Link to printer-friendly page

It should not be assumed that this site is publicly accessible and it may be on private property. Do not trespass.

Monument details

HER Number:TR 15 SE 12
Type of record:Listed Building
Name:St Mary's Church, Bishopsbourne


St Mary's Church Grade I listed building. Main construction periods 1200 to 1871. Church comprising 13th century chancel, nave and aisles. The north and south chapels and the tower were constructed during the 15th century. There is strong evidence to suggest that Bishopbourne was a minster in a secondary wave of minster creation in the 8th to mid 10th centuries.

Grid Reference:TR 1877 5261
Map Sheet:TR15SE

Monument Types

  • MINSTER? (CHURCH, Early Medieval or Anglo-Saxon - 701 AD to 950 AD)
  • CHURCH (Medieval to Modern - 1200 AD to 2050 AD)

Associated Finds

  • FLOOR TILE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
Protected Status:Listed Building (I) 1085693: CHURCH OF ST MARY

Full description

If you do not understand anything on this page please contact us.

(TR 18775261) Church (NAT) (1) The Church of St. Mary Bishopsbourne, is 13th to 15th century. (2) In normal use. (3) Church of St Mary, The Street (Formerly listed under Park Lane). Grade I. Knapped flint with tile roof, weathervane to tower. The chancel nave and aisles are C13, the north and south chapels and the tower C15. C15 choir stalls. (For full description see list). (4) Additional bibliography. (5)(6)

Bishopsbourne is another example of a parish church belonging to the church (the archbishop, in this case), which was totally rebuilt on a large(r) scale in the 13th century (cf. Chartham). The chancel, as rebuilt, was as wide as the nave, and there is no chancel arch (and probably never has been). The nave and chancel both show at least two phases of work of about the mid to later 13th century, so it seems likely that a rebuilding programme was being carried on in stages during the 2nd half of the 13th century (no sign exists, above-ground, of the earlier church).

Perhaps the earliest visible work are the two pairs of two-light windows on either side of the chancel. They have geometrical tracery and all sit on an internal moulded string course (there is medieval glass at the top of all these windows). This string course rises up in the east wall, and has on it the five-light east window, within trefoiled lancets, which is perhaps slightly later in date. There is also a late 13th century piscina at the east end of the south wall (though with a 19th century back wall). Externally the N.E. and S.E. corners of the chancel have angle buttresses, but these are heavily restored. It is also just possible that there were further geometrical windows further west in the chancel, which were covered/removed when the 15th century additions were made.

In the nave, as John Newman has pointed out, the two slender arcades have slight differences (N. capitals more complex than the S. ones). Also that the nave abaci are undercut, while the chancel string course is not. Originally the south arcade was at least three bays long (ie. longer than the present nave), but on the north this is not so clear. The aisles themselves are very narrow, with shed roofs continuing the slope of the main nave roof (though this shape may only be 15th century when the aisles were remodelled). The only surviving feature of the 13th century in the outer aisle walls (again heavily restored externally in the 19th century) is the north doorway with its niche (called a stoup by some writers, but not necessarily one) immediately to the east. This doorway has slightly projecting pilasters on either side, and the whole was covered by a porch until 1837.

The second main phase of work took place in the later 15th century. First, the whole of the west end of the church was demolished and a new tower was constructed with diagonal buttresses. The tower is of three main stages with the top stage rendered. The whole of the south face is mostly rendered. As this was being built, short walls were erected from the eastern diagonal buttresses to the 13th century arcade (ie. leaving the western ends of the aisles outside). (This is perhaps due to a population decrease in the parish). New west walls (containing two light perpendicular square headed windows) to the shortened aisles were also built, and four new 2-light perpendicular windows were inserted into the outer aisle walls. Along the top of the inside of the aisles walls a new moulded timber stringcourse was made (the roofs were perhaps also remade, but they are hidden beneath plaster in the aisles, and the main nave roof was replaced in 1871). At the west end of the nave the new short north and south walls contain five 3-light windows with perpendicular tracery under a 2-centred arch in their heads. On the upper nave walls, above the arcade, are remains of some fine painted figures on a painted 'ashlar' background. These were perhaps painted after the 15th century rebuilding (a date of around 1462 for the rebuilding is perhaps suggested by the will of William Harte (see below). At the extreme west end of the nave are two areas (N. and S.) of in situ medieval floor tiles. It is just possible that they predate the tower building work. (They must continue eastwards under the pews). There is also a 15th cent. octagonal font bowl (on a 1975 base). The southern chapel (the Bourne Pew after the Reformation) with its diagonal buttresses and 3-light east window is also 15th century but it was very heavily restored in c. 1853 (date over new S. door). It has a separate roof (and plaster ceiling). The rectangular N. addition with a plinth is also 15th century and was perhaps built as a vestry. It had an external door and only a small door into the chancel until the rebuilding of 1865, when a massive new arch was put in to accommodate a new organ (earlier the organ was under the tower arch). At this time also a totally new pitched roof was built over the vestry, perhaps replacing a low pitched 15th century roof. There is a high up window on the north side above the pulpit, with some old glass in it.

