771/41/622 KNOCKHOLT MAIN ROAD
CHURCH OF ST KATHERINE
Nave and chancel early C12, S tower of uncertain medieval date. Refenestrated early C19 and tower altered. N aisle added 1881.
The body of the church is rendered; tower is flint rubble with red brick dressings; N aisle is coursed stone and flint rubble with stone dressings. Tiled and slated roofs.
Nave and chancel in one, N aisle, S tower porch, NE vestry.
A small, low church, and the plain exterior belies its real historic interest. The C12 nave and chancel are built in one and are rendered externally. Refenestrated in the early C19, the N wall has three lancet windows; there is a group of three lancets in the E wall and another three light window at the W end. The C12 origin of the building is apparent, however, in the pair of C12 windows flanking the E window. The S tower porch is of uncertain medieval date. It was formerly very short, and was raised and provided with a S door in a Perpendicular style c1840. The tower buttresses and upper windows are also of this date. The N aisle was added in 1881 and has pairs of uncusped Tudor-style windows and a shouldered NW door. Squared stone masonry in the lower part of the aisle wall is probably reused and may be C12. Low NE vestry, also 1881.
The interior is plastered and painted. There is no chancel arch. The E wall has two large, plain early C12 blind arches, and above them the C12 windows are deeply splayed. The four-bay N arcade of 1881 is in a C13 style and has polygonal piers with moulded capitals.
The tower retains part of its pre-Reformation bell frame, possibly C15 or early C16, reset in 1840 when the tower was altered. The nave and chancel roof is early C19 and is low pitched and boarded with moulded ribs. The C19 N aisle roof is of lean-to design, with struts from corbels on the N side of the arcade to the purlins, and is also boarded.
Late C19 or early C20 reredos with simple but elegant blind tracery. C19 polygonal stone font. C19 timber drum pulpit with blind tracery panels on a wineglass stem. Very plain C19 nave benches, ramped up the W end of the church.
The present church is early C12 in origin, and although small, clearly had a degree of architectural pretension with blind arches on the E wall that must originally have flanked a niche for an altar. The tower was added at an uncertain, medieval date, but its massive form, and the fact that in the early C19 before alterations it seems not to have had a door, may suggest that it was also C12 or early C13 in origin. Before the tower was renovated in the early C19, the church also had a S porch of uncertain date. The early date of the fabric is something of a puzzle, however, as the documentary evidence suggests that the church was founded in the mid C13, but as the document is of c.1350 and therefore is a later retelling of the foundation, it is possible that its dating evidence is confused.
The tower had a spire of unknown date that had blown or fallen down by the late C18 and been replaced by a low, pyramidal cap that barely rose above the church roof. At that time, early watercolours show that the roof was steeply pitched, and that the church had small C12 lancets in the S wall, a small S porch, and two possibly C12 windows in the W wall.
The church was reseated in 1822-3, and the roof was rebuilt some time in the late 1830s to designs by Samuel Green. The tower was probably also altered to raise it and provide it with a S door, and the windows changed, at that time. There were repeated proposals to enlarge the church in the 1870s, with designs by various architects. The work was finally carried out in 1881 to designs by A. R. Stenning (1846-1928), who also reseated and refurnished the church and added the vestry. The parish was united with St Margaret's Halstead in 1983.
Drawing of c.1800 and watercolour of 1802 by H Petrie.
Lambeth Palace Library, ICBS 0428, 01638, 07610, 08238.
Newman, J., Buildings of England: West Kent and the Weald (1969), 342.
Smithers, D. A History of Knockholt.
REASONS FOR DESIGNATION
The church of St Katherine, Knockholt, Sevenoaks, is designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* Parish church, with early C12 nave and chancel in one.
* Early C12 E windows and internal blind recesses in E wall.
* Tower of uncertain medieval date, partly rebuilt c.1840.
* Church refenestrated in the early C19, N aisle 1881 by A R Stenning.
* Pre-Reformation bell frame survives in part.