All Saints, Petham
All Saints, Petham
The church, which is dedicated to All Saints, is large, consisting of two isles and one chancel, having a square flat tower at the south-west corner, in which are six bells.
For over 800 years there has been Christian worship on this site. Before the building of the present church in the 13th century, a small rectangular structure occupied the area that is now bounded by the pulpit, organ and the first six rows of pews on both sides of the aisle. The foundations of this building were found in 1922 during reconstruction and are held to be the remains of a small earlier church. The dates of the dedication of both churches are not known; but it is on record that early in the 12th century during the reign of King Henry l, the Archbishop of Canterbury gave the patronage of Petham Church to the Priory of St Osyth, Essex. The names of two of the early priests known, but others are lost. From 1288 the succession of vicars is complete and can be seen in the framed list near the south door. How much of the present building was complete by 1288 is not known, but at one stage it probably consisted of the Chancel only, with the small door on the north side entrance.
This church was unfortunately gutted by fire on 28th March 1922, and as a result it has completely new nave and south aisle roofs of 1922-3. The south arcade was also completely rebuilt at this time.
Above the 13th century north door into the nave, a fine mid-12th century round-headed arch has been uncovered. It is decorated with chevron work. The inner jambs to this doorway are made with diagonally-tooled blocks, also suggesting a 12th century date, and this doorway (and no doubt other features) was perhaps put in not long after the church was given to St. Osyth's Priory in Essex.
At the very end of the 12th century, or in the early years of the 13th century, the nave was extended westwards (presumably due to population increase in the parish), and a contemporary tower was constructed on the south-west. On the lower east face of the tower, the scar for a low sloping roof can also be seen, suggesting that a smaller south aisle was first built as this time. The tower has simple pointed arches into both this aisle and the west end of the extended nave. It also has simple lancets in its west and south walls. Unfortunately all of the lower external walls of the tower have been rended. There is, however, another early lancet on the north side of the nave, and this has Reigate stone jambs (with some cement repairs). The masonry around this window is contemporary, and contrasts with the herringbone masonry further east. Some of the original Caenstone quoins of the extreme north-east corner of the nave also survive. Two painted roundels were found inside the west doorway, on either side, in 1922.
In the later 13th century the chancel and south aisle were both rebuilt on a much larger scale. The chancel was given four lancets on either side and two in the east wall. Only on the south wall, which is rendered externally, have some of these windows subsequently been replaced. In the north wall the fine row of four tall lancets survives with Reigate stone jambs (and many later tile and cement repairs - of c. 1923). These windows still contained some of their original stained glass until the early 19th century. Some of this glass can now be seen in Canterbury Cathedral (see Councer - op.cit. below). Also in the north wall of the chancel, nearly at its west end, is a small contemporary doorway with a frieze all around it of four-petalled flowers (cf some of the Henry of Eastry work at Canterbury Cathedral).
Inside the chancel there are two piscinas in the south wall. That on the east has a simple 'blind' trefoiled block as its top, and there is a bar stop on the east chamfer. The seven-canted trussed rafter roof may also be late 13th century. It was not burnt in the 1922 fire, and was restored in 1923. The chancel arch springing from octagonal corbels, may also be contemporary; it has pyramid stops on its west side, however, and this may indicate a slightly later date.
The rebuilding of the south aisle probably took place at about the same time as the reconstruction of the chancel. It also has two tall eastern lancets, though its south wall windows were replaced later. Inside the South aisle, there is a continuous internal moulding, and a late 13th century piscina (with shelf above) in the south-east corner. Before the 1922 fire, there was an arcade with octagonal piers (shown in early photographs). This may have been late 13th or 14th century, but it appears already to have been replaced in the 1857 restoration.
During the earlier 14th century, two two-light windows were inserted into the south wall of the chancel, as well as another into the east end of the south wall of the south aisle. These have unfortunately been heavily restored externally and contain Y-tracery in Bath stone, as well as some Portland stone repairs. Only a little of the original Caen and Ragstone jambs survive.
At the west end of the nave is a Ragstone doorway with a two-centred arch and hood over it, and above this a two-light early Perpendicular window (with hood), above which the top of an earlier lancet can been seen. This west window and doorway were perhaps put in in the late 14th century.
The two two-light square-headed windows on the north side of the nave, as well as the three two light windows in the south side of the south aisle are all heavily restored externally in Bath and Portland stone. They must, however, have been inserted in the late 15th century. There was also a perhaps late medieval porch on the north side but this was replaced by the present porch in the later 19th century, probably in 1857 when the main restoration took place. The chancel contains late 17th century altar-rails with turned balusters.
The top of the tower, which has an embattled parapet, was completely rebuilt in red brick in 1760 (dated in a panel on its west face with the name 'W. FORD C.W.'. It contains six bells. As we have already seen much external repair was also done in the later 18th and 19th centuries. The major restoration was carried out in 1857.