North side of St Mary the Virgin Church, Dieu Stone Lane, Dover, Kent, UK

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John Latter on April 8, 2009

A view, taken from Dieu Stone Lane, of the northern side of St Mary the Virgin's bell tower and the western end of the church's 'left' aisle (which contains the 'Lady Chapel').

The existing Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Cannon (ex Canon) Street, Dover is a Norman church originally built between 1066 and 1086.

It probably occupies the site of a Saxon church, but it was certainly built on top of an even earlier Roman structure.

More notes on the history of the church (click to see photos of other Dover churches) follow comments about Dieu Stone Lane and the general area:

This lane, which runs from Biggin Street to Maison Dieu Road, was once the boundary of the Maison Dieu Estate or Park. A stone once marked the boundary at the Maison Dieu Road end of the lane. This stone had a letter 'D' carved on it and for many years the lane was known as Dee Stone Lane.

In actual fact, if you were to walk up Dieu Stone Lane in the direction shown in the photo then you would first pass the detached northern part of St Mary's churchyard on the right before joining Dover's pedestrian shopping precinct (stretching from the Market Square to the Town Hall) in Cannon Street: Biggin Street doesn't begin for another 20 yards or so to the right after the junction with New Street (once "Turne-Againe Lane" until renamed in about 1785).

It was at this entrance to New Street that the 'Golden Wall' photo was taken (further along New Street stands the building covering the excavated remains of the "Roman Painted House": exterior view from New Street; exterior view from Market Street).

Turn left where Dieu Stone Lane meets Cannon Street and you'll be heading towards the Market Square, passing The Eight Bells on your right as you do so (this building was once the Plaza Cinema, then the Essoldo Cinema, and then the Rio Bingo Hall before it became a pub).

If you turn completely around and follow Dieu Stone Lane eastwards towards Maison Dieu Road then this is the beginning of a short-cut (for those on foot) leading to Dover Castle.

The lane first forms the southern boundary of Pencester Gardens (partially visible in the center-foreground of this photo looking out across the park towards Pencester Road) and then leaves the Pencester Gardens area via a foot-bridge across the River Dour. After the foot-bridge, Dieu Stone Lane immediately turns right and then left before forming a junction with Maison Dieu Road.

Opposite the Maison Dieu Road junction, and a few yards to the left, there is a narrow passageway between the cottage set back from the road and the enclosed playing field where once St James the Apostle, New Church stood before it was demolished in 1953 as a result of the damage it received from shelling during the Second World War.

The passage-way leads to steps (with several feet between each rise) going up to Laureston Place, just before it does a u-turn into Victoria Park mansions (visible below the Castle in this view from the Market Square).

Turn left at the top of the steps, past the entrance to St Mary's Church of England Primary School, and a metalled lane, running parallel to the "Zig-Zags", will bring you out near the pedestrian-only entrance to Dover Castle at Constable'sTower (alt. Constable's Gate or Gateway; also see the Keep and Constable's Tower photo).

The building on the right-hand edge of the above photo is St Mary's Parish Centre. Part of the figure of a homeless person can be seen near the bottom right of the photo between the lamp-post and Parish Centre wall.

Standard Info

1) From the History of St Mary's Church:

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 [1]) 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. They were pioneers of Christianity in Dover and East Kent for nearly four centuries.

In 697 A.D. King Withred 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 Website - Dover Entry) of 1086, so it must have been built before then, but the exact date is unknown. [More].

2) Extract from a 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, as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, has been a regular visitor.

In 1843-1844, during the incumbency of Canon Puckle [2], 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 [3]. The new windows portray some of the history of Dover (including one commemorating the tragic sinking of the Herald of Free Enterprise car ferry off the coast of Belgium).

3) The Kent Archaeological Society has published Epitaphs from Kent Churches on the internet which by an unknown author, although credit is given as shown below.

