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St Mary the Virgin, Chislet, Kent

(51°20′0″N, 1°11′23″E)
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Kent
now Kent
  • Toby Huitson
  • Mary Berg
  • Toby Huitson
18 November 2004, 27 June 2011

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Feature Sets

Chislet is today a small village in NE Kent sited between Canterbury and Thanet. The church of St Mary the Virgin has an aisled nave, a blunt Norman central tower and a long aisless chancel. The church owes more to the 13thc than any other period, but there is a Romanesque tympanum to the staircase doorway, chancel arch, and some fragments of unknown date.


The Domesday return for Kent notes that there was a church at Chislet, that it was valued at 12 shillings, and that it belonged to St Augustine's Abbey, Canterbury (fol. 23r; Domesday 1 Kent (1983), 7:9).


Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches

Interior Decoration


It appears that the tower doorway tympanum was incorrectly assembled when built as the circles in the lower register are confused and uneven. Digitally rotating the central block by 180 degrees creates a design of five interlocking circles--a design that may have been the original intention. The mortar does not appear to have been disturbed, and this would suggest that the fixer masons did not know how to assemble the components. It is unusual to see a tympanum supported by a wood beam; another example can be seen in the S door at St Stephen, Canterbury.

The chancel arch corbelling is difficult to explain; either there was a desire to create more space at ground level, perhaps for a screen, or there was a miscalculation here as well with respect to the inner plain order. Having said this, the quality of the sculpture of both features is well above the necessary minimum, and suggests the investment of time and effort by the masons of St Augustine's. It might, perhaps, reflect the fact that what appears to be a small isolated village today, at the time of Domesday had 72 villagers, 68 smallholders and 14 serfs (Domesday Book 1 Kent (1983), 7:9).


Domesday Book 1 Kent, ed. & trans. P. Morgan (Chichester, 1983).

F. Arnold-Forster, Studies in Church Dedications, or England's Patron Saints (London, 1899), 86.

S. Glynne, The Churches of Kent (London, 1877), 144--5.