& St Martin Church, Wye TR
DIOCESE: HISTORICAL AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL SURVEY
Tim Tatton-Brown's Survey 1992
LOCATION: On the north side of the small market
square (now mostly filled in) with the mid 15th century college
immediately to the east, it is c. 140ft above O.D. on a terrace
of the River Stour. A major crossing point of the river is just over
¼ mile to the west (now the 1638 bridge).
DESCRIPTION: Until the collapse of the crossing tower in 1686, this
was a large cruciform church. The rebuilding with small chancel and
south tower in 1706-7, left a church of only about half its original
Though the church is first mentioned in Domesday Book and was a
'Minster church' with a cruciform plan, the earliest visible remains
date only from the 13th century. These consist of the west wall,
including the west buttresses aisle walls and the west doorway
(heavily restored with much new masonry). The surviving arcades in the
nave must also date to the later 13th century. Four bays of arcading
survive, with the beginning of a fifth arch visible on the north side
at the east end.
No doubt as a result the founding of the new college by Archbishop
Kempe in 1447, the church was rebuilt with new windows in the north
aisle wall and a mostly new south side aisle wall (the aisle walls,
however are on the same line as the 13th century walls, though no
doubt they are higher with added creations). Buttresses were also
added (or rebuilt) and a fine upper clearstorey was added to the nave
with three-light windows above the arches. John Newman (BOE 505),
points out that new piers were also made in the nave under the 13th
century arches. New roofs were also made - shallow pitched shed roofs
on the aisles (partly restored), and collar and rafter-roofs in the
nave, which also have tie-beams on wall-posts. On the north side there
may be traces of earlier windows below the mid 15th century
three-light windows. There is also the block-up lower part of a north
doorway opposite the south doorway. The south porch, with its chamber
above, is also probably a 15th century addition, but it was given a
new south wall and doorway (with Portland store quoins) in 1787.
Otherwise no other medieval masonry survives above ground except the
15th century font.
With the college of the crossing-tower eastwards in 1686, little was
done until 15 years later work started on building a smaller new
chancel, with apsidal east end, and a massive but not very tall tower
with diagonal buttresses. There is reused perp. mouldings for the
south doorway, but brick windows in the bell-chamber above, which
contains a new peal of 8 bells made in 1774.
Much reused masonry is visible in the lower external walls of the
tower, as well as various date-stones of the rebuilding in 1706-7. The
new early 18th century chancel still contains some of its original
fittings (reredos + panelling), though a north doorway and window have
been blocked (the latter covered by 19th century monuments
internally). Still open in Petrie's 1808 view. An 18th century west
window in the nave was replaced by a new 'perpendicular' one in 1878,
which was in turn restored after bomb damage (1943) in the last war.
The west faces of the west-facing buttresses also have early 18th
century Portland stone facings. The 18th century galleries in the nave
(along the S + W walls) were removed in 1878, and new pews were put
in, and a new 'perp' window in Bath stone was put into the east end of
the north aisle (vestry). The organ in the west gallery was moved to
A major restoration after War Damage was carried out in 1950, and many
other changes have taken place in the internal fittings over the last
few decades. The organ is now at the east end of the north aisle.
Sir Stephen Glynne visited the church in 1845 when a c. 13th
century north doorway was still visible. It is also shown beneath a
shorter 15th century 3-light window in H. Petrie's 1808 view from the
BUILDING MATERIALS (incl. old plaster, paintings, glass, tiles etc.):
The medieval rubble walling is of flint and local ironstone, with
Ragstone quoins, jambs etc., some small knapped flint in the 15th
century rebuilding, and reused Ragstone and Caenstone (with occasional
Reigate stone and Purbeck marble shafts) in the rebuilt eastern arm.
Also some tile and brick. Port and stone quoins, etc., also used in
the later 18th century and Bath stone in the 19th century.
EXCEPTIONAL MONUMENTS IN CHURCH:
15th century brasses, now on S. wall of nave. Also monument to Lady
Joanna Thornhill (ob. 1708) in the chancel.
CHURCHYARD AND ENVIRONS:
Size & Shape: Large rectangular area around church, with strip
extensions on N. + W.
None, but terracing down to W.
Building in churchyard or on boundary: Mid 15th century Wye college on
HISTORICAL RECORD (where known):
Earliest ref. to church: Domesday Book.
Evidence of pre-Norman status (DB, DM, TR etc.): Minster church (in
D.M.) with several churches pertaining to it.
Late med. status (vicarage\appropriation): Appropriated to Battle
Abbey 1384. Then vicarage bought by Abp. Kempe for his college c.
1447 (Rectory remained with Battle Abbey till Dissolution in 1539.
(see Frampton op. cit. below).
Other documentary sources: Hasted VII (1798), 362-8.
Wills (Test Cant (East Kent, 1907), 377-381) mention the
'North Chancel' of Our Lady (1474+) and the altar of St Nicholas
(1474+), presumably in the south transept. There was also an altar of
St James (1494).
Reused materials: - Few Roman bricks. Much earlier materials reused in
18th century. tower.
Previous archaeological work (published\unpublished): 1948-1952
excavations of eastern arm unpublished. These uncovered the rough
outline of the earlier chancel and north and south transepts.
Fragments of the north transept were also revealed during drainage
work in December 1990.
SURVIVAL OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL DEPOSITS: ? Good.
Outside present church: Good, though cut by later burials /vaults.
To structure: New room added to east of S. porch in 1991 with door cut
in porch wall.
To graveyard: Drainage ditching on N. + W. sides of church in Dec.1990
uncovered two burial vaults as well as fragments of the N.W. corner of
the old N. transept.
Quinquennial inspection (date\architect): R S Barnes.
ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND HISTORICAL ASSESSMENT:
The church and churchyard: Despite the total destruction of the
eastern arm in 1686, and its replacement by a small chancel (with
apsidal chapel) and squat with mid-15th century 3-light windows in the
outer aisle walls and a fine new clearstorey and roof (only 4 bays
The wider context: An important early Minster site which should have
early and later Medieval remains surviving below ground.
REFERENCES: T S Frampton 'The Vicars, Masters or Provosts, and
Perpetual Curates of the church of S.S. Gregory and Martin Wye', Arch
Cant 28 (1909), 311-326.
S Glynne Notes on the Churches of Kent (1877), 123-4.
Guide Book: (1950) by S G Brade-Birks + G E Hubbard - revised 1976,
1979, and 1987 - needs updating.
Plans & drawings: Plan by A A Purvis (dated April 1949) in guide
showing earlier eastern arm. View from N.E. in 1808 by Petrie.
DATE VISITED: 6/12/90 +
REPORT BY: Tim Tatton-Brown