Mary the Virgin Church, Wingham
TR 2423 5745
DIOCESE: HISTORICAL AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL SURVEY
Tim Tatton-Brown's Survey 1993
LOCATION: The church lies on the west side of the
village at only c. 25ft above O.D. Wingham Court is to the
south, and the provost's house (for Wingham College) lay immediately
S.E. of the church until demolished in the early 19th century. The
major north-south market street lies a little further north-east.
DESCRIPTION: In the late Anglo-Saxon period, as Domesday Monachorum
tells us, Wingham was a major 'minster' church with various chapels
pertaining to it. After the Norman Conquest, it was perhaps rebuilt as
a cruciform church, but the earliest visible above-ground remains are
the west walls of the north and south transepts, which contain arches
of the very late 12th century that once ran into the nave aisles.
Reused materials at the N. end of the church, however, suggest some
early 12th cent. work eg. The chip-carved block at the S.W. quoin. The
form of the later transepts, east of these walls, does however suggest
an earlier cruciform building with an aisled nave before c.
In 1282 a new college was founded at Wingham by
Archbishop Peckham, and the first provost of the new foundation was
appointed in 1287. As a result of this the whole of the eastern arm of
the church was rebuilt with a large chancel and a flanking transept
chapel on either side. This new work of the late 13th century is
characterised by a continuous external roll moulded string-course,
which can also be seen in the north wall of the north transept. There
is also an internal Purbeck marble string course at a similar height
(under the windows) all around the inside of the chancel. The window
tracery in the chancel and east side of the south transept also
suggest a late 13th century date. The small projecting altar bay in
the south transept is similar to those in the nearby contemporary
churches of Adisham and Ickham. The asymmetric arrangement of windows
in the chancel may also suggest that there was already a north-east
chapel. All other evidence for this, however, was removed when the
two-story 15th century (? Vestry) addition was made here. The chancel
also contains a fine sedilia on the south side, as well as a
contemporary piscina and aumbry in the east wall.
The five easternmost stall seats on either side (with
carved miserecords) must also date from soon after the completion of
the new chancel for the canons.
The fine west tower to the church was also probably built
in the later 13th century, though the tower arch into the nave may be
a little later. In the first stage of the tower (where the clock
mechanism is now situated), are the remains of the 13th century
lancets and the rubble masonry contains quite a lot of reused (c.
12th century) material. There is a Hythe stone plinth and large Hythe
stone side alternate quoins in the buttresses. The top stage of the
tower (belfry) contains pairs of windows with trefoiled heads of a
late 13th century date. Internally these windows have had their heads
rebuilt fairly recently in buff stock-bricks.
The fine spire on top is fully described in Arch. Cant.
108 (1990), 277-80. It perhaps dates from the 14th century and was
similar to the (now-destroyed) spire at Minster-in-Thanet. Until 1793
it was covered in lead. This was then replaced with copper, which has
recently (1990) been renewed again.
The south door and porch may also be late 13th or early
14th century in date. It was originally a two-storied structure, but
the tie-beams of the first floor have been removed (perhaps in the
As already mentioned the structure on the east side of
the north transept was originally a two-storied building (? Vestry) of
the 15th century. It has one diagonal buttress, and parts of the
original windows can be seen in the north and east walls where they
are bricked up. At ground floor level they were simple pairs of
rectangular windows, while at first floor level they had pairs of
Perpendicular windows. The earlier N. windows can be seen below and
east of the 18th century 'Venetian' window. There was also a small
rectangular window on the south side (with wide internal splays)
looking into the chancel.
From the evidence of wills, a major rebuilding of the
nave, without a north aisle, was going on from at least 1493. This was
being done with reused materials and high quality knapped flintwork
and clearly took a long time. At the west end of the north wall, there
are two square-headed 3-light windows which were perhaps the last to
be put in (There is a diagonal bonding break just below the eastern
window here). The work was almost certainly unfinished at the
Reformation, when we have the now well-known documentary evidence for
the building funds being embezzled. As a result, a timber arcade seems
to have been built (the upper north and south walls contain reused
drums from a stone arcade - perhaps prepared, but not used) in the
1550s. The two roofs over the nave and south aisle are of late
crown-post type, and the west gable to the south aisle is made of 16th
century brickwork (with a tumbled-in-slope). The timber posts were
plastered and given early renaissance arches and capitals but these
were destroyed in 1873.
From the early 17th century, the disused north and south
transept chapels were taken over by the Palmer and Oxenden families as
burial places ( and family pews). They still contain may fine
monuments. The north transept acquired a new roof with hipped ends in
the 17th century, and new red brick work was put into the late 12th
cent. arch on the west (with an external buttress) when Thomas
Palmer's monument was put in 1718. This transept later became a
schoolroom, and is now a vestry with the organ at the west end. The
new reredos and round window in the east wall of the chancel was also
constructed in the early 18th century.
In 1873-5 a major restoration was carried out under
Benjamin Ferrey mainly in the chancel. He rebuilt the chancel arch and
east window (with Bath stone and Purbeck marble) and also replaced
much of the external tracery and quoining. He also removed the late
16th century wood and plaster arches in the nave, leaving plain wooden
posts. The upper part of the contemporary chancel screen was also
removed as well as the pulpit and sounding board and the box pews.
