« PreviousContinue »
of its founder, "the Minster Church of St. Mary and St. Sexburga."
The next benefactor of the Abbey was a Northwode, a descendant of Jordanus de Scapeia, and as such "Lord of Sheppey," who took his name from his Manor of Northwode. It is from a private history of this family, preserved among the Surrenden MSS., that we learn that Sir Roger, who died in 1286, had so "great affection for the Minster which had fallen into ruin. . . . that with no sparing bounty he relieved it from great poverty, wherefore among the servants of God there (the nuns) he was called the restorer of that house;" and that "he was buried before the altar at Menstre."*
In the middle of the next century (1322) a sad event befell the Minster. It is vaguely alluded to in an entry in Archbishop Reynold's Register at Lambeth, where it is said that both Church and cemetery suffered "pollution from bloodshed," and the Archbishop was entreated to grant a Faculty for holding a special "Service of Reconciliation" there.
When we reflect that above twelve centuries have passed since the pious Sexburga founded this Abbey-that the invasions of the Danes and of Earl Godwin, the legalized spoliation of the Tudor in the sixteenth century, and the fanatic destructiveness of the Puritan in the seventeenth, and (added to these) the ceaseless exposure to the elements on this exposed height, have all had their share in demolishing it-one can hardly hope to find a single vestige of the original building.
Yet, high up in the south wall of this Chapel, above the bays which separate it from the adjoining Parish Church, may still be seen the rude circular arches of the old Saxon clerestories composed of Roman tiles, springing from rough stone jambs; while on the outside of the north wall may be
*The MS., of which Mr. Larkin has given a translation in Archæologia Cantiana, Vol. II., pp. 9-42, seems to be no longer forthcoming. It is not among the other portion of the Surrenden MSS. referring to Cumbwell Priory, which are preserved at the College of Arms.
+"Ecclesia vestra sanguine, ut dicitur, polluta est cum Cimiterio,” etc. (Archbishop Reynold's Register, f. 128 b.)
also detected traces of corresponding openings, half a similar arch cut in two by a Perpendicular window.*
Here, too, between the tower and the first buttress, are at intervals of about six feet apart pieces of ancient pottery, which carry back the mind to a still earlier period. These our able Secretary, Mr. George Payne, pronounces to have been Roman flue-tiles, of a hypocaust, belonging to a Roman balneum or bath, still retaining on their sides the traces of the old maker's marks. On a recent restoration of this building it was seen that these went through the wall, with a wider mouth inside, which unhappily the contractor, devoid of archæological taste, had plastered over, thus robbing us, so far as he could, of any clue to the possible or probable object of their insertion with such methodical regularity in this wall. Yet the fact remains, and the regularity shews that it was no hap-hazard arrangement, but that it had an object, and a use. Now, what was it? Could it not have been for an acoustic purpose? Bearing in mind that the "Garth" or garden of the Nunnery lay on the north side of the Chapel, still retaining the traditional name of "The Nuns' Walk," and the cloister ran under its wall (of which some trace may still be detected), is it an utterly ludicrous inference that these were used as soundconductors placed here for the benefit of the nuns, who, spending much of their time in their daily avocations of teaching or embroidery, sitting here under the cloister, might the more easily hear, and in spirit join in, the services of the Chapel within ?
Other marks, too, of the whilome presence of Roman buildings in this vicinity are to be found. Not only in the arch of the Saxon clerestory and in the flue-tiles, but in the entire length of the north wall, especially near its eastern end, are traces of Roman tiles inserted promiscuously, which have happily escaped the contractor's plaster, and proclaim that Roman buildings must at one time have stood in this
In the Archæological Journal of the "Institute," vol. xli., p. 54, Mr. Park-Harrison gives an interesting account and a sketch of the outer windows, similarly constructed of Roman tiles, before the over-zealous contractor had hidden them under his layers of plaster.
neighbourhood, from which the Saxon and subsequent builders freely helped themselves.
It is at the east end of this Chapel (where under a lofty Early English arch, spanned by a rood-screen of three or four mullioned tracery, once stood the Sanctuary) we find what may be called the chief enigma of the building; which I would with much diffidence endeavour to solve. Here the masonry of the north wall, both inside and out, differs from the more western portions of the Chapel, and evidently belongs to a later period. This Chancel must once have extended some distance beyond the present east wall, for the two-seated stone sedilia are now close to that wall, and leave no space for piscina and credence beyond; and the piscina, having been preserved, has been inserted into the east wall; where also have been introduced other portions of carved stonework, which most certainly were not here originally. In the centre is a triplet of recessed niches, once surmounted by a richly decorated canopy, crocketed and finialed (now all chiselled away), the middle one more deeply recessed and containing the mutilated remains of an image; while on the outside have been built-in three ogee-pointed arches of stone, sadly pulverized, which might once have formed parts of a row of Decorated arches, or windows; and inside are the jambs and arch of a doorway inserted in the north corner. This Chancel, too, appears to have been originally flat-roofed, for the east wall retains marks of the resting-places of massive beams, while the outside distinctly shews more recent masonry in its upper portion.
