Category Archives: Churches

VM_365 Day 364 Curator’s Favourites: Ges

VM 364Today’s penultimate post for Day 364 of the VM_365 project features a selection of favourite images from our Curator, Ges.

One image that is particularly important to me is the newly minted VM_365 logo which we posted on Day 1. When we launched the project it was difficult to know how much work it would involve, and to anticipate where the threads of each days posts would lead us.

I am particularly pleased that like any other Museum we have been able to share events with you, like last year’s Archaeology for You, our table top Beaker burial for a school prehistoric study day which was posted on Day 228 and our recent friendships and fallouts workshops at Bradstow School which was the image for Day 354. The three images are shown from left to right in top row of the composite image, after the VM_Logo.

We have also been able to share our knowledge of the work and archives of the Heritage pioneers who first investigated Thanet’s archaeology, like Howard Hurd who recorded so much archaeology in Broadstairs and featured in a post on Day 40. We also acknowledged the inestimable contribution of people like our old friend the late Dr. Dave Perkins on Day 250. These two pioneers are shown from left to right on the second row.

New evidence has emerged from the more recent archaeological field work and analysis we carried out ourselves, supplementing the records of discoveries made by the pioneers. A particularly good example is the excavation of a small Roman cemetery at Ramsgate, where a picture from one of the graves was posted on Day 58 and is shown in the centre right of the middle row, confirming the discoveries documented by Ramsgate Surgeon Robert Hicks in the late 19th century, which featured in the post for Day 57 shown on the middle row, far right.

Archaeological research has been carried out for nearly 300 years in Thanet and we want to keep that tradition alive and thriving. We have tried to include some images that have challenged the conventional ideas of what archaeological investigation is concerned with. Our posts have ranged from artefacts associated with the Dreamland site like the knife pictured on Day 95, shown in the bottom left corner. Bottles from local soda water manufacturers, such the Phillpot plant in Ramsgate which featured on Day 348 reflect another aspect of the industrial archaeology of the Isle.

VM_365 Image sets also looked at the character of our ancient hidden hamlets and the impressive medieval parish churches like that at St. Peters which featured on Day 325. There were also VM_365 posts on the historic landscapes around the Isle of Thanet.

Reaching the milestones of the first month’s posts, or the first hundred posts or the unimaginable heights of the three hundredth posts were significant, but there was always so much ahead of us, not always with a rich stream of ideas of what the next post would be. On occasion the last desperate attempt at a post produced one of the most creative and popular articles.
It has been interesting to see some of the daily posts begin to evolve into long and related series with cross links and shared themes growing, albeit spread out over time. The story of the burial of a woman in an abandoned storage pit at North Foreland reproduced in the bottom right corner, which began on Day 43, is one that evolved to create a detailed description of the burial over several posts.

We have been able to update some cross links as we went on and the VM_365 project will be a network of information and references which we hope will stand for much longer than the 365 days of the project. We will draw on VM_365 to illustrate our work in the future. We are particularly proud that we have managed most of the processes to create the VM_365 posts in house, from managing the web pages to the production of most of the images we have used.

It has been a welcome relief to have had supplementary material from some great guest curators to lighten the load of producing a daily post for a whole year. Nigel Macpherson Grant’s contribution was celebrated yesterday on Day 363 and that of Steve Willis on Day 362. Much of the success of the posting depended on the photographs originally created for the Virtual Museum by Paul Hart. All these people gave us a tremendous body of material to draw on when our own knowledge was lacking or our time was short. We’ve also been able to interweave some solid factual information alongside some more contemplative posts.

I would like to thank our good friend Nicki, who once mentioned in conversation that she had done a 365 photo project herself, and so the creative wheels started turning at the Trust. Thanks for following and commenting throughout the project as well.

Most of all I would like to thank Emma, who shared her favourite images on Day 361, for keeping the project going when the project initiator (!) often wished that the project hadn’t been initiated. It is perhaps worth considering that each VM_365 post has taken around two hours to create and cross post each day. That’s 730 head-scratching, clicking and typing hours over the year.

