and
Boundary walls: Flint boundary to slightly sunken main road on south
Earthworks: enclosing: Terraced down on south and east
Exceptional monuments: Chest tomb and two 17th century gravestones to
S.W. of South porch.
Ecological potential: ? Yes. The churchyard contains many fine
specimen trees (including an 1865 Giant Redwood) and an ancient yew.
Glynne in 1850, already says that: `the situation is pretty and
retired; the churchyard shaded with fine trees'.
HISTORICAL RECORD (where known):
Earliest ref. To church: 13th century.
Evidence of pre-Norman status (DB,DM, TR etc): Alone.
Late med. Status (rectory): Rectory.
Patron: The manor of Tunstall, until c. 1229 it was given by Hubert de
Burgh to the Archbishop. In 1889 it was exchanged by the Archbishop
with the Dean and Chapter of Canterbury.
Other documentary sources: Hasted VI (1798), 96-8. Testamenta Cantiana
(E. Kent, 1907), 345, mentions burial in the churchyard from at least
1474. Also the altar of St Margaret' (1546), and lights of Our Lady
and St Osyth. The (Easter) `Sepulcre', near the high altar is also
mentioned in 1546 when a `new frame' and `a stone to lie upon it', are
specified in a Will.
SURVIVAL OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL DEPOSITS:
Inside present church: Probably good.
Outside present church: Good.
To structure: North doorway re-opened 1987. Bells recost 1995.
To graveyard: Modern hall built in churchyard to N.W. of church in
ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND HISTORICAL ASSESSMENT:
A fine early 14th century nave, two aisles, west tower and porch was
added to a later 13th century chancel. This work perhaps relates to
the acquisition of the church by the archbishop in c. 1229. It is
worth noting that Simon of Meopham was Rector at the beginning of the
4th century before becoming Archbishop of Canterbury. The south-east
chapel was added in the 15th century for the Cromer family who owned
the manor. It was extended in brick, probably just before the
Reformation. A heavy and though restoration and refurnishing was
carried out by R.C. Hussey from 1848 - 56.
The wider context: One of a group of churches in the area having
ogee-headed windows, and more unusually an ogeed west doorway.
REFERENCES: E. Rowe, The History and Antiquities of Tunstall (18 ).
Also J.F. Graglight H. Greensted, Notes of the History of the Parish
Church of St John the Baptist, Tunstall, Kent (1908), and S.R. Glynne,
Notes on the churches of Kent (1877), 165-6 (he visited in 1850).
Guide Book: Brief leaflet by Dr F.M. Mallison (Revised 1992) - good
Photographs: Kent Churches 1954, p.41 of unrestored Ogeed west
doorway, and moulded south doorway + doors. Also p.164 of Sir Edward
Hales tomb in south chapel.
Plans & drawings: View from S.W. in 1807 in K.A.S. Library (by
Petrie). Also view of church in 1712 in Mores' History of Tunstall
DATES VISITED: 5th July
REPORT BY: Tim Tatton-Brown