Here we must digress a little from the details of the Church to trace the changes which came over the Manor of Shurland, with which the Abbey seems to have been so closely connected, and to mark how these changes materially affected the Chapel itself. Sir Robert de Shurland, whose monument in the south wall of the Church will be noticed hereafter, left an only daughter, who married Sir William Cheyne of Patricksbourne, into whose family the Shurland estates then passed; and with their descendants they remained till the time of Henry VIII., when Sir Henry Cheyney sold the Manor to Sir Humfrey Gilbert, who again
exchanged it to Elizabeth, who bestowed it on her kinsman Sir Edward Hoby. In this transfer seems to have been included the right to a certain family mortuary chapel of the Cheyneys, for the demolition of which, and the removal of the tombs and coffins, a Licence was granted by Archbishop Grindal in 1581.*
The question then arises, Which Chapel was this? and where did it stand? In different Wills, and in the Inventory of the goods of the Monastery, taken in 1536 (27 Henry VIII.),† mention is made of three Chapels, one of St. Mary, another of St. Katherine, and a third of St. John Baptist. The latter is expressly stated in the "Inventory" as "standing in the Churchyard." Now local tradition seems inclined to place that of St. Katherine at the Chancel of the Parish Church; and at first sight this seems natural, as that of St. Mary might be expected to be in the Nunnery Chapel; but it must be borne in mind that the name of the Virgin does not seem to appear in connection with the building until Archbishop Corboil restored the then ruinous church, and united the name of the Virgin with that of Sexburga the real foundress. Prior to that time it had always been known as the "Monastery of St. Sexburga."
On the other hand, the Chapel of St. Katherine is distinctly connected with the Cheyney family as their burialplace. Sir William Cheyney in his will, dated 1441, expresses the wish to be buried in it, as being the place where his ancestors lie, and leaves a legacy for its repair. The
The record of the application for the removal is thus given in English (Grindal's Register, f. 245): “There is in a small Chappell nere unto the Parish Church of Minster.... buried the father and divers of the auncestors of the Lorde Chayney, which Chappell is with other landes thereabout lately sold by his Lordship unto Sir Humfrey Gilberte forasmuch as he is desirous to remove the cophins and bodies of the said auncestors out of the said Chappell," etc.
The licence granted by the Archbishop is worded as follows: "In parte honorandi viri Henrici Domini Cheyney.... quod corpus tam pie memorie Domini Thome Cheyney per nobilis Ordinis Garterii, Militis, etc., quam eciam nonnullorum aliorum antecessorum dicti honorandi viri in quadam vicina sive adjacenti parva Capella Ecclesie Parochialis de Minster, inhumata et sepulta exhumare et ab eadem Capella reverenter amovere et ad ecclesiam Parochialem .... transferre et ibidem in loco idoneo inhumare liceat," etc. Datum Octob. 23, 1581.
+ Mackenzie Walcott, in a Paper bearing on the "Inventories of Religious Houses in Kent" (Archæologia Cantiana, Vol. VII., pp. 292-3), expressly mentions as being at Minster Church, "S. Katherine's Ile, Our Lady Chapell, and S. Jhons Chapell in the Churche yarde."
very wording of that will connects the Chapel with the Nunnery, "within the Abbey of SS. Mary and Sexburga." His son, Sir Thomas Cheyney, expresses a similar wish, in 1559, and desires "a tombe to be made nygh to the place where my late wyef Frydeswyth do lye in my chapel at Minster." It is evident that the Chapel which was removed by Sir Humphrey Gilbert under the licence from Archbishop Grindal lay at the east of the Nunnery Chapel, now the north aisle. Most unfortunately that licence only says "a certain small chapel," giving no name, and describing it as being "near or adjacent to" the Church of Minster. The Abbey Chapel must have projected farther eastward, as already noticed; and here, whether as a part of, or detached from, the Chapel, must have lain the family mausoleum of the Cheyneys. Is it not probable that, when this was sold to Sir Humfrey Gilbert (who, as we know, pulled it down and sold the materials), the present east wall was run up, cutting short the once goodly chapel beyond, and that then, too, its miscellaneous fragments-the arches, the triple niche, the doorway (which probably had been the "Priest's Doorway" in the north wall, giving entrance to the chaplain from the Abbey grounds adjoining)—were built up as interesting relics on the inside, while the stone tracery archwork was inserted on the outside? Such a suggestion certainly seems to find some support in the presence of Perpendicular tracery in the window which appears in the north wall: this would palpably have been an insertion of that period, and no doubt formed part of the changes then introduced here.
But, as Mr. Park-Harrison says, in his Paper already referred to, there is another perplexing feature in this Church, viz., the seven square recesses in the upper part of the east wall. But whether they were the resting-places of beams supporting a flat roof, or a gallery for the use of the nuns, must, so far as I am concerned, remain an open question.
* The will of Sir Thomas Cheyney, 1559. Somerset House, Chayney, i. † Page 149.