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Church of St John the Baptist

A Grade I Listed Building in Penshurst, Kent

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Latitude: 51.1736 / 51°10'24"N

Longitude: 0.1835 / 0°11'0"E

OS Eastings: 552732

OS Northings: 143859

OS Grid: TQ527438

Mapcode National: GBR MP8.C6D

Mapcode Global: VHHQ5.4RBP

Plus Code: 9F3255FM+C9

Entry Name: Church of St John the Baptist

Listing Date: 10 September 1954

Grade: I

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1243204

English Heritage Legacy ID: 446486

Location: Penshurst, Sevenoaks, Kent, TN11

County: Kent

District: Sevenoaks

Civil Parish: Penshurst

Built-Up Area: Penshurst

Traditional County: Kent

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Kent

Church of England Parish: Penshurst St John the Baptist

Church of England Diocese: Rochester

Tagged with: Church building

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This list entry was subject to a Minor Amendment on 16 December 2021 to update text and reformat to current standards




C13 north arcade, early C14 south arcade, C15 roofs, clerestory and tower. The south aisle was widened in 1631, and the south porch is also of this date. The south (Sidney) chapel was rebuilt in 1820 by J B Rebecca. The church was restored in 1864-5 by George Gilbert Scott, who rebuilt the north aisle and chancel east wall and replaced the south windows.

Coursed sandstone ashlar. Tiled roofs.

Chancel with south east chapel with its own south porch, north east chapel, nave with north and south aisles and south porch, west tower.

In a good setting, back from the street and in close proximity to Penshurst Place. C15, three stage west tower with diagonal buttresses with multiple offsets. It has an embattled parapet and outsized octagonal corner turrets with spirelets, probably C17. Tall, three light W window with vertical tracery; the west door has a pointed head in a square surround. Two light bell openings in square surrounds and single light openings in the middle stage with very shallowly curved surrounds. Late C15 nave and chancel clerestory of two light windows in square surrounds, largely hidden externally behind the steeply pitched roofs of the aisles and chapels.

The C17 south aisle, rebuilt and widened in 1631, is roofed separately from the nave and has three-light C13-style windows, installed in 1864-5 and replacing windows of 1631 with straight mullions and transoms. The C17 south aisle porch has a round arched outer opening with small mouldings dying into the jambs. Hollow chamfered inner south doorway, with a good door, possibly C15 or C16. The south chapel, rebuilt in 1820, rises above the line of the south aisle, and has a C19 east window with reticulated tracery; on the south it has a three light C19 window (one light blocked) with a square head and its own projecting south porch with a curved, embattled parapet, the south door with a square surround with foliage carving in the spandrels and a coat of arms above it flanked by inverted torches. Good outer door with open tracery. Internally the porch is rib-vaulted.

The north aisle, rebuilt in 1864-5 has Decorated-style windows. The north chapel was also rebuilt in the C19 and has a three-light late C13-style window like those in the south aisle, a C19 north door and a polygonal stair turret. Of two stories only at its east end, it has two C19 Decorated-style east windows, the upper with a pointed head, the lower in a square surround. The chancel has a five-light C19 Decorated-style east window.

No chancel arch, but a large timber arch of 1865-6 with openwork tracery spandrels and large angel corbels serves to divide nave and chancel. Three bay C13 north arcade, the arches of two chamfered orders on round piers with moulded capitals. There are two arches of unequal width from the chancel to the north chapel, one with a hood mould with mid C14 headstops, the other almost plain and much taller, with a triangular, possibly C15 head. The C14 south nave arcade and the arcade to the south east (Sidney) chapel are continuous, and have polygonal piers with moulded capitals and bases. There is a narrow, C13 arch on moulded corbels from south aisle into the south chapel, and next to it a C13 lancet that now opens internally from the chapel to the aisle, indicating that the aisle was once narrower than the chapel. The Sidney chapel has an elegant pointed tunnel vault of 1820, panelled and painted, and with carved bosses on the ribs. Very tall C15 tower arch with chunky polygonal responds with moulded capitals. The scar of the former nave roof is visible on the east face of the tower.