VM_365 was carried out by us entirely on a voluntary basis, in addition to our usual work. I ask our colleagues who didn’t arrive home until late over the year because we had to ‘quickly’ post a VM_365 piece before leaving the office to forgive us, we hope they agree it has been for the greater good!

The project more than achieved its aims in adding many people to our community of archaeological friends, but the success also imposed an unexpected destruction test on our website at the last minute. Regular re-tweeters, likers and commenters have supported the project throughout, and among many solid supporters were Andy Mayfield/Archaeology in Kent and Sophie Adams/Tactile Archaeology who could be relied on for a late night like, share or retweet. Our good friend Maggy is a bloggers dream reader, posting kind and encouraging comments and helpful reminders to all that the VM_365 posts were cross platform and there was often more information elsewhere.

VM_365 is ultimately a labour of love, because we love the history and archaeology of the Isle of Thanet and we’d love you to love it too!

VM_365 Day 343 Sailor’s Welfare, Ramsgate Harbour

VM 343Today’s image for Day 343 of the VM_365 project, another in the Our Thanet series, shows a group of 19th century structures at Ramsgate Harbour.  At the left side of the image is Jacob’s Ladder,  the Sailor’s Church is in the centre of the image and the oddlynamed Smack Boy’s Home is on the right side.

Jacob’s Ladder is a flight of ashlar steps that were constructed in 1826, replacing an earlier set of wooden steps that were built in the further to the east in the mid 18th century. The steps were designed by the architect John Shaw an the construction of Jacob’s Ladder in stone  undoubtedly made it easier to access the harbour safely from the cliff top.

The Sailor’s Church and Sailor’s Home was founded with the support of the vicar of Christ Church, which was located  in Vale Square nearby.  In 1863 50 fishing smacks  were registered at Ramsgate harbour and by 1906 there were 168 registered smacks operating from Ramsgate. The crews of the fishing smacks were made up of a skipper with four other crew members, who were often young boys many of whom had come from the workhouse, some of those apprenticed to the vessels were as young as 10 years old. The young crew members became known as smack boys.

Work on the fishing vessels was hard and dangerous work, especially for the smack boys and a number of the vicars of nearby Christ Churchrecognised that the men and boys who crewed the fishing smacks and other vessels sailing from Ramsgate not only needed spiritual guidance but also physical help.

When the Sailor’s Church was eventually opened  in 1878 the church was located on the ground floor and a dormitory above was provided shelter and some comfort to the young apprentices when they came ashore.

As a result of pressure put on the Board of Trade by Reverend Brenan of Christ Church  a three storey purpose built  Smack Boys’ Home was opened in a building next  to the Sailor’s Church in 1881. Ramsgate seems to be unique among Britain’s fishing ports in providing a purpose built refuge for the Smack Boys.

In later years the Smack Boys home was used to house sailors rescued from shipwrecks, which often occurred off the Goodwin Sands. During the First World War over 3000 men were given food, clothing and shelter as well as medical treatment in the home.

It is still possible to visit these unique buildings, Jacob’s Ladder and the Sailor’s Church are both accessible to the public and the Sailor’s Church continues to hold services and also offers teas and coffees during peak seasons.

VM_365 Day 329 History revealed in the South Chapel of St Nicholas Parish Church

VM 329The image for Day 329 pf the VM_365 project is a view from the east end of the south chapel of the Parish Church of St Nicholas at St Nicholas at Wade. The church itself featured in Day 321 of the VM_365 project.

It is often easy to overlook the standing historic monuments when think about the archaeological sites in the environment around us and our Parish churches have many archaeological stories to tell.

The south chapel at St. Nicholas was added to the building when the church was enlarged with the construction of the new east end in the late 12th or early 13th century. New windows were inserted into the building by the late 13th or early 14th century.

In today’s picture one of the inserted windows in the east end of the south chapel can clearly be seen,  the frame set within the old 12th/13th century window frame which has been filled with irregular blocks of stone.