In 1990, a new room was made under the tower, and the
chancel was stripped of most of its c. 1875 fittings. The base
of the Rood screen was removed and put against the chancel walls.
BUILDING MATERIALS: In the earliest church (evidence from reused
materials) Tufa and Caen was used. Then from the late 12th century
Reigate stone, as well as Caen is brought in. From the later 13th
century Hythe stone is used for plinths, quoins etc., with some
internal Purbeck marble (shafts, abaci and string course). For the
early 16th century work, much high quality knapped flintwork is used
for facing, along with reused materials. The mid-16th century arcade
posts are of chestnut (with repairs in ? oak). The west gable of the
south aisle is in 16th century brickwork, while 17th and 18th century
brickwork can be seen in the Palmer and Oxenden chapel outer walls.
The 1873-5 restoration was done with Bath stone and heavily pointed
flintwork. A recent repair of the south-east buttress of the south
transept is in concrete block!
EXCEPTIONAL MONUMENTS IN CHURCH: Some fine brass indents in chancel
Also Sir Thomas Palmer (ob. 1624) by N. Stone, and other Palmer
monuments in the north chapel as well as the magnificent Oxenden
monument (1682) and other monuments in the south chapel.
CHURCHYARD AND ENVIRONS:
Boundary walls: Early brick boundary walls on south (? late 16th
century), east and north. The wall east of the chancel has diaper work
and to the south a door into the old provosts house, as well as yellow
Exceptional monuments: Some fine 18th century headstones in
Ecological potential: ? Good
HISTORICAL RECORD (where known):
Earliest ref. to church: Domesday Monachorum
Evidence of pre-Norman status (DM, DM, TR etc): Minster Church, with
Ash, Nonington, Ratling, Womenswold, 'Wielmestun' and 'Eadredestun'
attached to it. In 1282, Ash, Goodnestone, Nonington and Womenswold
were given separate parochial status.
Late med. status: (rectory\vicarage\appropriation): The new parishes
(above) of Ash, Goodnestone, Nonington, and Womenswold were
appropriated to Wingham College till 1548.
Patron: Archbishop - Collegiate - from 1282- 1548, then from 1554 a
Other documentary sources: See Hasted IX (1800), 237-241 Testamenta
Caniana (E. Kent, 1907), 366-8 mentions burial in churchyard
from 1464. Also 'repairs to nave' 1493; 'towards the building of
Wingham Church', 1526; 'to the building up of the church', if it be
builded again' 1541; 'towards the covering of Wingham church', 1544.
To the reparation of the church the 6s. 8d. which I lent unto the
churchwardens to pay the mason', 1549. 'To the building of the
church', 1555 'Towards the rehedifying of the church.......to be
delivered at such time as the sowers shall begin to work', 1558.
'Towards the building of the ..........church', 1559. To make a window
and two new piers', 1562.
Reused materials: Early 12th cent. chip-carved Caen block at S.W.
SURVIVAL OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL DEPOSITS:
Inside present church: Good
Outside present church: ? Quite good - but large drainage ditch dug
around church. Site of north aisle to north of nave with ? early
floors and burials.
To structure: New screen and ringers floor into tower, 1990-91. Panels
at base of Rood-screen removed and put against walls in 1991.
To floors: For new W.C. + sink under tower.
To graveyard: Sewer trench dug west from tower.
Quinquennial inspection (date\architect): R. Jones
ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND HISTORICAL ASSESSMENT:
The church and churchyard: This fine church is now largely of two
phases, a late 13th century chancel, west tower and porch, and a
rebuilt nave and south aisle of the first half of the 16th century.
There is a fine medieval timber spire and the remains of stalls (and
miserecords) in the chancel, as well as brass indents.
The church also contains some quite exceptional post-medieval
(particularly 17th century) monuments.
The wider context: This was one of the ancient minster churches of
Kent, so the archaeological deposits beneath are of great importance.
REFERENCES: A Hussey + A H Taylor 'Wingham Church' (with Aymer
Vallance), Arch. Cant. 40 (1928), 131-40. T.
Tatton-Brown + R. Austin 'The spires on the parish churches of St Mary
at Minster-in-Thanet and Wingham', Arch. Cant. 108
(1990), 277-280. A Hussey Chronicles of Wingham, S.R. Glynne Kent
Churches (1877), 108-110.
Guide Book: by David Eaves + Maurice Crane (Undated, but c.
1987-9) with plan.
Photographs: Chancel + nave looking west in Kent Churches 1954
p.58. Also Decorated windows on S.E. side of chancel, p.89.
Plans & drawings: Lithograph by William Burgess (c.
1840-50) looking east + H. Petrie view from S.W. in very early 19th
cent. with large Provosts (later Palmer family's) house to east. It
was demolished soon after (c. 1825). Also print of church from
the south in Gents. Mag. (July 1792), p.594.
DATE VISITED:5th March 1988, 24th September 1989, 3rd & 8th April
REPORT BY: Tim Tatton-Brown