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Churches Committee
Kent Churches - Architectural & Historical Information

  All Saints Church, Wouldham       TQ 7123 6439

Tim Tatton-Brown's Survey 1994

LOCATION: Situated near the east bank of the tidal River Medway on Head brickearth (over chalk), probably near an ancient crossing point of the river. Court Farm lies opposite the church.

DESCRIPTION: The church has a complicated medieval history, and this is made more difficult to understand by the comprehensive late 19th century (1880 on hopper) restoration of the exterior, and also by the complete whitewashing of the interior.

A church is mentioned in Domesday Book (1086), and there is little doubt that the walls of the nave of the present church were built before this date. Externally the south-west nave quoin is of tufa and reused Roman bricks (the north-west nave quoin has been rebuilt later with small Ragstones and some Roman bricks etc.) In the middle of the south wall of the nave, a double-splayed window has been re-exposed in part. It has a? glazing-groove in the middle. This must indicate that the nave, and perhaps the western walls of the chancel, are of a late Anglo-Saxon date. The plain square font on its five pillars may be 12th century.

The first addition to this church seems to have been a late 12th century north aisle, though only the western scalloped-capital (very worn), survives of the earliest phase. The two arches and round pillar immediately to the east of this, however, cannot be much later in date - c.1200. The two arches and round pillar into the east end of the south aisle must be of a similar date. The outer walls to both these early nave aisles seem now to have disappeared above ground.

On the north side of the west end of the chancel is a large arch of similar date. This may have lead into an early north chapel, but the side-alternate quoins on the south-east and south-west also suggest that there may have been an early (c.1200) tower on the north side of the chancel. This is perhaps also supported by the very thick wall fragment on the west side. This tower was no doubt removed in the later 15th century when the present tower was built.

In the earlier part of the 13th century the south aisle was perhaps extended to the west, and the slightly more elaborate arch to the west, with an inner order (and stopped chamfers) was made. Of a similar date to this is the eastern part of the (enlarged) chancel. Here there are pairs of lancets in the north and south walls with inner blind-arcading (one bar-stop chamfer survives). The western lancets are smaller and have a bench below them. The south-east lancet has the remains of an external moulding and a trefoiled top. There is also a piscina and two aumbries (in the east wall) of the same date. The east window, with its fine (but now restored) Decorated tracery must date from the early 14th century.

Also in the early 14th century, the arcade into the east end of the north aisle was put up. It may have replaced an earlier arcade, or be an extension of the north aisle. The pair of wide arches have plain double chamfers, and there is a similar arch from the west end of the chancel into an early 14th century south-east chapel. This chapel has a contemporary wide-splayed two-light south window (square head externally), with a small low-down-the wall lancet to the west. (It has shutter hooks on the inside.) The piscina on the south-east side of this chapel, and the three-light Perpendicular east window are 15th century insertions. The outside of this chapel has a flint facing, while the earlier (and later) facings have mainly Ragstone rubble. This is perhaps the chapel of St Blaise, which was repaired in c.1460.

Also of the 15th century is the rebuilding of the outer south aisle wall, to be in line with the south-east chapel. It has a two light Perpendicular window at its west end, and two two-light south-east windows with square hood-moulds. The lancet to the west of the porch has been totally restored, but its original may have come from the earlier (13th century) south aisle outer wall.

The final major phase of rebuilding, in the later 15th century, was on the north side of the nave, where a fine three stage tower was put up. Work on this must have started after the demolition of the north aisle wall, which it presumably straddles. The tower is made of good quality Kentish Ragstone, with a plinth, and two major string-courses marking its three stages. It has a two-light square-headed window to light the ground floor (now ringing room) on the north and two-light windows (with square hoods), all around the upper (belfry) stage. The top parapet is of flint and rag checkerwork, typical of the early Tudor period. There is a fine moulded doorway (with original door) into the tower from the north aisle, and immediately inside this to the east a door leads into the spiral stair-turret which is semi-octagonal externally. (The weather-vane on top of this turret is dated 1802).

