Although much of the medieval church was swept away by the 1848 rebuild, some details were recorded or indeed retained by the architect of the new church, R.C. Hussey.
14th Century Paving Tiles
Hussey carefully preserved some paving tiles from the old church. He incorporated them into vestry of the new church. They were, for the most part, designs of the Decorated Period, and are thought to have been made in the 14th century.
Lost glass from Frittenden Church
Also, before the rebuilding of St Mary’s in 1848, Charles Winston recorded some of the 14th century glass. These records are held in the British Library and extracts were published in ‘Lost Glass From Kent Churches’, Volume XXII of the Kent Archaeological Society Records series.
Winston notes that:-
In a cinquefoil of the tracery in the east window of the south chancel was part of a 14th century figure of St. James Major, on a background of ruby crossed by a fret of white glass with small yellow quatrefoil ornaments at the intersections of the fret. The border of the light was of yellow stain, with cusps.
Hussey incorporated a similar cinquefoil in the window on the south side of the south aisle.
Similar borders enclosed three fine 14th century quatrefoils in windows on the south side of the south chancel. One of these quatrefoils was of grisaille [decoration in tones of a single colour to produce a three dimensional effect] relieved with yellow only; each of the others contained a roundel set in the grisaille, showing a grotesque centaur and a lion.
A similar quatrefoil was incorporated into the new church.
Another quatrefoil of the north window of the chancel contained fine 14th century grisaille with a roundel, also of grisaille, in the centre.
An angle light of the west window contained a 15th century monogram, “R.L.”, in yellow stain on cross-hatched background, with yellow stain border. The initials may be for Richard Lethe (d.1509), who was a benefactor to the church.
The drawings also show part of “an extremely interesting and unusual border, consisting of a series of cabossed horses’ heads, in brown enamel and white, on rectangular panes, alternating with smaller panes of green; and two pieces of green glass patterned with foliage. In which of the windows these subjects were is not stated.
The only original medieval glass still in the church can be seen at the top of the west window of the south aisle.
Rood loft and screen
In common with other churches, St Mary’s would have had a rood screen. Typically this was an ornate partition between chancel and nave, of more or less open tracery constructed of wood, stone, or wrought iron. The rood screen would originally have been surmounted by a rood loft carrying the Great Rood (Saxon for cross), a sculptural representation of the Crucifixion.
Wills regularly made reference to the rood screen in St Mary’s throughout the fifteenth century. Indeed two wills in the last decade of the century refer to the making of a new rood-loft “if parishioners go forward with it”. Again, in common with other parish churches the Rood would have been removed following the reformation and in particular after the 1547 injunctions of Edward VI. Rood screens were sometimes demolished or cut down in height, but more commonly remained with their painted figures whitewashed and over-painted with religious texts. Later church buildings were built with chancel screens.
The architects report on the rebuilt church of St Mary’s of 1848 notes that:-
“at the angle of the junction of the North wall of the Nave and the Chancel, clear indications (remains) of the door-way and stairs leading to the Rood Loft were found, which have been as little disturbed as was consistent with the proper execution of the new work.”
The current works on the church have enabled investigation into the remnants of the medieval church which cannot normally be seen. Following a survey of the building, an archaeological report is awaited which should show the footprint of the medieval church. When this is received these pages will be updated.
The information on this page has been kindly provided by Frittenden Historical Society