St Martin's Church


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Dover (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TR 31898 41414


The remains of St Martin’s-le-Grand Church 100m SSW of St Mary’s Church.

Reasons for Designation

A parish church is a building, usually of roughly rectangular outline and containing a range of furnishings and fittings appropriate to its use for Christian worship by a secular community, whose members gather in it on Sundays and on the occasion of religious festivals. Children are initiated into the Christian religion at the church's font and the dead are buried in its churchyard. Parish churches were designed for congregational worship and are generally divided into two main parts: the nave, which provides accommodation for the laity, and the chancel, which is the main domain of the priest and contains the principal altar. Either or both parts are sometimes provided with aisles, giving additional accommodation or spaces for additional altars. Most parish churches also possess towers, generally at the west end, but central towers at the crossing of nave and chancel are not uncommon and some churches have a free-standing or irregularly sited tower. Many parish churches also possess transepts at the crossing of chancel and nave, and south or north porches are also common. The main periods of parish church foundation were in the 10th to 11th and 19th centuries. Most medieval churches were rebuilt and modified on a number of occasions and hence the visible fabric of the church will be of several different dates, with in some cases little fabric of the first church being still easily visible.

Despite damage and disturbance in the past, St Martin’s-le-Grand Church survives comparatively well with much of its original footings. A substantial amount of the original ground plan and layout can be traced and it includes architectural details such as the Caen stone piers, buttresses and south doorway. The Roman remains surviving below the church are also of special interest and hold archaeological potential to improve our understanding of the development of Portus Dubris.

The site will contain archaeological and environmental information relating to the Roman settlement and the medieval church.


See Details.


This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 17 March 2015. This record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.

The monument includes a medieval church surviving as upstanding and below-ground remains. It is situated on low-lying ground to the east of York Street in Dover.

The church was built between the 11th and 12th centuries and is cruciform in plan, although only the west part survives as upstanding remains. This includes the stone footings of the nave, part of the south transept, and a chapel in the angle of the south transept and nave. The nave is about 21m wide and 24m long from the west wall of the south transept to the west wall of the nave. The south doorway, buttresses and piers are dressed in Caen stone and survive up to about 3m high. The west crossing pier is substantially intact but only one pier survives of the south arcade. The church originally had an apsidal east end with three radiating chapels. The remains of an earlier Saxon church have been recorded to the south of the nave.

A Roman building, with four construction periods dating from about AD130 to the mid third century, is thought to underlie the medieval church. The building was recorded during excavation and rebuilding works on the west side of Market Square in 1881, 1950 and 1956. St

Martin’s-le-Grand Church is also within the bounds of the later Saxon Shore Fort, which was built in about AD270; the fort walls ran to the west and south of the church. The site will contain archaeological remains relating to the fort and the earlier Roman building, which are included in the scheduling.

During the Roman period, the River Dour was a wide tidal estuary utilised as a port with the establishment of a fort of the Classis Britannica (Romano-British fleet) and an associated settlement: Portus Dubris. This fort was replaced in the later third century by a Saxon Shore Fort. The settlement continued to be occupied in the Anglo-Saxon period. A religious house was founded in the Saxon burgh at Dover Castle by King Eadbald of Kent (616-640) for 22 secular canons. In 696, King Wihtred transferred the canons to a new church dedicated to St Martin within the town. They remained there for the following centuries and the names and possessions of the canons are recorded in the Domesday Book. The church probably burnt down in the fire of 1066 and was rebuilt from about 1070, although the nave was not complete until sometime in the 12th century. In 1130, Henry I gave a Charter to Archbishop Corbeil of Canterbury to allow him to build a priory in the town and appropriate the assets of the existing church of St Martin. The new priory was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and St Martin and was called ‘St Martin's of the New Work’, or ‘Newark’, to distinguish it from the old church. The remains of the priory are located about 400m to the north-west at Dover College. The old church became known as St Martin-le-Grand and was thereafter used as a parish church. It eventually housed the altars of several parish churches including St Nicholas and St John the Baptist. The church was dismantled in about 1537, although the ruins of the church tower were apparently still standing in 1800. The church graveyard was still in use in the 19th century and large parts of the church were incorporated into houses. The area suffered bomb damage during the Second World War.

The church was partially excavated in 1956, 1970, 1974-5, 1977-9, 1991 and 1995-6. In 1956 the finds included a vaulted tomb, thought to be 12th century in origin, containing an inhumation. The tomb was aligned east-west and constructed of squared chalk blocks.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
KE 314
Legacy System:


Dover District Council, Dover Museum website, ‘Norman Dover’, accessed 23 April 2010 from
Hasted, E, 'The town and port of Dover', The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Vol 9 (1800), 475-548, accessed 23 April 2010 from
Kent HER TR 34 SW 36. NMR TR 34 SW 36, TR 34 SW 185, TR34SW39. PastScape 467871, 468071, 467880.


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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