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Church of St Mary

A Grade I Listed Building in Sandwich, Kent

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Latitude: 51.2772 / 51°16'38"N

Longitude: 1.3387 / 1°20'19"E

OS Eastings: 632951

OS Northings: 158417

OS Grid: TR329584

Mapcode National: GBR X12.WSZ

Mapcode Global: VHLGS.5526

Plus Code: 9F3378GQ+VF

Entry Name: Church of St Mary

Listing Date: 19 May 1950

Grade: I

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1069541

English Heritage Legacy ID: 177667

Location: Sandwich, Dover, Kent, CT13

County: Kent

District: Dover

Civil Parish: Sandwich

Built-Up Area: Sandwich

Traditional County: Kent

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Kent

Tagged with: Church building Redundant church

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STRAND STREET (south side)
Church of St Mary


There is said to have been a church on this site in the C7, but the earliest surviving fabric in the present church is the C12 west responds of the former north and south aisles. Much of the east end was rebuilt c.1200, and the arcades and aisles were rebuilt in the C14, with further work in the C15. The central tower collapsed in 1668 and destroyed the entire inside of the church. It was rebuilt in 1671 with a timber north arcade and the nave and south aisle roofed in one. It was restored in 1869-74 to designs by Joseph Clarke. There were further repairs in the mid C20, when the church was also stripped of its furnishings.

A mix of materials reflecting the damage suffered by the structure. The medieval work is small, squared masonry; the C17 repairs are mostly in flint with stone dressings, and there is some C19 repair in masonry. Belfry porch in flint, timber and weatherboarding. Timber arcade internally. Tiled roofs.

Very wide nave with wide chancel, north aisle, south porch with small belfry over it. This is the remains of a large aisled church with north and south aisles, central tower (probably with transepts), and chancel with south aisle, that was rebuilt and roofed with the nave, former south nave aisle, chancel and chancel siuth aisle all in a single span. The north east corner of the north aisle is angled to accommodate the street.

An unusual exterior reflecting repairs and alterations following the collapse of the tower in the C17. There are only two vessels, nave and north aisle, both roofed continuously from east to west. The nave/chancel is exceptionally wide as it incorporates the former south aisle. Evidence for this can be seen in the twin windows at the east and west ends. Those on the east have renewed Y-tracery and are separated by a central buttress marking the position of the former wall between the chancel and south chancel chapel. The west windows are late Decorated in style and were inserted in the C19 to replace late C17, wooden Y-tracery windows. There is a blocked arch, probably a door, below the former nave window, and a C12 recess with a fragment of carving between the windows, perhaps from a buttress on the line of the former south aisle wall. The north aisle west window was restored early C14, and the windows on either side of the north porch have ogee heads and Decorated tracery. Both were restored in the C19, but the tracery copies that exist in the more western window. The chancel north and south window have cusped Y-tracery, that on the south largely unrenewed, and the rest of the windows are paired lancets, replaced in the C19 but apparently copying a C17 arrangement. There is a blocked door and a possible blocked window in the south chancel wall, and another on the north. There is a large recess with a brick head in the north aisle east wall. The C19 north porch, replacing an older porch, has a steeply pitched roof and a continuously moulded outer opening. The south tower porch has a plain flint lower part with a simple, chamfered outer opening and two small, trefoiled lights. The second stage is C18 brick, and the belfry is weatherboarded and has a small, pyramidal cap.

The interior is partially plastered and painted, partially stripped masonry, and is entirely open except for the enormous timber arcade to the north aisle, built after most of the building was destroyed by the collapse of the central tower in 1668. The arcade is very plain and has polygonal posts with diagonal braces to the wall plate of the nave roof. They stand on the C14 bases of the former north arcade. The west responds of the destroyed C12 north and south arcades survive and are enough to show that the C12 church was very grand. They have plain orders with a soffit roll on half round responds with recessed shafts and scallop capitals, one with beaded interlace. There are also some fragments of C12 or C13 responds at the east end, those at the east end of the north arcade probably related to the former crossing arch, those in the north east corner of the nave probably part of a former arch between the south aisle and south chancel chapel. There is a partial blocked window arch in the south east wall of the nave. The vastness of the space is emphasised by the roofs, notably the barn-like nave roof which spans the nave and the remains of the south aisle. Of late C17 date (see plaque dated 1671), it has king posts with diagonal braces; it was formerly ceiled. The north aisle roof has a boarded ceiling with an internal dormer over the aisle east window.