Four-bay crown post roof in the nave, late C15. Short, curved braces to the main beams, with carved spandrels, resting on carved timber corbels. The south aisle roof is 1631 and has an asymmetrical king post and collar design, with the principal rafters below the collar stopped and moulded. The stone corbels on the north side probably survive from an earlier roof in the aisle. The other roofs are C19.

C15 polygonal font with quatrefoils on the bowl and tracery on the stem, garishly recoloured in the C19 or C20. Stone pulpit of c.1865 in a hard Italianate style, with mosaic inlay and Roman-style carved heads. Chancel screen 1895 by Bodley and Garner, in a very elaborate late Perpendicular style with delicate tracery and a coved loft. There is a similar screen in the north aisle.

Some good glass, notably heraldic glass of 1627 in the west window and glass of 1884 in the south clerestory by Holiday, as well as other good C19 and early C20 windows.

The church has an excellent collection of monuments. Among the most notable, two C13 coffin slabs under the tower, one with a cross superimposed over the figure of a praying woman. Sir Stephen de Penchester (d. 1299), a damaged recumbent Purbeck marble figure in chain mail, drawing a sword. Brass to Pawle Yden, d. 1514. Sir William Sidney, d.1554, a late Perpendicular tomb chest with little Renaissance detailing, the back plate framed by twisted shafts carrying a deep cornice. Sir William Coventry, d.1686, a massive architectural wall tablet in black and white marble with putti holding up an urn, probably by William Kidwell. Robert, 4th Earl of Leicester, d.1704, by William Stanton and William Woodman, with dancing angels supporting an urn and baby heads in the clouds. Gilbert Spencer, d. 1730, a large tablet in the chancel. Philip, 5th Earl of Leicester, d.1743, a tomb chest with an obelisk and a good coat of arms. Sophia, Lady De L'Isle, d.1837 by W Theed, a female figure in Grecian draperies on a pedestal. Viscount Hardinge, d.1856, designed by Salvin and carved by Phyffers, a Gothic tablet with a medallion.

There was a church here by the early C12, and the core of the nave may be of that date. The north aisle was added c.1200, and the south east chapel is C13 in origin. Before it was rebuilt in 1820, the south east chapel appears to have been late C13, the east window with a drooping trefoil in the head. The south aisle and south chapel arcade were built or rebuilt in the C14, and the north chapel was also in existence by the mid C14. The nave and chancel walls were raised and provided with a clerestory in the C15, and the west tower is also C15. The south aisle was widened and the south porch built in 1631. Before the Scott restoration, the south aisle windows were of 1631 and had transoms and straight mullions. The unusual corner turrets and pinnacles on the tower may also be C17. The south (Sidney) chapel was rebuilt in 1820 to designs by John Biagio Rebecca (c.1777-1847) a decorative painter and architect, who also built Goring Castle (Sussex) and worked at Penshurst Place c.1818. The church was heavily restored and partially rebuilt in 1864-5 by George Gilbert Scott, a very well known mid C19 church restorer. He rebuilt and enlarged the north aisle and north chapel, replaced many of the roofs, and replaced the C17 south aisle windows with pseudo-medieval windows felt to be more in keeping with the overall style of the church. There was further refurnishing in the late C19.

Church notes on parish website.
Watercolour by H Petrie, 1807 (Kent Archaeological Society)
Buildings of England: West Kent and the Weald (1969), 434-6

The church of St John the Baptist, Penshurst is designated at Grade I for the following principal reasons:
* Parish church with C13 north arcade and C14 south arcade
* C15 tower
* South aisle and south porch rebuilt 1631
* Heavily restored and partially rebuilt in 1864-5 by George Gilbert Scott
* Fine reworking of the S(Sidney) chapel in 1820 by J B Rebecca
* Excellent monuments of the C13-C19.

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