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Monument details

HER Number:TR 06 SW 1083
Type of record:Listed Building


Grade I listed building. Main construction periods 1066 to 1164. St Mary Magdalene (also dedicated to St Lawrence) is the nave section of the former church of a Bendictine Nunnery established on this site in 1153, dissolved in 1535. Excavations in 1977 established the former eastwards extension of the church, giving the nuns quire and possibly a north chapel. The surviving section has much original 12th century material, with an elaborate 12th century doorway at the western end. The nave and single surviving tower were sensitively restored in the mid ninetheenth century by Thomans Willment, who was living in the Priory.

Grid Reference:TR 0109 6175
Map Sheet:TR06SW

Monument Types

  • CHURCH (Medieval to Modern - 1153 AD to 2050 AD)
Protected Status:Listed Building (I) 1069406: CHURCH OF ST MARY MAGDALENE

Full description

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Description from record TR 06 SW 32:
[TR 0109 6175] Church [NAT] (1) The Priory Church of St. Mary Magdalene, Davington, consists of 12th century nave and tower only (the monastic arm), the parochial chancel having been demolished at the Reformation. (2-3) In normal use. (4) Church of St. Mary Magdalen, Grade B, Priory Road Davington. Now consists of nave and tower only. Norman, with large round-headed windows inserted in the 18th century. (For full description see list.) (5) The eastern arm of Davington Priory Church was demolished after 1535 and the rubble used for road repairs. What survives is severe work of the 12th century, except for the incongrously rich 12th century west doorway. In 1845 the church (along with the house and grounds TR 06 SW 31) was purchased and then carefully restored by Thomas Willement, a pioneer of the stained glass painting revival. In 1932 it was purchased by the Church of England. (6-7) Davington Priory Church has a 12th century nave of austere architectural character, opening into the north aisle by an arcade of unmoulded and unchamfered semi-circular arches resting on rectangular piers. Above is a clerestory of round-headed windows matched on the south where they are blocked by a post-Dissolution building. The lower part of the east wall consists of the medieval rood screen with blocked arches at each end. Originally the west end possessed two towers, only the south of which remains to its full height, and both open into the aisles by plain painted arches. In the south wall is a plain round-headed doorway, its simplicity contrasting with the very elaborate late 12th century doorway at the west end. (See Illustration Card for photo.) The thinouter wall of the north aisle cannot be earlier than 13th century. Itcontains five Early English lancet windows and its rubble walling contrasts with that of the north-west tower. Willement (a) and later Walters were under the mistaken impression that the nuns worshipped in the nave while the laity used the eastern part of the church, now destroyed. The reverse is more probable as itwould conform with the arrangement in most medieval religious houses. Willement was unable to find traces of the foundations of the eastern part, but some limited excavations directed by P. J. Tester, in 1977, produced enough evidence to allow a tentative restoration to be made. (See Illustration Card for plan.) Flint footings of the eastern arm were revealed, of the same width as the nave. A footing of identical character marked the east wall towards its north end. On the north were substantial remains of a wall lying north-south, containing pieces of roof-tile bedded into its ragstone construction and therefore unlikely to be earlier than the 13th century. Adjoining wasa similar wall running east-west outside and parallel to the earlier footing. It seems that these remains indicate the existence of a northern chapel with a vestry on its east side. The east-west wall outside the early footings may represent a widening of the quire and presbytery. (8) Additional reference, not consulted. (9)(10)

The following text is from the original listed building designation:
Church of St Mary Magdalene TR 0161 NW 7/149 29.7.50. B GV
2. This now consists of the Nave and Tower only. Norman, with large round-headed windows inserted in the C18. It is not a parochial church but is the property of the Church of England as a body, represented by the Church Assembly.
Davington Priory, Walls and Postern and Church of St Mary Magdalene form a group with Raven's Court Wall enclosing Raven's Court and Raven's Court Cottage, Brent Hill.
Listing NGR: TR0109761754

