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Visitor information

location

Eastwell
Ashford
Kent
TN25 4JT

OS Reference

TR 009 474

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Open access to ruins

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St Mary’s is situated on the Pilgrim’s Way (North Downs Way), a historic pilgrimage route to Canterbury, which is still well walked.

St Mary's is a ruinous medieval church, which clings to the banks of a 19th-century lake

In the mid-20th century, the roof and nave collapsed. The church was stripped, the contents dispersed, and the medieval masonry left to nature. It has been designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

About St Mary's, Eastwell

St Mary’s was once a fine medieval church on an ancient pilgrimage route to Canterbury and the shrine St Thomas Becket. Situated within the grounds of Eastwell Park, all that remains is a 15th-century tower, a 19th-century mortuary chapel and a slender flint wall linking the two.

A picturesque lake created just to the east of the church in the 19th century brought about the collapse of the nave arcade, as the chalk columns sucked up moisture from the earth and crumbled.

In the 1940s, Eastwell Park was taken over by the army for tank training exercises. Shocks from nearby explosions didn’t help the vulnerable structure. But in February 1951, after weeks of heavy rain the nave roof collapsed and took the arcade with it.

Six years later the church was dismantled. The bells were sold for scrap. The monuments found a new home in the V&A. A sad end for this lakeside beauty.

Much mystery remains around this place. In the churchyard, there is a Victorian tomb, which is reputed to be the grave of Richard Plantagenet, an illegitimate son of Richard III. The church registers record his death, “Rychard Plantagenet was buryed on the 22. daye of December 1550”.

We took the church into our care in 1980.

St Mary's, Eastwell, Kent
St Mary's, Eastwell, Kent

Highlights

  • Ancient yews along the south elevation
  • Tall cross picked out in flint flushwork on the base of the tower
  • Masonry fragments of a demolished structure to the north, with one block of Early English carved decoration
  • The Plantagenet tomb to the northwest of the churchyard

Further information

Please use these links if you would like to know more about the church and the surrounding area

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