The town of Wingham, called Wyngeham in 1086, possessed a church as far back as that time. In 1282 it was changed from a parish church to a collegiate church but the college was closed in 1548. This caused difficulties for the church as funding was vastly reduced.
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The chancel and north and south chapels date from 1272-1377 and were built in the decorated style. It is thought the south chapel was added c1300 for the canons of Wingham College. The north and south windows in the chapels and nave are in the perpendicular style which existed between 1377-1509.
The current church has a chancel, nave with south aisle, embattled porch, and west tower with a copper covered spire. The only remnants of the pre-collegiate church are the sedilia (3 stone seats) in the sanctuary and the priest’s door (blocked up). A piscina is located in the east wall and an aumbry behind the high altar.
A north aisle was in place until the reformation. Its chancel arch can be viewed from the exterior of the church. Behind the pulpit is the top of a stone pillar with a carved head, once part of the arch between the nave and north aisle. The nave itself was rebuilt between 1540-60. At this time chestnut pillars were substituted for stone ones. The porch was added c1632.
The chancel floor has tomb stones of the canons and one of the rectors of the church. A major monument in the south transept is a black and white marble one of the Oxenden family, dated 1682. The east window is early 1900s. A peel of eight bells dates from 1720.
There are 10 early 14th century misericords. Six of these are carved with foliage and floral designs, oak leaves, acorns, vine leaves and grapes. Two have animal carvings—a horse’s head and a mule’s head. The other two have human heads—one a woman in a wimple headdress and the other a grinning man peaking from between leaves, possibly the green man of medieval times.
Across from the church gate is the hall of the archbishop’s manor, now known as Wingham Court. Four of the canon’s houses are also on this road.
St Mary the Virgin
On the A257, east of Canterbury
Open: 9am-5pm, daily; other times by key
Services regularly held on Sunday; concerts and other events during the year
Photos courtesy Geograph Britain as follows:
church exterior and graveyard by Pam Fray; church interior east end and church exterior by John Salmon.