AMENDED 03/02/2006


659/7/149 PRIORY ROAD

Nave of former Benedictine priory church, now an Anglican church. Mostly C12 but repaired and fitted out by Thomas Willement, antiquarian, and stained glass artist, in 1845.
MATERIALS: Stone rubble and flint with evidence of external render; red tiled roof with patterned tiles to the tower roof.
PLAN: nave, north aisle and south-west tower (north-west tower missing); north-west porch by Willement, north-east vestry.
EXTERIOR: the north aisle has an almost flat roof with five lancet windows. The nave clerestory has larger round-headed windows and the remnant of the fallen north-west tower is covered by a tiled lean-to projection at the west end. The Willement porch is timber-framed and tile-hung with fancy pierced bargeboards and re-used C15 timber moulded jambs with blind quatrefoils above urn stops. The east wall of the church has a Willement triple lancet, a trefoil in the gable and buttresses. The west end of the church has a richly-decorated C12 west doorway with some restoration but the carved decoration is apparently untouched. The 3 round-headed windows above are possibly C18 restorations externally (they appear to pre-date the Willement restoration as they appear in a watercolour by H Petrie of 1807), as are the 2 round-headed windows in the gable. The 4-stage south-west tower has a C19 upper stage and pyramidal roof. The tower is plain with freestone bands marking the stages and round-headed windows. It is unclear when the north-west tower was demolished but there is a reference to it having a single tower in 1692.
The north wall of the house abuts the south side of the tower and church. INTERIOR: the north aisle has an arcade of plain round-headed arches on square section piers with moulded abaci, the arches into the base of the towers being larger. Pointed chamfered arches to north and south on the east wall, now blind, once gave access to the former eastern arm of the church through what was a stone rood screen. A C12 doorway on the south side formerly led into the north cloister walk. Canted plastered roof with two very crooked tie beams. At the west end on the south side, 3 moulded corbels support a wall plate. Medieval timbers are thought to survive above the plaster (information from the incumbent). One of the south side windows (now internal as a result of the development of the house) has two bays of C12 style arcading across the embrasure; this is likely to be a Willement introduction. Willement timber drum pulpit on an octagonal stem incorporates C17 panels of the Resurrection and 4 evangelists. Fine Caen stone font dated 1847 by John Thomas with a semi-circular bowl carved with figures on a short stem with waterleaf decoration at the base. Plain chairs to the nave. Willement stained glass, perhaps his best work, the triple lancet with figure scenes from the life of Christ in medallions, the aisle windows including the symbols of the evangelists. 1847 organ by Joseph Walker. Traces of Willement wallpaintings can be seen behind later layers of paint.
Engravings in the vestry show the church with Willement's decoration and a screen, which has since been removed.
HISTORY: the Church of St Mary Magdalene is sited on Davington Hill, above the town of Faversham, and is unusual in that it was originally the church of St Magdalene's Priory, founded as a Benedictine nunnery in 1153. The priory had 26 nuns at its foundation, but was never formally dissolved in the Henrician Dissolution as there were no nuns left by 1536. In 1546 the priory was sold by the Crown to Sir Thomas Cheyne, treasurer of Henry VIII's household. The nave of the church was not dismantled as it was used for parish worship, although the choir was demolished in 1580. In 1845 the antiquarian and stained glass artist, Thomas Willement, an important figure in the Gothic Revival, purchased the remains of the priory (where he developed the private house, Davington Priory, constructed out of the west range of the priory cloister, separately listed Grade II*) and undertook extensive restoration of the church. Administratively the church remained a private chapel until 1932 when it was acquired by the Church of England. It has the unusual distinction of not being a parochial church but rather the property of the Church of England as a body.
SUMMARY OF IMPORTANCE: originally built as the church for the Benedictine Davington Priory, the Church of St Mary Magdalene is a fine, if austere, example of late-Norman ecclesiastical architecture. Much of its C12 fabric remains and it retains part of its cloister in the form of Davington Priory house. The Victorian restoration of the church (and the house) by Thomas Willement, an authority on heraldry, stained glass artist and associate of Pugin and Salvin, is of great interest in the history of the Gothic Revival, not least because Willement described it in his `Historical Sketch of the Parish of Davington, in the County of Kent and of the Priory there' (1862).