A new boiler house was dug under the western half of the vestry (in the 1880s - date on radiator), and its N.W. corner was rebuilt, incorporating a fireplace and chimney. The cut through N. chancel wall (and foundation) can be seen in the boiler room below.

The door into the Rood loft is in the S.E. corner of the nave.

In 1871-2 a major restoration took place under Scott, when the boarded wagon roofs were put in (nave and chancel) and new pews were installed (and choir stalls). The c. 18th century pulpit was remodelled and has its larger tester removed. The west window contains 1874 Morris & Co glass with figures by Burne Jones. There is also much c. 1877 mosaic work on the lower chancel walls and a large Reredos. The chancel floor was also raised. (7)

Description from record TR 15 SE 200:
The following text is from the original listed building designation:
1. 5273 BISHOPSBOURNE THE STREET (west side)
Church of St Mary (formerly listed under Park Lane) TR 1852 21/152 30.1.67
2. Knapped flint with tile roof, weathervane to tower. Chancel with north and south chapels (now the vestry and the family pew of Bourne Park respectively) and nave with aisles. The chancel, nave and aisles are C15, the north and south chapels and the tower C15. C15 choir stalls. The Reverend Richard Hooker, author of 'Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity' and rector of Bishopsbourne from 1595-1600 is buried and has a memorial here. Attractive early C19 memorial plaque to John McDivitt, 1839. Stained glass some original glass in the chancel, also glass by Burne-Jones, and of the mid C16. Boarded wagon roofs by Scott, 1871. Carved tombstones in churchyard with cherubs and skulls.
Listing NGR: TR1877952615 (8)

In 2009 Canterbury Archaeological Trust carried out a watching brief in the churchyard. Disarticulated and articulated human remains were found across the churchyard. Also found was a deposit possibly relating to the construction or later building works on the site. Fragments of medieval glazed floor tiles were found. (9 and 10)

Historic England archive material: BF052969 ST MARYS CHURCH, BISHOPSBOURNE File of material relating to a site or building. This material has not yet been fully catalogued. Copyright, date, and quantity information for this record may be incomplete or inaccurate.

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

<2> M.H.L.G. (1953/11/A, Dec 1960). 13 (OS Card Reference). SKE46245.

<3> F1 FGA 19-JAN-65 (OS Card Reference). SKE42947.

<4> DOE (HHR) Dist. of Canterbury, Kent March 1980, 45 (OS Card Reference). SKE40436.

<5> B.O.E. North East and East Kent 1983, 144-145 (J. Newman) (OS Card Reference). SKE37443.

<6> Field report for monument TR 15 SE 12 - January, 1965 (Bibliographic reference). SKE5480.

<7> Diocese of Canterbury (Tim Tatton-Brown), 1991, Church Survey - St Mary's Church, Bishopsbourne. (Unpublished document). SKE7609.

<8> English Heritage, List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest (Map). SKE16160.

<9> Canterbury Archaeological Trust, 2010, Negative Watching Brief: St Mary the Virgin's Church, Eastry (Unpublished document). SKE16796.

<10> Canterbury Archaeological Trust, 2009, Archaeological watching brief at St Mary's Church, The Street, Bishopsbourne (Unpublished document). SKE18043.

Sources and further reading

Cross-ref. Source description
<1>OS Card Reference: OS 6" 1961.
<2>OS Card Reference: M.H.L.G. (1953/11/A, Dec 1960). 13.
<3>OS Card Reference: F1 FGA 19-JAN-65.
<4>OS Card Reference: DOE (HHR) Dist. of Canterbury, Kent March 1980, 45.
<5>OS Card Reference: B.O.E. North East and East Kent 1983, 144-145 (J. Newman).
<6>Bibliographic reference: Field report for monument TR 15 SE 12 - January, 1965.
<7>Unpublished document: Diocese of Canterbury (Tim Tatton-Brown). 1991. Church Survey - St Mary's Church, Bishopsbourne..
<8>XYMap: English Heritage. List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest. [Mapped feature: #43937 Church, ]
<9>Unpublished document: Canterbury Archaeological Trust. 2010. Negative Watching Brief: St Mary the Virgin's Church, Eastry.
<10>Unpublished document: Canterbury Archaeological Trust. 2009. Archaeological watching brief at St Mary's Church, The Street, Bishopsbourne.