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St John the Baptist, Erith, Kent

(51°29′13″N, 0°10′8″E)
TQ 507 787
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Kent
now Greater London
medieval Canterbury
now Rochester
  • Peter Hayes
  • Susan Nettle
  • Toby Huitson
  • Mary Berg
25 July 2016

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Erith today is a town near Bexley, SE London, but formerly in the historic county of Kent. The church of St John the Baptist is one of six ancient churches in the area, located near a bend in the River Thames. It has a nave with aisles, a chancel and a W tower. Although most of the fabric is 13thc. or later, there is a selection of reset Romanesque material in the nave and tower.


At the time of Domesday Book, Erith was in the hands of Odo of Bayeux. The nearby abbey of Lesnes was founded in 1178.


Exterior Features

Exterior Decoration


Interior Features


Tower/Transept arches

Vaulting/Roof Supports




The considerable quantity of blocks in the tower arch carved with diaper ornament looks like it might have originated from a substantial feature, perhaps a tympanum.

The date of the graveslabs is unknown. The one with the inscription (No.3) could be 12th-13thc; in general, their date is likely to go from oldest to newest left to right, with the finish of No. 4 making it much more likely to be 13th-14thc, but all are nevertheless included here for reference.

The reset capital in the vestry is a beautifully-produced item, and this, together with traces of pigment, suggests a very high-status context. It is popularly assumed by some to have originated from Lesnes Abbey, Belvedere (founded 1178) which lies 3 miles away to the NW, although there appears to be no firm evidence for this supposition.


F. Arnold-Forster, Studies in Church Dedications, or England's patron saints, London, 1899, 118.

S. Glynne, The Churches of Kent, London, 1877, 344-5.