We use cookies to improve your experience, some are essential for the operation of this site.

St Mary, Minster in Thanet, Kent

St Mary the Virgin Church, Minster, Church St, Minster, Ramsgate CT12 4BX, United Kingdom (51°19′49″N, 1°18′56″E)
Minster in Thanet
TR 310 642
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Kent
now Kent
medieval St Mary
now St Mary
  • Mary Berg
  • Toby Huitson
  • Mary Berg
20 September 2011

Please use this link to cite this page - https://www.crsbi.ac.uk/view-item?i=12120.

Find out how to cite the CRSBI website here.


Minster in Thanet lies about 16 miles to the ENE of Canterbury. The church of St Mary has an aisled nave with a tower to the W, with an original SE stair-turret, and a crossing with transepts and chancel to the E. The aisles are early 14th-c replacements of the Norman originals; the chancel, the crossing and the transepts are early 13th-c replacements of a Norman chancel. A fragment of a square bowl of a 12thc Purbeck marble font lies on the floor of the S aisle.

Glynne wrote enthusiastically in 1877 that: "This is unquestionably one of the very finest churches in the county... the nave being a fine and perfect specimen of Norman work".

Romanesque work includes the five-bay N and S nave arcades and the high arch from the tower into the W end of nave. There are no surviving external features except for the reconstructed W doorway of 1863.


This church is in an area of great archaeological importance. A quarter of a mile to the NE was a Roman villa of some pretension, and this seems almost certainly to have been superseded early in the early Anglo-Saxon period by a Kentish Royal vill. Roman bricks, probably from this villa, are to be found in the buttresses to the W tower to the church. A mile and a half to the E is the large natural harbour, then called Ebbsfleet, where St. Augustine landed in 597. In c. 670 either this site or the nearby Minster Court became a monastery for nuns and remained as such until destroyed by the Danes in 1011. The church and manor was given to St. Augustine’s Abbey in Canterbury in c. 1030.


Exterior Features


Interior Features


Tower/Transept arches
Nave arches

The Romanesque phases of the western arm of the church between the 11th and the 12thc are very complicated. Perhaps the earliest part of the existing church is the walls of the E three bays of the nave, which are thinner than the two bays further W. These walls were pierced in the late 12thc for arcades, so could be part of the original nave of Anglo-Saxon date. They measure 11.2 m long by 6.7 m wide - a ratio of 1:1.618 (the ‘golden section’), interestingly the same ratio found to the nave to St Clement’s church, Sandwich, which is now thought to be late Saxon in date - by about 8.53 m high internally. There is no specifically dateable feature, however the extended nib to the S side of the E column of the SW arcade added in the mid 12thc suggests it abutted an earlier wall, a S aisle or perhaps more probably a porticus, to this early nave. Blocked windows were said to found high up in these walls during the 1854 restoration. it is also noteworthy that the spiral stair incorporates double-height newel stones, a feature of Anglo-Saxon work according to Harold Taylor.

The earlier chancels, whether of Saxon or Norman date or both, must lie under the later crossing: although the present chancel arch is of the early 13thc, it reuses the bases and responds to an earlier Norman chancel arch.

The thicker-walled W two bays of the present nave are almost certainly of an early Norman date, and has two single-splay windows (now blocked) high up in the N and S sides respectively. The outside of the window can be seen on the N, and the inside of the window on the S: the fact that they were cut by the insertion of arcades in the mid-12thc indicates that before that date, at least this part of the nave was aisleless. In 1863, a NS wall-foundation 1.5 m wide was found under the floor between the thin and thick-walled sections of the nave.

Sometime from the mid-12thc onwards, the nave walls were pierced for arcades, therefore new N and S aisles were formed with pentice roofs over. The two W bays to the S side, with their plain capitals and bases, seem earlier than those in the N arcade opposite, which have scalloped capitals and attic bases. The latter also match the tower arch, which is clearly a later insertion into an earlier wall. Next came the three bays to the E three bays to S arcades were inserted, with scalloped capitals and bases with spurs. Lastly, the three E bays to the N arcade were formed in the earliest Transitional style of architecture (c. 1180s), with slenderer shafts, crocketed and foliated capitals and water-holding bases, but still semi-circular arches. The E pier to the N arcade has an octagonal rather than square capital, and a much higher base than all the others, perhaps suggesting the bay either side opened into a specifically delineated area. It is interesting that a low side-aisle survived W of this point until the restoration of 1863, perhaps because the E half of this aisle was a separate chapel. Throughout, only the sides of the arches facing into the nave are decorated, presumably because the outer faces into the aisles would hardly be visible because of the low lean-to roofs.


S. Glynne, The Churches of Kent, London 1877, 32-3.