While the complex history of the medieval church can be read from the major changes made to the structure, it is important to remember that the Parish churches continue to evolve architecturally. New architectural elements have been added in more recent times and have made their mark on the building.

In the 18th century the south chapel was used as a parish school and a fire was installed to warm the building for the children and teachers.  A brick chimney stack inserted to draw the smoke from the fire can be seen in the picture, poking out from the roofline on the right hand side of the chapel.

The structural evolution of the parish churches of Thanet can tell us a great deal about the social history of the population.The reconstruction and expansion of the churches demonstrates changes in the size of the local population. In some cases such as at Monkton and All Saints, Shuart showing a substantial decline in population.

The varied uses the churches were put to, in addition to the routine of services and worship show how central a parish church was to a local community in the past. The architectural story of the Parish church buildings has much to offer anyone interested in the archaeology of Thanet.

VM_365 Day 328 South Porch, church of St Laurence, Ramsgate

VM 328

Today’s image for Day 328 of the VM_365 project shows the south porch of the parish church of St Laurence the Martyr, Ramsgate which previously featured on Day 326 of the VM_365 project.

The south porch was constructed in the 15th century around the same time as the upper stage of the tower. The 15th century porch which incorporates a lamp bracket, conceals the original Norman rectangular doorway which is visible inside along with the water stoup.

In front of the south porch you can see two of a number of railed tomb monuments which have been erected in the churchyard. The one to the left of the porch dates to the mid 19th century and the one to the right is of early 19th century date providing another illustration of the complex archaeology of church buildings and their associated yards which were so central to the Christian communities of the early medieval to modern period.


VM_365 Day 327 The Treasury, St John’s Church, Margate

VM 327

Today’s image for Day 327 of the VM_365 project shows the Treasury which was constructed on the north east corner of the parish church of St John the Baptist, Margate which featured on Day 324 of the VM_365 project.

This single storey addition to the church was constructed around 1500 AD from coursed Ragstone and incorporating a crenellated parapet and traceried windows.  The Ragstone is a distinctly different building material to the rest of the church and was shipped in from the Maidstone area; the rest of the church is constructed mainly of flint which was easily obtainable locally.

Although originally built to be the church treasury, for the storage of the church’s valuables, this structure was later adapted to store shot and gunpowder for the town fort and was also used by the Churchwardens to administer poor relief for the parish. In the early 18th century it became the church vestry.

References/Further Reading

Berg, M. and Jones, H.  2009. Norman Churches in the Canterbury Diocese. The History Press.

Colyer, R. 2012. The Parish Church of St John the Baptist, Margate. A short guide.

Historic England 2015. The National Heritage List for Britain: The Parish Church of St John the Baptist. List entry no.1351103.

Scurrell, D. 1982. The Book of Margate. Barracuda Books.




VM_365 Day 326 The parish church of St Laurence, Ramsgate

VM 326

Today’s image for Day 326 of the VM_365 project shows the parish church of St Laurence, Ramsgate viewed from the western end.

A church at St Laurence was founded in 1062 and the church  is mentioned in Thorne’s Chronicle of St Augustine’s Abbey when it was given to the Abbey in 1124. The church like St John’s, Margate and St Peter’s, Broadstairs was one of the chapels to the Mother church at Minster which featured on Day 322 of the VM_365 project until it became a parish church in its own right in 1275.

The church followed the same pattern as the churches of St John and St Peter, being enlarged in the late 12th century and the naves, arcades and the tower; which is constructed of Kent ragstone and flint with Caen stone dressings, are of this phase.

The upper part of the tower with its crenellations  is clearly different from the lower stages and dates to around the 15th century along with the construction of the south porch.

The churchyard contains a number of tombstones dating to the early 18th century, mainly located within two or three metres of the northern side of the church, that are decorated with crossed bones and winged cherub’s heads.

References/Further Reading

Berg, M. and Jones, H.  2009. Norman Churches in the Canterbury Diocese. The History Press.

