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ST. MARTIN'S CHURCH, CANTERBURY.
BY THE REV. CHARLES F. ROUTLEDGE, F.S.A.
RECENT explorations have once more directed our attention to the history and structure of this remarkable Church. If only a little more care and thought had been bestowed upon it during preceding centuries, not only would the present generation have been saved a vast amount of difficult and perplexing controversy, but the building itself would not have suffered from unsuitable restoration, or been exposed to partial decay and the destruction of countless interesting features.
As it is, no systematic record of the Church's annals has come down to us, no description of its internal arrangements save what can be inferred from the casual wills of parishioners before the Reformation, no entries respecting its history in the Registers or Churchwardens' Accounts-I might almost add, no trustworthy picture, for the old prints, from the seventeenth century downwards, are extremely fanciful and inaccurate. So far has this process of silence been carried out that even the extensive restorations made fifty years ago under the guidance of Mr. Daniel Finch and Canon Chesshyre have not been recorded. They were apparently executed without any faculty from the Archbishop, and no papers are extant shew
ing their nature or details.
We owe indeed to these benefactors a debt of gratitude, for without them the Church would perhaps have become, within a reasonable distance of time, what Mr. Ruskin calls an "interesting ruin."
Though we may naturally express our indignation and surprise at such neglect of the cradle of English Christianity, we may (as archæologists) derive some consolation from the fact that there is thus left to us so much new material to discover, so much scope for individual opinion and ingenuity, so many points of controversy upon which we may enter untrammelled by the crushing weight of positive authorities in the past, speaking of what they knew, and testifying of what they had seen.
The present writer endeavoured a few years ago to collect the scattered fragments of allusions to the Church that occur here and there in various documents, and to describe some of its architectural and antiquarian details so far as they then appeared. But much of his History was written in the dark, because many circumstances at that time prevented exhaustive investigation.
Happily, with the kind consent and cordial assistance of the Rev. L. J. White-Thomson, the present Rector, a series of explorations has lately been carried out; and, without recapitulating various features of interest in the Church that have been for some years familiar, I propose in this Article to give a brief account of the results of these recent discoveries, premising that I do so with the conviction that fresh light may any day be cast upon them. A more complete examination has been rendered possible by the removal of the plaster from the walls of the Nave, and
also from the lower portion of the Chancel walls to a height of nearly 8 feet.
And first with regard to the West Wall of the Nave.* Rugged and uneven as it now looks, there is still method in its building. Its general character is that of roughly hewn Kentish ragstones (with occasional blocks of chalk) bonded together by Roman tiles, arranged in sometimes a single, sometimes a double or even a triple course. Here and there a single course of stones lies between the courses of tiles, which are then 9 ins. apart. In other portions of the wall five or six courses of stones intervene between the courses of tiles-so that the courses of stones and tiles do not alternate regularly. The original face of the wall is much obscured by sundry patchings and repairs, and by the erection of a monumental tablet on the N. side. In the centre over the present doorway is an Arch or opening-now filled up with courses of Roman tiles and rubble of chalk and flint. The Arch reaches to a height of 17 ft. or 18 ft. above the floor level, a few inches of the crown having been cut away, and is on an average 7 ft. 2 in. wide. Whether it reached originally down to the ground, or was merely an opening of the nature of a window, cannot be positively stated, as the fillings-up have not yet been removed. On either side of the Arch, at a distance of 2 ft., are two Windows (the upper 18 ins. of which, as they now appear, are an extension made in Saxon or Norman times). The original windows (below this extension) have their jambs of chalk-blocks filled in with white mortar, while the arches are turned in
The accompanying Photograph is reproduced by the courtesy of the Society of Antiquaries of London.