History

One of the first questions we are often asked is “Why was the church built so far from the village?”  The answer is that Boughton has never been a simple village clustered around the church and big house, but developed as several manors. The manor of Boughton itself was held by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and his representative would have been based at Boughton Court Farm, adjacent to the church. Here the Manorial Court would have been held and this was where he collected produce for the Archbishop - you can still see the fifteenth century farm and tithe barn north of the church.

The church is linked to the village proper by a well-used pathway, still known as the coffin track, which crosses what would have been the manorial lands between the church and the London Road. These lands passed to Faversham Abbey, until the dissolution of the monasteries, when they were given to the Dean and Chapter of Canterbury.

 

Boughton under Blean is mentioned in the Domesday Book; both church and manor belonged to the Archbishop of Canterbury.  The village included a number of manors and hamlets, one of which was at South Street, which consists of a group of attractive houses and farms clustered around the church and spread along one of the pilgrims’ routes to Canterbury. The church is linked to Boughton by a well-used pathway still known as the coffin track and other footpaths continue on to the south.

Archbishop Lanfranc may have built the original church on this site, but the present 13th century church would have been the one seen by Chaucer’s pilgrims as they stopped at “Boughton under Blee”. Several of the South Street farmhouses are at least 15th or 16th century in origin, including Boughton Court Farmhouse, near the church, formerly the chief manor of Boughton. The church dates from the 13th century with chapels being added in the 14th century and the aisles and tower in the 15th.


Architecture

 

The Grade I medieval parish church is of the highest quality in terms of its architecture. One of the best views is as you mount the steep hill from South Street. Much surrounding countryside is still used for traditional hop-growing. There are substantial historic houses nearby including Nash Court and Colkins whose families had strong associations with the church.

 

The three-bay nave arcades, two-bay chancel and north chapel display typically Early English features, while the later tower, with its west window and the door which now serves as the main entrance are Perpendicular. 

 

Newman’s description in the Kent volume of “Buildings of England” suggests that the south transept was added to the nave before there were aisles, and the arches reset. You will see that there are different arches on each side of the church and, if you look at the rear, you will see how the tower also broke into the pattern.

 

Construction is of local flint and rubble, with plain clay tiled roofs to the main structure. The nave has a crown post roof, the north and south aisles lean-to roofs, the south transept a crown post roof and the chancel a trussed roof.  The north chapel has a crown post roof and the south chapel a trussed roof.  Some of the roofs, in particular in the north chapel, retain many ancient timbers.

 

The original entrance would have been the north door, where a later porch was  made into the vicar’s vestry in 1615; it contains a board giving details of the alms-lands scattered round the parish, the basis for a charity still administered by the vicar, churchwardens and parish council. Another board lists the vicars, all the way back to 1208. Near the vestry door is  the remains of a Stoup; here people entering the church in the Middle Ages would have dipped their  fingers in holy water.

 

Carrying on along the left aisle towards Rood Screen, you will see the little staircase which originally led to a platform above the screen, and the arches where it crossed the church.  The rood loft over the screen was destroyed by the Victorian 

A 16th century timber screen separates the nave from the chancel and a 15th century timber screen separates the north aisle from the north chapel.  A similar ancient screen separates the south aisle from the south chapel. On the north wall is a tiny broken staircase which gave access to the rood loft over the screen, but this was destroyed by Victorian restorers, along with the 17th century box pews.
 
The building contains a number of wall-mounted monuments and memorials, in particular the fine collection, mostly 17th century, in the north chapel, which is also known as the Hawkins Chapel. The Chapel contains a fine monument to Thomas Hawkins and his wife, of Nash Court, by Epiphanius Evesham, and shows Sir Thomas Hawkins (d.1617) and Lady Anne (d.1615). Their seven sons and six daughters are shown mourning below. The eldest son Thomas sheltered a recusant friar at Nash Court in 1633. The second son Henry became a Jesuit, and was first imprisoned then exiled for his faith. 

 

A brass on the floor is to an earlier Sir Thomas 1486-1587  and boasts of his great height and age.  He served Henry VIII faithfully, and is  shown in his armour..

 

Moving through to the Chancel, the stained glass windows are Victorian, and there are a number of tombs, including one of William Kendrick, a colonel in Cromwell’s army who acquired all the church’s land in this and neighbouring parishes, and lived himself in the parsonage until the restoration of Charles II. Another tomb contains a rare stonemason’s error. See if you can find it!

 

The south chapel is now occupied by a fine organ, which came from a Methodist Church in Dover in 1961. Once it was the chapel of St John the Baptist and along with  the South Transept  would have contained a number of altars. Lights were kept burning before them, maintained from rent paid by parishioners for church cows and sheep. When the altars were destroyed at the Reformation the 'light' money was used for poor relief. On the south wall are tiny sculptures of John Petit and his wife kneeling at a desk; he was a household servant of Elizabeth I.

 

The fifteenth century tower contains the bell room, whose eight bells are regularly rung. There have been bells hung here since at least 1565, when there were three. There are now eight.. Some bear rhymes of distinctly establishment sentiment - “To honour both of God and King Our voices shall in concert sing, While thus we join in cheerful sound Let love and loyalty abound.” Over the centuries parish records show that the bells pealed royal celebrations, tolled for regal passings, and announced victories. A chiming Victorian clock was added in 1890. Until a storm of 1705, a shingle-covered spire  stood on the tower.

 

In the large churchyard, the local history by Joan White noted that “from the time of the first burial register in 1558 until 1900 7,762 people were buried here - add to those buried before records and since 1900 it will be seen that the 295 stones in the part before the ditch gives no idea of the bodies lying beneath”. Among the graves is one Nicholas Mears who was murdered by William Courtenay in the skirmish that preceded the battle of Bossenden Wood, near Dunkirk, in 1838. Nicholas had set off with his brother the parish constable to arrest Courtenay was the leader of a local rebellion who in the turbulent 1830’s had gathered around him a band of disaffected agricultural workers. Many who died in the battle are buried in an unmarked grave in our sister church at Hernhill.

 The largest of the yew trees, by the south door, has been traced back to its donation in 1695.

St Peter and St Paul, Boughton

The parish church of St Peter and Paul is in South Street,  lying in attractive countryside about a mile south of the main area of Boughton village. The postcode is ME13 9NB.

  • facebook-square