Kent Archaeological Review extract

Ruxley Old Church.
by Mike Leonard.
(Ruxley Group.)

Ruxley Old Church has attracted many visitors since work started early in 1968. Our Group feel that the interest shown by members of other Archaeological Groups has been very encouraging and we would like to thank all fellow diggers who have found time to visit us. The writer is sure they would like to know that very interesting features have developed recently and that these will be detailed in the next report.

Our first report (Review Number 17, page 24) contained details of our initial clearing work and mention of an earlier structure, which we had partly excavated. The structure still standing is a one-cell church (see plan) similar to many other Churches in Kent today and is probably of early 14th Century date. The West doorway has been filled in with stone and flints on the outside and chalk blocks, have been used on the inside. The window over the west doorway has been partly bricked in and the centre has a simple wooden frame which is glazed with clear glass. A print of Ruxley Church reproduced in Hasted (Reference 1) shows this window as a wooden door to a hay loft.

The north wall, which has been partly built on the foundation forming part of the earlier structure (see plan), contained two windows which have been blocked up with stones, though unfortunately no sign of the original tracery is detectable. There is also a wooden doorway in the north wall and it is positioned towards the east end. The wooden lintel cuts through the lower part of one window and this suggests that either the doorway has been enlarged, or the complete doorway has been added. When a new roof was fitted about 18 inches was cut off the top of the original north and south walls.

The cast wall has a large window high in the centre, part of which has been filled in with modern brickwork and two pillars added to support wooden beams which pass through the wall to the outside. The top section of the window has been filled in with stone and tracery of the earlier window can still be clearly seen.

The south wall, at the eastern end, has two very fine sedilia and a piscina which F C Elliston Erwood has described fully in a report, published in 1947 (Reference 2). A large wagon entrance has been cut in this wall and a wooden entranceway added. We are still excavating this section and our finds will be reported at a later date. One window remains in the south wall, a wooden frame has been fitted and it is partly glazed. It is probable that a second window existed where the wagon entrance is now.

PLAN: Ruxley Old Church.

Ruxley Old Church.
A bigger picture (196k).

Looking at the plan again, the foundations of the earlier structure are in the form of a two-cell church, with chalk and flints having been used to form the foundations. The west wall of the later church can be seen to pass across the foundations of the suggested Norman period church. It will also be noticed that the standing building has been moved to the east and that only part of the north wall has been built on the original foundations. To date, we have been unable to parallel the unusual way in which the nave and chancel of the earlier structure taper at the eastern ends.

A possible date for the original foundations is late 11th or early 12th century. Melton Magna Church (6 miles west of Norwich) (Reference 4) is of approximately the same measurements and has been dated at AD 950-1100. The Church of St Giles, Kingston, Kent is also of similar size to Ruxley's earlier church and is dated the same as Melton Magna.

Burials have been found inside and outside the church and the plan shows only those which can be readily used to help build up a picture of the past churches. The skeletons were exposed, but not removed as we decided against removal early in the excavation, because the church is situated on private land in Ruxley Manor Nurseries. Many members of the public visit the site and we did not want to encourage morbid curiosity, or have bones taken away as souvenirs.

Graves 1 and 2 cut the earlier foundations and are therefore associated with the later church. Grave 3, being in line with 1 and 2, may reasonably be assumed to be of this period. Grave 4 contained two skeletons side by side and the baulk we left showing the strata to the level of the floor when we started excavations passes over these burials. From this section it can be seen that this grave was dug earlier than the later church floor and is therefore almost certainly associated with the earlier building. Grave 5 contained two skeletons, one behind the other. A series of extracts from 15th century wills (Reference 5) mentions Ruxley Church, One entry reads as follows:

"To be buried in the bodie of the Parish Church of Ruxley behynde my Brother."

William Marchall. Yeoman. 1540 (IX 291).

As these two graves are in line, they may be the two Brothers! Grave 6 contains a burial with the legs under the earlier foundations and is therefore of earlier date.

Grave 7 has had its left side cut away by the south wall of the earlier foundation and the legs cut away by the short undated foundation running to the south. This burial also appears to be of the same period as Number 6. A very interesting feature of these two burials is that the skull in both cases is pillowed in flints. It is understood that on other sites similar flint pillowing has been found and reference will be made to these in our next report. Grave 8 cuts the north-east corner of the old foundations and is therefore associated with the standing Church. These graves are mentioned because of the angle at which the skeletons are placed. They are diagonal to the cast-west line, but by the side of what could have been the entrance to the church, which still has to be proved.

The writer would like to thank the proprietors of Ruxley Manor Nurseries for their continued interest and support; Mr R Greenslade who produced the plan; Mr Fred Brown for his regular attendance and excellent work on the site and of course Mr George D Davies, who is a legend at Reculver and as much a part of Ruxley as the church.

  • Reference 1. History of the County of Kent. Volume II. 1797
  • Reference 2. Arch. Cant. LX. (1947) page 18.
  • Reference 3. The Records of Rochester Diocese, by Rev C H Fielding, MA Published 1910, page 243.
  • Reference 4. Anglo Saxon Architecture. H M and J Taylor. 1965. page 416.
  • Reference 5. Testamenta Cantiana. Extra Volume 1907, page 65. Leland. L Duncan. MVO, FSA.
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