St Mary the Virgin, Brabourne

                                   St Mary Brabourne


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Welcome to St Mary’s Church.

A Church has existed here since Saxon times – mention is made of one at ‘Bradeburna’ soon after the coming of Archbishop Lanfranc to Canterbury in about 1070.

The present St Mary’s Church is of Norman design, and dates from the twelfth century.  

Most of the original Norman nave can be seen on the north side, and the Chancel is pure Norman.   Notice the priest’s doorway and the twelfth century window in the Chancel – this still has its original glass.  It is almost certainly unique in the country as most were smashed during the reign of Henry VIII, or later, during the Civil War.  It was also left when other stained glass from the Church was sold in 1774.   It is believed to be England’s oldest complete Norman window still in its original setting with light falling through.

                   The priest's doorway (Norman), viewed from the Churchyard         The twelfth century window, with its original glass


Additions were made in the thirteenth century , including the rebuilt arch to the tower.  The staircase in the tower is of great antiquity:  halves of an oak tree 31ft long form the sides, with another tree for the base and a forked branch as a support. 

                           View of the forked branch, which supports the staircase


The Chancel also holds one of only two thirteenth century heart shrines in Kent (the other is in Leybourne).  The sculpture consists of a plain shield (the original paint has long since worn away) under fine decorated arches.  In the back there is a recess, which would have been used to contain a heart encased in silver or ivory.  It is thought that the shrine was built for the heart of John Baliol, founder of Balliol College, Oxford.  Whether it served its intended purpose is unknown, but it was found to be empty when opened in the early 1900s.


                                                         The Heart Shrine


The tomb of Sir John Scott, made of Caen stone, stands in the north wall of the Chancel.  Sir John, who died on October 17th 1485, was a Privy Councillor and Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports.  Above the tomb hangs a trophy helmet, carried at the funeral of a knight, most probably Sir Thomas Scott, Commander of the Kentish Forces during the reign of Elizabeth I. 


                    Sir John Scott's tomb    The trophy helmet, possibly of Sir Thomas Scott


 Another helmet (in the south east corner of the Chancel) is thought to have belonged to Sir William Scott, who died in 1433.



The altar is a tomb, topped with a slab of Bethersden Marble, and dates from around 1600.    It is decorated with the arms of the Scott family.



The east window, which won First Prize at the Paris Exhibition of 1878.



View towards the east window and the altar      View towards the west door and the tower



Situated to the west of the north door is one of 2 lead plates, displaying the initials of Thomas Webb and Thomas Thompson who were Churchwardens in 1700 when the tower was exensively restored after sustaining storm damage.  Records show  that the congregation raised  £208 11s 2d  for the work.



The Chapel of the Holy Trinity, also known as the Scott Chapel.  This dates from the 15th century, although there may have been a chapel here earlier.


With thanks to John Jamieson for the history of the Church.

St Mary the Virgin is open during the day and visitors are very welcome – please feel free to look around.

If you would like to join us at a service, details of services can be found on the Diary Pages.



St Mary’s Brabourne
Extract from “Kent Churches” by John E. Vigar
The church has a massive Norman tower, typical of south-east England. It seems that  many were built to house the church valuables, or sometimes a room for the priest, also to be symbolic of linking the earth-bound church building to heaven.   It is a tall church, more Saxon in its proportions than Norman.
The church in its present form dates from the twelfth century, with typical decoration in the form of pilaster buttresses on the outside north wall of the chancel.   In the thirteenth century a south aisle was added and the present arch to the tower rebuilt; the remains of the original Norman arch may still be seen.  In the chancel is a remarkable survivor – a twelfth century window with its original glass.  It may well be the oldest mediaeval glass in its original window in Kent.  It has been reset and restored, but vividly recalls the dusky colours of the period.  The pattern is purely geometric, of flowers and semi-circles and may be compared to the contemporary glass in Canterbury Cathedral.
Also in the chancel is one of the only two heart shrines in Kent.  This little piece of sculpture consists of a plain shield, originally painted – under decorated and cusped tracery, the whole squeezed between thin pinnacles.  It is uncertain whose heart was buried here, but it dates from about 1296 and is much battered.  Aylmer de Valence ,who died in 1296 has been suggested as a likely candidate but there is no evidence for this.