Historic England 2015. The National Heritage List for Britain: The Church of St Laurence. List entry no. 1336662.


VM_365 Day 325 The parish church of St Peter the Apostle, St Peters, Broadstairs

VM 325

Today’s image for Day 325 of the VM_365 project shows the parish church of St Peter the Apostle which is located in the vilage of St Peter’s, Broadstairs. Like the parish church of St John the Baptist, Margate which featured on Day 324 of the VM_365 project, this was originally a chapel to the mother church at Minster before becoming a parish church in its own right in the 13th century.

This church was constructed in the 12th century and was originally much smaller consisting of a chancel, nave and a south aisle with at least two bays. The original Norman arcade of mid 12th century date still survives. The church was extended with the addition of a north and south aisle in the late 12th century. The existing north chancel arcade may be of early 13th century date.

In the 14th century the Norman aisles were widened and the north west tower with its crenellations and gargoyles was added in the early 15th century.

Interestingly the church tower was used as a signalling station in Napoleonic times due to its then highly visible location and it still has the right to fly the White Ensign.

Like our other parish churches on Thanet, this church was heavily restored in the mid 19th century.

References/Further Reading

Berg, M. and Jones, H.  2009. Norman Churches in the Canterbury Diocese. The History Press.

Historic England 2015. The National Heritage List for Britain: The Parish Church of St Peter the Apostle. List entry no. 1273791.

St Peter in Thanet. 2015. A Brief History of the Church.

VM_365 Day 324 The parish church of St John the Baptist, Margate

VM 324Today’s image for Day 324 of the VM_365 project shows the large parish church of St John the Baptist, Margate. It is located on high ground about a mile inland from the coast and would have been widely visible throughout the parish before the town became more built up in the 19th and 20th centuries. The church was constructed mainly in knapped flint with some ragstone used later.

St John’s was a chapel to the mother church at Minster until 1275 when it became a parish church in its own right. There may have been a church here as early as the mid 11th century although parts of the original surviving Norman church were probably constructed in the mid 12th century. The Norman church was much smaller than the current structure although it did have a north aisle of two or three bays and part of the existing north aisle and the chancel arcades date to this phase. The church was significantly extended to the west later in the 12th century and the rest of the north and south aisle were added.

Some of the south and north arcades were replaced in the 13th century possibly to resolve problems with the structure which may have the result of a fire or a collapse. The very tall northwest tower was constructed in the 13th century and the spire was added in the 14th century.

In the late 15th to early 16th century, a treasury built of kentish ragstone with a low pitched roof and crenellated parapet was built at the north east end of the church which suggests that the church had become wealthy enough to need somewhere to secure valuables. It later became the place where the churchwardens administered poor relief and as a secure store for gunpowder and weapons.

The exterior of the church was heavily restored in the 1870’s by the well known architect Ewan Christian.

References/Further Reading

Berg, M. and Jones, H.  2009. Norman Churches in the Canterbury Diocese. The History Press.

Colyer, R. 2012. The Parish Church of St John the Baptist, Margate. A short guide.

Historic England 2015. The National Heritage List for Britain: The Parish Church of St John the Baptist. List entry no.1351103.


VM_365 Day 323 The parish church of All Saints, Birchington.

VM 323The image for Day 323 of the VM_365 project shows the parish church of All Saints, Birchington. The church is located on high ground approximatley 1.2 km (¾ mile) from the coast and although now  heavily built up,  the landscape would have been open all the way down to the sea until around the mid 19th century. The churchyard is large and open and has been terraced along the hillside to accomodate the 19th century extension to the graveyard.

The church was a chapel to the church at Monkton along with Woodchurch/Acol and was part of the possessions of Christ Church Priory, Canterbury until the Dissoloution when it was passed to the Dean and Chapter of Canterbury.