Font is octagonal, with quatrefoils on the bowl. Dated 1662 on the stem, but probably C15 re-erected after the Restoration. Royal Arms of Charles II, dated 1660. The polygonal C18 pulpit was formerly part of a three-decker, and stands on a C19 base. The large altarpiece, with a broken pediment on fluted pilasters was installed in 1756. It formerly held the large Creed and Commandment tables now hanging on the north wall. The altar rails are also 1756, and the altar was made in 1956. A few C18 benches with trellis-panelled shaped ends and arm rests were brought from the chapel of Gopsall Hall (Leicestershire) in 1956. The north aisle altar came from St Mildred's, Canterbury.

There are several medieval niches, including an early C13 banner stave locker in north wall of chancel, with an adjacent aumbry, and another recess in the east wall to the north of the altar. The remains of a C15 altarpiece exposed within the east wall of the former south aisle or transept. There are a few medieval tiles in the floor. There is good C19 and early C20 glass, including several C19 windows by Ward and Hughes. The north aisle lancets are by William Morris and Co. of 1933.

There are many good monuments, notably a fine wall monument by Westmacott to Admiral Peter Rainer, d. 1808, a weeping Minerva surrounded by naval relics. Late C14 cusped ogee tomb recess in the north wall. Abraham Rutton, d.1606, a worn wall tablet with kneeling figures in a strapwork frame in the chancel. There are a number of ledger slabs and brass indents in the floor. There are also several late C17 and early C18 chest tombs inside the church.

There was a church on the site of St Mary's in the mid C7, when a convent was founded by Domneva, the cousin of King Egbert of Kent, in 664-73. Destroyed by the Danes, it was rebuilt by Queen Emma, wife of King Canute. The church was largely or entirely rebuilt after the Conquest, and had north and south aisles and a central tower, possibly with transepts. The chancel was rebuilt c.1200, and by the early C14, the church had a south chancel aisle, as indicated by the wide chancel with two windows and a central buttress. The aisles were probably also widened in this period. The unusual plan at the east end of the south aisle, which is wider than the chancel south aisle and has a partial blocked east window suggests the presence of a former south transept. The church was burned by the French in the late C14 and repaired by Sir William Leverwick of Ash and his wife. There was some further refurnishing in the C15. In 1578-9, the church was damaged by an earthquake that `did shake and cleave four arches' in the church. This damage may have been partially responsible for the collapse on 25 April, 1668 of the central tower, which destroyed both nave arcades, but leaving much of the outside intact. When it was rebuilt, the south aisle and nave were roofed together, thus providing a better space for preaching. It was in use by 1675. The belfry was added over the porch in 1714, and galleries and new furnishings were also added in the mid C18. The church was restored in the C19, when the windows are largely renewed or replaced. The three parishes in Sandwich were amalgamated in 1948 and St Mary's went out of use. There were proposals to demolish it in 1956, but it was restored and vested in the Churches Conservation Trust in 1985.

Newman, J., Buildings of England: North-East and East Kent (1977), 443-4
Tricker, R. St Mary's Church, Strand Street, Sandwich, Kent (2005)

The Church of St Mary, Sandwich is designated at Grade I for the following principal reasons:
* Large and very grand C12 church, much extended in the C14, almost wholly rebuilt in 1668-75 following the collapse of the central tower.
* Unusual late C17 timber north arcade, and very wide span nave roof, also late C17.
* Fine altar piece and communion rails of 1756, together with a number of interesting monuments, shedding light on the history of the town.
* For its important group value as a key building in this exceptional medieval town

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