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Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin, Ashford

Description: Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin

Grade: I
Date Listed: 24 September 1951
English Heritage Building ID: 179899

OS Grid Reference: TR0102042727
OS Grid Coordinates: 601020, 142727
Latitude/Longitude: 51.1485, 0.8728

Location: 3 Churchyard, Ashford TN23 1QG

Locality: Ashford
Local Authority: Ashford Borough Council
County: Kent
Country: England
Postcode: TN23 1QG

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Listing Text


Parish church. Late C13 church enlarged and heightened in the C14 with the central tower heightened and the walls and roofs of the nave, chancel and transepts heightened in the C15. The width of the nave was increased in 1837 and extended by one bay in 1860. A vestry was added in 1927.

MATERIALS: Kentish ragstone with tiled roofs.

PLAN: Cruciform with central tower. Four bay nave with north and south aisles; north and south transepts with east aisles; three bay chancel, with north and south aisles and vestry between north chancel aisle and north transept aisles.

EXTERIOR: The west end of the nave has a gable surmounted by a cross-shaped saddlestone and buttresses and two-tier, five-light Perpendicular west window. Below is a doorcase with arched opening with shields in spandrels, hood moulding and C19 traceried wooden door. The aisles have sloping roofs and windows with cinquefoil heads over arched doorcases with hoodmoulding. The north aisle has a crenellated parapet and tall two-tier arched windows divided by buttresses. The south aisle is similar and has lead rain water heads dated 1827. The central tower is of three stages with crenellated parapet and corner pinnacles, bell chamber with two-tier triple arched openings with wooden louvres and smaller arched windows below. There is a lower octagonal turret to the north. The north transept has a gable with cross-shaped saddlestone, tall four-light arched window with cinquefoil heads, arched doorcase below and buttresses. The east aisle has a tripartite arched window with cinquefoil lights. The south transept has a shorter window and the west wall masonry is of late-C13 or C14 date. The east aisle has a tripartite arched window facing south and a four-light arched window facing east. The chancel west wall is gabled and has a tall five-light two tier traceried window with cinquefoil heads. Below is a stone niche containing a small mutilated seated stone carving under cinquefoil canopy, possibly originally part of a Trinity. The chancel aisle west walls have sloping roofs with tripartite arched windows with cinquefoil heads. Both north and south walls have tripartite arched windows with cinquefoil heads.

INTERIOR: The nave has a C17 plaster barrel-vaulted roof with square panels and bosses. The east wall has the date 1638 and, underneath, a rose surmounted by the initials J B and a thistle surmounted by the letters T S. The arcades have pointed arches supported on circular piers with octagonal capitals. There are C18 panelled wooden galleries on three sides, the western gallery supported on columns. The pews are of 1879. The west window is of circa 1862 by Lavers. The octagonal stone font is late-C15 with quatrefoil decoration. The pulpit of 1897 was designed by John Pearson and is made of Hoptonwood stone with Devonshire marble columns, depicting Christ the Good Shepherd flanked by the four evangelists. The south transept, since 1970 the Chapel of St Francis, contains the monuments of the Smythe family and was once known as the Smythe Chapel or Strangford Chapel. The south wall contains the only remaining part of the rood, a small stairway leading to an opening giving access to the rood loft. An armorial window is of 1834 by Willement. The north transept has a north window by Kempe and a series of C19 wall monuments and a First World War wooden memorial wall plaque designed by W Caroe. In front of the chancel arch is a wooden chancel screen of 1919 also by Caroe. The chancel has columns and arcades of the Decorated period. The east window is of 1882 by Lavers and Co. There are choir stalls with poppyhead finials and sixteen have medieval misericords, mostly foliate but including a pelican in her piety and a swine eating acorns. There is a black basalt floor slab in front of the sanctuary which has a marble floor.

MONUMENTS: The west wall has the carved Coat of Arms of Charles II and a series of mainly early-C19 wall monuments. Against the south wall is a marble and alabaster wall monument to Thomas Smythe (d. 1591), Queen Elizabeth's Collector of Customs and Subsidies. This comprises two reclining figures under an elaborate architectural canopy including columns, pinnacles and coat of arms with six kneeling sons and six kneeling daughters below. The south wall has to the east the black marble and alabaster wall monument to Sir John Smythe d. 1609 eldest son of Thomas. This comprises two kneeling figures (Sir John in armour)under an architectural canopy with a kneeling son and two daughters beneath. To the west is the black marble and alabaster wall monument to Sir Richard Smythe, fourth son of Thomas (d. 1628). He was also a customs officer and Receiver of the Duchy of Cornwall and owned and largely rebuilt Leeds Castle. This comprises a recumbant figure in armour under an architectural canopy with Mannerist angels beneath a scrolled open pediment. Below are three kneeling wives, one son and four daughters.

North of the high altar is the tomb of Sir John Fogge (d. 1490), a large carved stone tomb chest. To the north is a brass of Elizabeth Countess of Atholl d. 1375 and the head of a priest of circa 1320.

HISTORY: The 1086 Domesday Book records "at Essitisford, a church and priest" which may indicate a Saxon origin for the church. In the C12, in a charter of King Stephen it is recorded as part of the Priory of Horton Kirby. The existing building dates from the late-C13 or early-C14 and already had transepts. Between 1473-83 the church was extensively renovated and partially rebuilt by Sir John Fogge, Lord of the Manor of Repton who was for a time the Treasurer to the household of Edward IV. The nave roof was replaced in 1638 but damage was caused during the Civil War by the destruction of Medieval stained glass and monuments. In 1837 the nave was widened and in 1860 lengthened by one bay.


The Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin is re-graded at Grade I for the following principal reasons:

* A church on the site was probably Saxo-Norman and the existing church was substantially built in the C13 and C14 and the tower, chancel and transepts heightened in the C15.
* Medieval fittings include misericords to choir stalls, a sculptured stone figure and font.
* There is a fine quality plaster nave roof of 1638.
* The nave has C18 wooden galleries on three sides.
* It contains an outstanding collection of monuments including medieval brasses, C15 tomb chest to Sir John Fogge and three late-C16 or early-C17 alabaster and marble wall monuments to the Smythe family.

Pevsner and Newman "Buildings of England. West Kent and the Weald" - Ps 134-136.
Bill Burden "Church of Saint Mary the Virgin Ashford, Kent. 1996.

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.