Heritage Category:
Listed Building
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Date first listed:
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Ordnance survey map of CHURCH OF ST PETER
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Statutory Address:

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

Sevenoaks (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TQ 52540 40353




II 1848-9 by H I Stevens of Derby. 1883 vestry and organ chamber by E J Tarver.

MATERIALS: Tooled, local sandstone ashlar. Slate roofs

PLAN: Nave, chancel, S porch, organ chamber/vestry (N)

EXTERIOR: The church presents a harmonious, unified scheme in the Early English style. This is characterised by the steeply pointed lancets on the side walls that light the nave and chancel; the three graded lancets of the E window, and two-light plate tracery W window. Both the E and W windows have shafts. Other C13 features are the richly moulded entrance to the porch with nook shafts and dog-tooth ornament; the corbel frieze below the eaves; and the two-light bellcote straddling the roof ridge at the junction of the nave and chancel. On the N side of the church is a long organ chamber/vestry of 1883 and which has a four-light dormer window on its western roof slope. In the second bay from the W there is a gabled projection with a two-light Y-tracery window.

INTERIOR: The walls are plastered and whitened. Between the nave and chancel is a tall, wide moulded arch with responds with nook shafts. The nave is covered by four-sided roof with scissor-braces: the lowest tier has unusual diagonal bracing. The chancel roof is somewhat differently treated and has curved wind braces in its lowest tier. The flooring includes black and white marble in the sanctuary and encaustic tiling in the nave.

PRINCIPAL FIXTURES: The reredos has three panels and a raised centre: the side mosaic panels are said to date from 1906. Victorian work included the substantial oak pews with square ends, the timber pulpit (with large piercings on each face); a Perpendicular-style memorial rood screen (date of death 1894) with delicate tracery an generally open appearance; and the C13-style font with a plain circular bowl set on four filleted shafts, and placed on an encaustic tile surround. Two Hardinge hatchments hang at the W end of the church. A drawing of eight windows depicting the life of St Peter hangs in the church and is signed by H. Walter Lonsdale and is dated 1883. It notes that one of these windows had been executed (this is to R and S Saxby, 1882) and others were projected. In fact, in all, six of the windows seem to have been executed (last date 1895).

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: Lych-gate SE of the church, a memorial to Lavinia, 2nd Viscountess Hardinge (d. 1864): timber on a stone plinth.

HISTORY: Plans for building a church at Fordcombe were in place in 1847 when the application for assistance from the Incorporated Church Building Society placed emphasis on the fact that the parish church was three miles away. The need was thus great and much of the finance was provided by Henry Hardinge, 1st Viscount Hardinge who was governor-general of India from 1844 and who returned home in 1848. In 1847 the costs were estimated at £1,803 plus £150 architect¿s fees etc, exclusive of the site which had been donated. The choice of an architect from Derbyshire seems unusual. A possible explanation is that the Hardinge family were already familiar with Stevens as they had a seat at King's Newton in the county, owning a C17 hall there. St Peter¿s church was consecrated on 31 January 1849. The certificate regarding the accommodation to the ICBS declared it to have 236 seats, 212 of which were free. In 1870 Fordcombe became a parish in its own right but today it has become part of Penshurst parish once more.

Henry Isaac Stevens (1806-73) enjoyed a long and prolific career between the mid-1830s and his death. Much but by no means all of his work was ecclesiastical and was concentrated in the East Midlands. He began practice in 1834, and from 1859 was in partnership with F J Robinson (1833 or '34-92). Stevens went on to design St Paul, Rusthall, just NW of Tunbridge Wells, built 1849-50, a commission presumably arising out of his successful work at Fordcombe. In designing the church Stevens seems to have drawn upon a famous C13 exemplar, Skelton church near York, which had been the subject of a book in 1846 by the rising architect Ewan Christian. The Kent building is certainly not a copy but the use of the Early English style, the use of a bellcote between the nave and chancel and the single lancets in the side walls do suggest awareness of the Yorkshire medieval church.

SOURCES: Incorporated Church Building Society Papers, Lambeth Palace Library, file 3973. Newman, J., The Buildings of England: West Kent and the Weald (1969), 276-7. Notes in church `JCCS November 2002¿.

REASONS FOR DESIGNATION: The church of St Peter, Fordcombe, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * It is a good example of early Victorian church building in the Early English style. * It contains a number of features of interest both from the time of the original building and subsequent to it. * It is associated with the 1st Viscount Hardinge, a distinguished politician and commander of the early C19.


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

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This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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Date: 03 Jun 2001
Reference: IOE01/04510/30
Rights: Copyright IoE Keith Buchan. Source Historic England Archive
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