Pevsner, North East and East Kent, 1983, 279-280
'St Mary Magdalene and St Lawrence, Davington', Sheet of information in the church, n.d.
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Stanley A Shepherd), Willement, Thomas (1786-1871), writer on heraldry and stained-glass artist, 2004-2005 (14)

Historic England archive material (15)

Not Given (Collection). SKE6560.

<1> OS 6" 1961 (OS Card Reference). SKE48369.

<2> MHLG (1103/11/A June 1949) 26 (OS Card Reference). SKE46910.

<3> Arch J 86 1930 302 (OS Card Reference). SKE36743.

<4> F1 ASP 02-AUG-63 (OS Card Reference). SKE41890.

<5> DOE (HHR) Boro of Faversham Kent Aug 1972 74-5 (OS Card Reference). SKE39845.

<6> KAR 37 Autumn 1974 212 213 photo (A Percival) (OS Card Reference). SKE45321.

<7> The Buildings of England (ed N Pevsner) NE and E Kent 1983 279-80 (J Newman) (OS Card Reference). SKE50166.

<8> Notes and drawings by Thomas Willement c 1845 - MSS in possession of Mr Christiopher Gibbs owner of (OS Card Reference). SKE47684.

<9> Arch Cant 95 1979 205-212 plan plates (P J Tester) (OS Card Reference). SKE36208.

<10> Arch Cant 22 1897 275-292 (C V Collier) (OS Card Reference). SKE34844.

<11> Country Life 9th and 16th Dec 1971 (OS Card Reference). SKE39467.

<12> Field report for monument TR 06 SW 31 - August, 1963 (Bibliographic reference). SKE5301.

<13> Diocese of Canterbury (Tim Tatton-Brown), 1992, Davington, St Mary Magdalene: Diocesan church survey (Unpublished document). SKE29614.

<14> English Heritage, List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest (Map). SKE16160.

<15> Historic England, Archive material associated with Davington Priory, Faversham, Listed Building (Archive). SKE54491.

Sources and further reading

Cross-ref. Source description
---Collection: Not Given.
<1>OS Card Reference: OS 6" 1961.
<2>OS Card Reference: MHLG (1103/11/A June 1949) 26.
<3>OS Card Reference: Arch J 86 1930 302.
<4>OS Card Reference: F1 ASP 02-AUG-63.
<5>OS Card Reference: DOE (HHR) Boro of Faversham Kent Aug 1972 74-5.
<6>OS Card Reference: KAR 37 Autumn 1974 212 213 photo (A Percival).
<7>OS Card Reference: The Buildings of England (ed N Pevsner) NE and E Kent 1983 279-80 (J Newman).
<8>OS Card Reference: Notes and drawings by Thomas Willement c 1845 - MSS in possession of Mr Christiopher Gibbs owner of .
<9>OS Card Reference: Arch Cant 95 1979 205-212 plan plates (P J Tester).
<10>OS Card Reference: Arch Cant 22 1897 275-292 (C V Collier).
<11>OS Card Reference: Country Life 9th and 16th Dec 1971.
<12>Bibliographic reference: Field report for monument TR 06 SW 31 - August, 1963.
<13>Unpublished document: Diocese of Canterbury (Tim Tatton-Brown). 1992. Davington, St Mary Magdalene: Diocesan church survey.
<14>XYMap: English Heritage. List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest. [Mapped feature: #33232 Church, ]
<15>Archive: Historic England. Archive material associated with Davington Priory, Faversham, Listed Building.