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Church of St John the Baptist, Tenterden

Description: Church of St John the Baptist

Grade: II*
Date Listed: 8 May 1950
English Heritage Building ID: 179816

OS Grid Reference: TQ8935530162
OS Grid Coordinates: -691026, -15286931
Latitude/Longitude: 1,000.0000, 1,000.0000

Location: Small Hythe Road, Tenterden TN30 7NG

Locality: Tenterden
County: Kent
Country: England
Postcode: TN30 7NG

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Explore more of the area around Tenterden, Kent at Explore Britain.

Listing Text

(East side)

(Formerly listed as:
St John the Baptist's Church)

The church was completely rebuilt in 1516-17 following a fire that destroyed the town. The chancel was reroofed in the C18, and the whole church was restored in the C19, when the window tracery was renewed. The stone E window is 1884.

MATERIALS: C16 brick in English bond, with stone tracery and dressings on E window. Tiled roof with small timber bell cot.

PLAN: Unaisled nave and chancel without structural division. W porch and small timber bell cot over nave W end.

EXTERIOR: The nave and chancel are continuous externally, and there are crowstepped gables at the E and W ends. Diagonal buttresses with off-sets at the corners and a pair of off-set buttresses on either side. The C19 E window has stone tracery in a Perpendicular style, and is set within the blocked, four-centred opening for the C16 E window.

The nave and chancel N and S windows have restored Flamboyant brick tracery with mouchettes and super mullions. The N and S doors have stone dressings, four-centred heads with hood moulds.

The W porch, an unusual feature, is also brick. The gable is stepped at the outer ends like small buttresses. The outer opening is of three orders with a hood mould. The outer two orders have square heads with continuous jambs, the inner is segmental. The central section of the middle order has been renewed. The W window is of five cusped lights with a transom in a four-centred head. There is a small statue niche with a four-centred head and square hood mould above. There is a tiny weather boarded bellcot over the W end of the nave. The W door is four centred and has hollow chamfered mouldings and hood mould.

INTERIOR: The interior is plastered and painted, and has a timber panelled dado. The windows are renewed in stone on the inside. There is no structural division between nave and chancel, but the C16 screen remains in its original position. The W end of the nave is screened off with a late C19 or early C20 timber screen to form a vestry. The chancel roof was repaired or wholly rebuilt in 1747 and has four slender A-frames trussed with straight braces and two tiers of staggered purlins. It was formerly plastered and retains nails for former laths. The very plain nave roof is C16 and is of the tie beam and common rafter type. The W end of the roof was repaired in 1982 with steel brackets.

PRINCIPAL FIXTURES: The C16 screen is an unusual form, with a deep moulded cornice rather than cresting and is divided into wide bays with evenly spaced, narrow lights with cusped heads and carved spandrels. It apparently never had doors, and is very plain on the chancel side. The dado panelling of feather edged boarding with a moulded cornice is probably also C16 in origin, much repaired on the S side, but largely original on the N. C19 or early C20 timber reredos of blind ogee panels with cared details and a brattished cornice; similar design to choir stalls. C19 communion rail with timber brackets. C19 drum pulpit with open traceried sides. Small, octagonal font carved with quatrefoils on an octagonal stem. Nave benches of c.1900 with shaped ends terminating in carved roundels. C19 or early C20 carved timber screen at W end for vestry. Red tiled nave floor, C19 encaustic tiles in the chancel, mosaic floor to sanctuary. Some C19 stained glass.

HISTORY: The name hythe or hithe meant haven or landing place in Old English and Smallhythe was a port and major centre of ship building in the C14-C16 before the Rother silted up in the early C17 and changed its course. It now flows some way to the south. Henry VIII visited Smallhythe in 1537 to view progress on the construction of one of his warships. The town was devastated by fire in 1514 and the church was completely rebuilt in 1516-17. Dame Ellen Terry, the famous late C19 and early C20 actress, lived in the adjacent Smallhythe Place and her funeral was held in the church in 1928.

Buildings of England: West Kent and the Weald (1969), 509.

St John the Baptist, Smallhythe is designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* A rare (and excellent) example of a complete Tudor brick church with some contemporary fittings including the chancel screen, W door and nave roof.
* The exterior, with its crow-stepped gables and curvilinear window tracery, strongly recalls North European brick church architecture and as such is a rare occurrence in Kent.
* The chancel roof is C18.
* It has historical significance as a reminder of the former prosperity of Smallhythe in the late middle ages and Tudor period.

This text is a legacy record and has not been updated since the building was originally listed. Details of the building may have changed in the intervening time. You should not rely on this listing as an accurate description of the building.

Source: English Heritage

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.