There is a small buttress wall that joins, awkwardly, the south-west corner of the tower with the north-west corner of the nave. East of the tower, the north wall of the north aisle must also have been rebuilt (for a very narrow aisle) at the same time. It contains two late 15th century windows, the eastern of which is integral with the new stair to the Roof-loft. Unusually this leads to a small bridge over the east end of the aisle (with a parapet with copings). This is perhaps contrived on the south-west corner of the stub of the early tower. The door to the loft emerges at the north-east corner of the nave. Although the rood-screen has also been removed, a fragment of it is preserved against the east wall of the south-east chapel. Also in the late 15th century a new chapel was made on the north-west side of the chancel (i.e. east of the rood-screen bridge). Externally, this chapel does look as though it is contrived in the southern part of the earlier tower. On the east it has a two-light (round-headed lights) window while another round-headed window is on the north. There is also what is perhaps a tomb-niche in the north wall. The chapel is now a small vestry with the organ on the south side. There is a 19th century fireplace in the east wall. Originally it was the chapel of St Mary attached to Starkey `Castle'.

A major restoration took place in 1880 under Ewan Christian. All the roofs were renewed, and the building was re-pewed and new floors were put in. In the chancel, the sanctuary floor was raised and the lancets were re-opened. Various external repairs were done. The tower roof and new bell-frame were made c.1899.

BUILDING MATERIALS: (Incl. old plaster, paintings, glass, tiles etc.): The late Anglo-Saxon nave has tufa and Roman brick quoins and rubble of flint and Rag. The c.1200 round pillars are apparently chalk (but now lime-washed). The 13th century dressings were of Reigate stone, while the later medieval ones are in Ragstone.

19th century repairs in Bathstone.

Wall brass to M Monox (1602) on chancel N. wall

Size & Shape: Cramped rectangular area around church with large extension to north.

Main road to east and farmyard (plus buildings) to south and west.

Burial `in the churchyard on the east side of the cross' is mentioned in 1498 (Text.Cant.) op.cit. (below).

Condition: Good.

Boundary walls: 19th century brick (plus some rubble) to east (road side) and south.

Building in churchyard or on boundary: Farmyard buildings very close to church on west. Lych Gate (1st World War memorial) to road on S.E.

Ecological potential: ? Yes.

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

Late med. status: Rectory.

Patron: Rochester Cathedral Priory, then to Bishop of Rochester in early 13th century.
Other documentary sources: Hasted IV (1778), 406-8. He tells us there was `formerly a spire steeple' on the tower.
(W. Kent, 1906), 82 mentions burial in the porch (in 1531); and various bequests to the making of the `stepill' (campanile) 1460-83. A great bell, being mended in 1473, is also mentioned. Glass for the window on the west side of the church is mentioned in 1501, and 100 shillings left for repair to chapel of St Blaise (1460).

Reused materials: Reused Roman brick (and some opus signinum) - mainly in early W. wall.

Inside present church: ? Good. eastern arm, under the 19th century raised floors.

Outside present church: Good - churchyard level much raised, with shallow gulley around church.

The church and churchyard: A late Anglo-Saxon nave with remains of double-splayed windows on the south. Nave aisles added from c.1200, with S.E. chapel of the early 14th century. Chancel extended eastwards in the mid-13th century. The large north-west tower and the north aisle and north-east chapel were rebuilt in the late 15th century, perhaps replacing an earlier north tower. Major restoration in 1880.

The wider context: One of a small number of partially surviving late Anglo-Saxon churches in the diocese.

REFERENCES: S. Glynne, Churches of Kent (1877), 340-1. He visited in 1847.

Guide Book: By A Pearl (1959, revised 1967) - now out of print.

Plans and early drawings: Petrie 1807 view from S.E.

DATE VISITED: 30/7/94.                                      REPORT BY: Tim Tatton-Brown

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