John E. Vigars Kent Church Photographs
Image Source: 1931 postcard
The large, almost square, medieval gatehouse to the west of the church tells the visitor that here is no ordinary parish church. For nearly a thousand years this was both Minster Abbey and Minster parish church. Today it is one building, but formerly the present south aisle formed the parish church, whilst the north aisle belonged to the nuns and was part of the monastic enclosure. The parish church side has a distinct nineteenth-century feel to it, the result of a much-needed restoration of 1879 by Ewan Christian to which Queen Victoria contributed. It contains some notable old monuments; especially interesting is that to Sir Robert de Shurland (d. 1310) which is an effigy of a knight under a wall recess. Between the nuns' aisle and the parish church is the Cheyne tomb, commemorating Sir Thomas Cheyne (d. 1559). This imposing marble and alabaster table tomb shows him wearing his Order of the Garter. The north aisle - or nuns' church - has altogether more atmosphere with substantial remains of the original church built by St Sexburga, widow of King Erconbert of Kent in AD 670. The arched heads of two Saxon windows survive in the southern wall, and the 'chancel' of the nuns' church has had its plaster removed to show the early rubble construction. It is separated from the rest of the church by a fine oak screen of about 1400. The whole church has a well-cared-for atmosphere and should be near the top of all visitors' lists.
1851 Census Details
Seating Capacity: 300
Morning Attendance: 203
Afternoon Attendance: 243
Evening Attendance: No service
Original Build Date/Architect: Medieval
Restoration: Ewan Christian 1879
Second Restoration: -
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