Thursday, 29 September 2011

Victorian Chancel of St. Mary the Virgin Parish Church, Church of England, Dover, Kent, UK

Dover's Church of St Mary the Virgin from the east showing the Chancel/Apse and surrounding graveyard:

The eastern end (chancel, apse) of the Church of St Mary the Virgin in Cannon Street, Dover. The Lady Chapel is in the right-hand aisle, the organ in the left. Weather Vane on the Bell Tower visible. Photo taken from Church Street.
(Click this St Mary's Church text link to see the largest size)

St. Mary the Virgin is Church of England and located in Cannon Street (ex Canon Street), Dover. It is a Norman church built between 1066 and 1086 and then restored in Victorian times, 1843-1844.

St Mary's was probably built on the site of a Saxon church, but was certainly built on top of an even earlier Roman structure.

The 'Lady Chapel' is in the right-hand aisle, the Organ in the left. The graveyard (churchyard, cemetery) was closed for burials in 1854.

St Mary's Passage runs along the south side of the church (to the left) and Dieu Stone Lane along the north side (to the right). The photo was taken from Church Street.

Excerpt from the "History of St Mary's Church" (1)

The Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin has shared to the full in both the spiritual and civic life of the ancient town and port of Dover. It is situated in the centre of the town in the main street (Cannon Street) and close by the old Market Square, for centuries the hub of activity, and still at the centre of the town's life. The Church has been increased in size three times, and excavations under the floor near the font have shown that it is built on the site of Roman baths.

The first tiny Saxon Church of St Mary was built by the Secular Canons of Dover, twenty-four in number, who lived originally in Dover Castle in what is still known as the Canons' Gate (Canons Gate). They were pioneers of Christianity in Dover and East Kent for nearly four centuries.

In 697 A.D. King Wihtred built them a Church and Monastery of St Martin, near the site of the present Market Square. To take services at St Marys they would walk from St Martins by way of the present main street, which thus became known as Canon Street (now spelt Cannon Street). We do not know when the Saxon Church was built, but it was destroyed by the Normans in the Fire of Dover in 1066. The present Church is mentioned in the Domesday Book (Domesday Book: Dover Entry) of 1086, so it must have been built before then, but the exact date is unknown.

Abridged extract from a 2007 St Mary the Virgin leaflet

...In the 16th Century, after the Dissolution of Religious Houses, St Mary's was given to the people of Dover by King Henry VIII, a frequent visitor to the town and to this Church.

In addition to King Henry VIII, Queen Elizabeth I and King Charles II have also visited the Church. In more recent times, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, a Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports until her death in 2002, has been a regular visitor.

In 1843-1844, during the incumbency of Canon Puckle, the old medieval building was rebuilt, with the exception of the tower, in the style of the time. However, the four semi-circular arches nearest the tower on each side were rebuilt stone for stone. The Church suffered damage to the roof and lost nearly all the stained windows during the 1939-45 hostilities (World War II). The new windows portray some of the history of Dover (including one commemorating the tragic sinking of the Herald of Free Enterprise cross-channel car ferry off the coast of Belgium).

Excerpt from "England & Wales delineated" (1830) (2)

St. Mary's Church is a spacious and curious edifice, consisting of a nave and aisles, with a tower at the west-end; its length is about 120 feet, and its breadth 55. It is said to have been built by the priory and convent of St. Martin, in the year 1216; yet, as much of the architecture is of a prior age, it seems probable that this was one of three churches in Dover, which the Domesday-book records as being subject to St. Martin's, and of course its origin must have been earlier than the date mentioned.

The monuments are very numerous: the most observable is that to the memory of Philip Eaton, Esq., who died in January, 1769, in his 49th year, and "whose remains are here deposited with his ancestors, inhabitants of this town of Dover for ages past:" the upper part is filled with numerous emblems, and the arms of the deceased. Here is also a memorial for the celebrated comedian, Samuel Foote, Esq., who died at the Ship Inn, at Dover, and had a grave prepared for his remains in this church, but was afterwards conveyed to London, and buried there.

A very fine organ was put up here in 1742: the galleries are very large, and the church is well paved; yet the accommodations are insufficient for the number of inhabitants.

Two years after the dissolution, this church, which had belonged to the Maison Dieu, was given to the parishioners by Henry VIII, who was then at Dover; and every housekeeper paying scot and lot (3) has now a right to vote in the choosing of a minister.

In this church, King John is stated by some of our historians to have resigned his crown, and other ensigns of royalty, to Pandulph (Pandulf Masca), the pope's legate, in the presence of many earls and barons; but it seems more probable, that that degrading ceremony took place in the house of knights templars at Swingfield, as the original instrument, by which King John agreed to submit to the Pope's authority is dated "apud domum militum Templi juxta Doveram."

A Georgian engraving of the early 12th Century West Tower:

Norman or Saxon St Mary the Virgin Church (Cannon Street) built on Roman site; restored by Victorians. Grade II Listed Building, Kent, UK. Georgian woodcut engraver G. W. Bonner of London, W. J. Linton apprentice.
Georgian Woodcut Engraving of St Mary the Virgin, Cannon Street, Dover

The wood-cut illustration was designed and engraved by wood engraver, George Wilmot Bonner (1796–1836) of London. The work, made before 1837 and probably after 1828, was commissioned by the congregation of St Mary's Church. William James Linton (1812 - 1897) was Bonner's apprentice during this period.

Notes and Sources

(1) The quoted source ( is currently offline.
(2) Curiosities of Great Britain: England & Wales delineated - Historical, Entertaining, and Commercial, by Thomas Dugdale (Antiquarian) assisted by William Burnett (Civil Engineer) (1830)
(3) "Scot and lot" (from Old French escot, Old English sceot, a payment; lot, a portion or share) is a phrase common in the records of English medieval boroughs, applied to householders who were assessed for a tax (such as tallage) paid to the borough for local or national purposes.

They were usually members of a merchant guild.

Before the Reform Act 1832, those who paid scot and bore lot were often entitled to the franchise. The expression used today originated from this time period. Members that did not pay their taxes "got off 'scot-free' ".

The main photo originally appeared at:

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Cannon Street, Dover

To be uploaded:

The South Churchyard of St Mary the Virgin Church, Dover
Medieval Mural, St Mary the Virgin Church, Dover
Sundial and Spire, Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Cannon Street, Dover
North side of St Mary the Virgin Church, Dieu Stone Lane, Dover

Other Dover Church images include:

All St Mary the Virgin Church photos are indexed under the St Mary the Virgin category label.

The church is one of Dover's Grade II* Listed Buildings. Grade II* are "particularly important buildings of more than special interest."

A Dover Architecture, History, and Urban photo.

Clickable thumbnails of all church- and urban-related photos on the main Panoramio Images of Dover website are available on this blog at Church and Cemetery Page and Urban Page (also linked to below the blog title).

The Panoramio photos are each accompanied by a Google Earth satellite map. However, the images are smaller than those on the Images of Dover Blog and the captions are less well formatted.

John Latter / Jorolat

Dover Blog: The Psychology of a Small Town

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