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Churches Committee
Kent Churches - Architectural & Historical Information

St Peter & St Paul Church, Yalding       TQ 696 501

Tim Tatton-Brown's Survey 1994

LOCATION: Situated on a low terrace just above the River Beult (with a major medieval bridge over the river just to the south west). The Court Lodge was not far to the east, and the church is at about 60 feet above OD.

DESCRIPTION: This church was heavily restored in 1859-62, and this and external render have obscured many of the original external medieval features. As well as this much of the 13th century west tower was rebuilt in red brick in c.1734.

No above-ground trace seems to survive of the original nave and chancel, though the walls of the present long nave may retain part of the fabric of the Romanesque nave. The earlier chancel was replaced by the present structure in the 13th century, and a blocked lancet on the north and two more lancets on the south are visible. They have external jambs of Reigate stone (much repaired with cement) and the two southern lancets are linked internally by a strong course. John Newman has suggested that the 13th century chancel originally extended further west, and was shortened in the c.1300 rebuilding. This is possible, but does not seem a very likely scenario, though he is right in saying that the nave is very long. It is not impossible, however, for this to have been a large 12th century nave.

The other 13th century addition is of the west tower. This has three stages of lancets but externally they have all been replaced in brick (presumably because the Reigate stone was so worn). The top stage (belfry) of the tower has twin-lights; there are also traces of blocked paired lancets (in Reigate stone) in the west face of the second stage of the tower. In the south east corner of the tower is a semi-circular spiral staircase, which now has a lead-covered onion dome on top (with a weather vane on it dated 1734). There is an early 14th century doorway inserted into the west wall of the Tower (with pyramid stops) and a stoup just to the south. The two angle buttresses on the south west corner of the tower are probably 19th century additions.

In the years around 1300, a large scale rebuilding of the nave took place with north and south transepts, north and south aisles and porches being added. This rebuilding must have taken place in at least two main sub-phases, with the transepts being built before the aisles. However, the work was probably continuous, culminating in the extension of the north aisle along the north side of the tower. The geometrical tracery of the windows all perhaps suggest a date at the very end of the 13th century, but the arcades and other elements, suggest a date in the early 14th century.

The octagonal piers for the four bays in the nave are surmounted by double hollow-chamfered arches. There are also two similar arches into the north and south transept, and a wider chancel arch; also arches between the aisles and transepts.

The south transept was later called the Lady Chapel but there seems to be no early evidence for this. In the south wall is a fine table tomb (now used as an altar), which was perhaps put into its niche soon after the transept was built. The niche for the tomb is covered by a fine early 14th century cusped (and sub-cusped) arch. In the east wall of this transept are two two-light windows and the piscina and niches suggest that there were probably two altars in this transept. The north transept may have had a similar arrangement, but this is now obscured by the organ.

Externally Ragstone and Tunbridge Wells sandstone rubble walling is visible with sandstone dressings. The Tunbridge Wells sandstone is also used for the carved window tracery and in the `dying' mouldings for the north and south porch. The latter is unusual in having no angle-buttresses; all the other work of this period has angle-buttresses.

During the 15th century two three-light perpendicular windows were inserted into the aisle walls on either side of the porch. Those on the north are of Ragstone with some later repairs, while those on the south are completely restored in Tunbridge Wells sandstone. The eastern of the windows also have string courses below the window. The shallow-pitched roofs over the aisles may also be 15th century replacements. The 3-light east window in the chancel is also a perpendicular insertion of the 15th century. It has Tunbridge Wells sandstone dressings.

The boarded ceiling in the nave may cover a 15th (possibly 14th) century roof. It has an interlaced ribbed decoration with bosses in the bay between the north and south doors.

A later 15th century addition was of the Rood screen and loft, which have now completely disappeared. However, the door from the south-east corner of the north transept to the stair to the Rood loft and the higher door into the loft in the north-west corner of the chancel can still be seen externally (they are blocked and the turret has gone). At about the same date two-light perpendicular windows (with square hood-moulds) were put into the western part of the chancel. There is also a small Perpendicular priests door into the south side of the chancel.

In the 16th or early 17th century a vestry was added on the north side of the chancel, but this was destroyed in the 19th century. The shed-roof has, however, left a scar at the top and the blocked doorway, with small brick jambs, can still be seen.

As we have seen the tower was substantially rebuilt in the early 18th century, and the whole church in 1859-62, was restored and given new internal pews and fittings. Several buttresses were added (to the chancel and tower) and the south aisle wall was refaced in neatly coursed Ragstone. The south porch has become the boiler house.

BUILDING MATERIALS: (Incl. old plaster, paintings, glass, tiles etc.): The local Ragstone rubble, with some Tunbridge Wells sandstone rubble, is the main building material with Reigate stone used for the 13th century lancet quoins. Large cut blocks of Tunbridge Wells sandstone are used for most of the early 14th century dressings with some Ragstone. Kentish Ragstone is also used for some of the later dressings and for the blockwork in the south aisle wall, and for the added SW buttresses to the tower, and the east diagonal buttresses to the chancel. Harsh red brick is used now for the external jambs to the tower windows. They contrast with the 18th century red bricks used there.

EXCEPTIONAL MONUMENTS IN CHURCH: Fine early 14th century Table tomb in (and ? contemporary with) south transept - set under cusped and sub-cusped arch in south wall.

Wall monument in chancel to Ambrose Warde (ob. 1637) put up 1656.


Size & Shape: Large rectangular area around the church, with major extensions (19th century) to the east and north-east.

Condition: Good.

Boundary walls: Terrace wall in brick to the south.

Building in churchyard or on boundary: Ruined c.17th century timber-framed barn to the south-east.

Exceptional monuments: Many good headstones in the area north and south of the church.

Ecological potential: Quite good.

HISTORICAL RECORD (where known):
Earliest ref. to church: Two churches in Domesday Book (probably Yalding and Brenchley). Laurence presented to vicarage in 1184 (Reg. Roff. 146), after having earlier been Rector.

Late med. status: Vicarage.

Patron: Given by Richard de Clare (with chapel of Brenchley) to Tonbridge Priory. Confirmed by bishop de Glanvill in 1184 with appropriation of church. After the Priory's suppression in 1526, it went to Christ Church, Oxford, then in 1529 to the King. From 1559 it was in lay hands.

Other documentary sources: Hasted V (1798), 169-173.
Test. Cant
(W.Kent, 1906) 84, mention paving of the church (1487) and tile-paving in the north aisle (1493).

Inside present church: Good.

Outside present church: Good.

To structure: New brickwork to lancet on south side of tower, and new tiled roof over chancel; tower repointed 1976.

The church and churchyard: A small 13th century chancel and western tower with, in between a completely rebuilt nave with aisles, porches, and transepts of c.1300. Fine new geometric tracery windows of this period. 15th century windows in the two aisles and chancel, and traces of a Rood-loft turret on the north-west side of the chancel. Tower rebuilt with red brick, in the early 18th century, and the whole church thoroughly restored in 1859-62.

The wider context: The c.1300 Geometric tracery is very fine.

REFERENCES: S. Glynne, Churches of Kent (1877), 288-9.

Guide Book: Briefly sketchy guide (with rough plan) - 1980 reprinted 1992.

Plans and early drawings: Petrie view from NE in early 19th century.

DATE VISITED: 22/11/93 & 7/7/94                        REPORT BY: Tim Tatton-Brown

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