St Mary the Virgin Church, Chislet, Kent
St Mary the Virgin in Chislet, although perhaps interesting and somewhat pretty from the outside, could easily be described as a shell of its former self. The tower and nave are Norman, a favourite style of mine, although both do bear the scars of the modern era. The tower sadly features a deterioration of quoins on its south side, ugly wall anchors throughout its entire structure, and is topped by the stump of a fallen late medieval shingled broach spire. The interior, albeit mostly the nave, was reordered in the 1980s to accommodate The Chislet Centre, itself accommodating the needs of the village and furthering the use of a slowly crumbling church beyond its original religious mission.
And the church is indeed crumbling: Historic England has made it clear that the coursed rubble walls, especially the south wall with its square stair turret reaching through the tower, contains much loose material; cement render is defective and is coming away on both the north and south sides; and perhaps worst of all, the church has previously been the victim of heritage crime, as if its own structural problems weren’t damning enough. The building is not to be written off, though. The west wall of the nave boasts Caen stone and Quarr stone dressings. The east bay of the chancel is a grand 13th century rebuilding of a 12th century design, with long lancet windows north and south, and an east window of three lancets in the east. In the north aisle, a small window seen high up in the north-west would have possibly lit up an upper room, evidence of which is present in the corbels, which would have supported the room’s floor, and and the west window sill being splayed to admit its light into the lower room. All in all, it is a wholly unique parish church, although not one that is easily accessed - I’m not sure I can blame those in charge for locking the decrepit old church up so tight nowadays.