633/6/148 READING STREET
08-MAY-50 READING STREET
CHURCH OF ST MARY
Late medieval church moved and reconstructed in 1858 by S S Teulon.
MATERIALS: Stone rubble with freestone dressings, red clay-tiled roof. Timber-framed bellcote tile-hung with shingled spirelet.
PLAN: Nave and chancel in one with small W-end bellcote, S entrance, lean-to NE vestry.
EXTERIOR: This small church, on the edge of a small hamlet, reuses the medieval masonry of the old church from Ebony the Isle of Oxney, a mile to the south. The footprint of the nave and chancel preserves the medieval original and forms a single space under a continuous roof. The windows are all two-light Perpendicular ones apart from the E window which is of three lights: some of the masonry is medieval but much dates from Teulon's time. The S doorway was relocated in position and has a roll moulding in a chamfered outer arch: it has a C19 plank door with strap hinges. The buttresses and N porch which were part of the medieval building were dispensed with at the rebuilding. At the NE there is a vestry under a catslide roof. Over the W gable is a small tile-hung and louvred bell-turret with a small, shingled pyramid capping.
INTERIOR: The interior is plastered and whitened and lacks a chancel arch, the difference between the nave and the chancel being marked by a change in the design of Teulon's roof. That in the nave is an A-frame on posts with straight braces onto corbels, curved queen struts and two tiers of purlins. This roof has minimal cusped decoration and is plastered behind. The chancel roof is of closely spaced common rafters.
PRINCIPAL FIXTURES: The fittings are mainly C19 or later. At the E end there is a simple reredos with a shelf. The pulpit is a timber drum with plain sides and a carved cornice and base on a stone plinth: Newman suggests a C18 date. The font is very small and has an octagonal bowl with a brattished cornice on an octagonal stem on a raised step of encaustic tiles. In the nave the seating is made up of chairs while the choir stalls have chamfered ends and open traceried, Perpendicular-style fronts. There is a fragment of an old oak frieze incorporated into the reading desk and a rustic sanctuary rail with wrought-iron uprights and a wooden handrail. The nave floor is of parquet while the chancel has red and black tiles. There is a good-quality painted royal arms of 1768 which was the work of J Marten of Tenterden.
HISTORY: The church, which was moved from the Island of Oxney in1858, had itself been erected out of the decayed remains of a substantial medieval church. This chapel, Newman says, was rebuilt at the cost of John Raynold shortly before 1525 while Kilburne, writing in 1659, said that following a lightning strike `about 100 years since, a little church, was built upon part of the former foundations' (Winnifrith). The move in 1858 was due to the fact that a diversion of the River Rother and subsequent depopulation had left the building on the island in a redundant location. A drawing of 1809 and two of 1858 hanging in the building show it before it was moved. The contractors for the move, which was carried out within three months, were Bourne and Chambers of Woodchurch and the operation cost £270. The architect, Samuel Sanders Teulon (1812-73), was a well-known and active church architect. His work is often made striking by the use of structural polychromy and exotic architectural details which makes his restrained work at this small country church all the more remarkable
John Newman, The Buildings of England: West Kent and the Weald, 1969, p 449.
Roger Homan, The Victorian Churches of Kent, Chichester, 1984, p 83.
Anon., St Mary the Virgin, Ebony (n.d.).
Sir John Winnifrith, 'The Medieval Church of St Mary, Ebony, and its Successors', Archaeologia Cantiana, vol 100, 1984, pp. 157-170.
REASONS FOR DESIGNATION:
The church of St Mary, Reading Street is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* It is a small medieval church rebuilt in a new location in the mid-C19 and preserving much of its original character and masonry.
* It has a simply furnished, rustic interior with a good Georgian pulpit.