All Saints was constructed in the 12th century or earlier using flint and Caen stone and had already been aisled by the late 12th century. The earliest surviving fabric exists in the lower outer aisle walls, with some reused Caen stone blocks in the upper face of the south west aisle and the south doorway, although restored in the 1860’s, retains two capitals dating to the later 12th century. Two of the reused blocks may be from the tops of earlier Norman windows associated with the phase before the construction of the aisles.

The chancel was rebuilt in the earlier 13th century, flanked by two new chapels to the north and south and a new tower was constructed. The south chapel, dedicated to St Margaret extended under the tower, the chapel on the north side was dedicated to Our Lady. Both chapels were later dedicated to the Crispe and Quex families.

The nave arcades were rebuilt in the 1340’s and a new chancel arch added using flint and Rag stone. The 14th century north doorway, which was blocked in the 1860’s still survives. Most of the later medieval features were removed from the church probably when the whole of the exterior of the church was heavily refaced and ‘restored’ in the 1860’s using flint and Bathstone. New vestries were added to the south east of the church in 1910-11.

The founder of the Pre-Raphelite movement, Dante Gabriel Rossetti; poet, painter and illustrator, died at Birchington in 1882 and is buried in the churchyard. His monument is located near the south porch.

References/Further Reading

Berg, M. and Jones, H.  2009. Norman Churches in the Canterbury Diocese. The History Press.

Tatton-Brown, T. 1996. All Saints Church, Birchington. Canterbury Diocese: Historical and Archaeological Survey.

VM_365 Day 322 Church of St Mary the Virgin, Minster in Thanet

VM 322The image for Day 322 of the VM_365 project shows the eastern end of the church of St Mary the Virgin, Minster in Thanet.  The church was constructed with a mixture of water rounded flints and Thanet beds sandstone, with Caen stone , Reigate stone and Ragstone used as dressings in the medieval period. Bathstone was used to construct some of the 19th century elements.

A nunnery was founded at Minster in the late seventh century, which existed until it was destroyed by Viking incursions in the early 11th century. A church on or near the location of the present church would have been associated with the nunnery from its foundation. This church would also have been the main church in Thanet. Minster became the mother church to the four chuches of St John the Baptist at Margate, St Lawrence at Ramsgate, St Peter at Broadstairs and All Saints, Birchington.

The church and the manor of Minster was given to St Augustine’s Abbey, Canterbury in the early 11th century, when the monastic grange of Minster Abbey near the site of the present church which featured on Day 310 of the VM_365 project was established. The fabric of the present church originates in the Norman period, probably on the site of the earlier Anglo Saxon church building, although no evidence of the earlier church seems to survive in the the building.

The four churches  of Minster, St John the Baptist, St Lawrence, and St Peter were possessions of St Augustine’s Abbey, Canterbury unlike St Mary Magdalene, Monkton which featured on Day 317 of the VM_365 project and belonged to the estates of Christchurch Priory, Canterbury.

Parts of the early Norman church at Minster survive in the nave. The nave walls were pierced for arcades In the mid 12th century, to expand the space into newly constructed north and south aisles. In the late 12th century the western tower was added and in the lower sections of the tower reused Roman brick, probably originating from the nearby Roman villa at Abbey Farm, was used in its construction. The reused Roman brick can clearly be seen in the image above.

The eastern part of the church was rebuilt in the early 13th century, forming a cruciform church with large lancet lights.  The outer walls of the south aisle and east part of the north aisle of the nave were rebuilt and new windows were inserted in the early 14th century.

Crown-post roofs were built in the 15th century and at the same time the top of the tower was rebuilt with a  timber spire and a crenellated parapet. The stair-turret which can be seen on the right handside of the tower in the image above may also have been rebuilt at this time.

The church was heavily restored in the 1860’s, when the north aisle was completed as part of the restoration work.

References/Further Reading

Jones, H, and Berg, M. 2009. Norman Churches in the Canterbury Diocese. The History Press.

Tatton-Brown, T. 1996. St Mary Church, Minster in Thanet. Canterbury Diocese: Historical and Archaeological Survey.