This and another source provide a total of 124 monumental inscriptions (M. I.'s) for St Mary the Virgin on this Dover, St Mary's webpage which begins:

Some Monumental Inscriptions of Dover, St Mary's Church, Noted by Bax & Rice Thursday 12th May 1892

Pages 81 to 86 of Epitaphs from Kent Churches typed up by Margaret Broomfield

Also some Monumental Inscriptions Noted by Zechariah Cozens about 1795, added 15th January 2009

[1] From Street Name Origins:

Cannon Street: "There was a Cannon Ward in the earliest days of the Dover Corporation, and was the portion of the town under the control of the Canons of St Martin-le-Grand (click to see St Martin-le-Grand church ruins; another view of the ruins). It has been argued that the street takes its name from this ward and is thus misspelt. However, the street never bore this name at the time of the canons. A more likely explanation is that Captain Henry Cannon, who was Deputy Governor of Dover Castle during the Commonwealth, owned property in the street."

A Dover Museum webpage locates St Mary's Church on Biggin Street.

[2] Quotations from Canon John Puckle's "The Church and Fortress of Dover Castle" (published 1864) will accompany photos of the church of St Mary-in-Castro.

[3] "Dover in World War Two: 1942" is a ten minute British Ministry of Information film, released by the US Office of War Information, and narrated by the American journalist, Edward R. Murrow.

A low resolution version (relatively speaking) is available here.

...In 1843-4, during the incumbency of Canon Puckle, the old medieval building was rebuilt, with the exception of the tower, in the style of the time...

Quotations from Canon John Puckle's "The Church and Fortress of Dover Castle" (published 1864) will accompany photos of the church of St Mary-in-Castro.

There are three other photos of St Mary's currently available, but see later 'Comments' for additions or click on the "St Mary's" tag. The photos are:

1) A view of the vertical sundial on the bell tower.

2) A recently discovered medieval mural.

3) The Chancel and Graveyard (Churchyard) from Church Street.

A Wikipedia article on Mary - Mother of Jesus.

Image taken on the 5th of April, 2009, at 9.17 am.

This is the Images of Dover website.

picsonthemove on April 8, 2009

Hello John,

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John Latter on April 8, 2009

picsonthemove said:

Hello John, I always like some explanations but you're outstanding. A nice spring picture with this fresh yellow - might I suggest this program to you?

Thank you for your comment, picsonthemove, and for the link :)

I'm downloading the program as I type - it looks interesting and I need all the help I can get!

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John Latter / Jorolat

John Latter on November 22, 2010

The Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin is a Grade II* Listed Building (1).

The following is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under the terms of the Click-Use Licence (PSI licence number C2010002016):

Building Details:

Building Name: THE PARISH CHURCH OF ST MARY THE VIRGIN Parish: DOVER District: DOVER County: KENT Postcode:


LBS Number: 177725 Grade: II* Date Listed: 30/06/1949 Date Delisted: NGR: TR3192041516

Listing Text (amended):

685/2/25 CANNON STREET 30-JUN-49 (Northeast side) The Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin


Parish Church. Built on the site of some Roman Baths and a Saxon church on the site mentioned in Domesday Book, but the oldest part of the present structure is Norman. Early C12 (C12 = 12th Century) west tower and four bays of the arcades but aisles, remainder of the nave and chancel by J C and C Buckler (architects) in Early English style. Built of flint with stone dressings. West tower is square of five stages surmounted by spire with weathervane. Arcading on the west face, increasingly rich towards the top. Colonnettes with block capitals, arches with a series of scallops. Plain renewed west doorway with shafts. Aisles have lancet windows. Most stained glass windows were lost during the Second World War.

INTERIOR: Tower arch with recessed shafts and a roll. The three west bays of the Norman nave arcades are early C12 and a further bay is almost contemporary but has a simpler base moulding. Round piers, scallop capitals and square abaci. C13 stained glass window to gallery. Norman octagonal Purbeck stone font bowl but remainder renewed. 1638 brass and a good series of C18 wall monuments. The remainder of the nave, aisles and chancel are of 1843-4. C19 pews.

(Buildings of England "North East and East Kent" Revised 1983 pp 297-8.)


Listing NGR: TR3192041516

Source: English Heritage. Click to see photos of Listed Buildings and English Heritage sites in the town of Dover, England.

(1) Grade II* buildings are particularly important buildings of more than special interest; 5.5% of listed buildings are of this category.

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on April 6, 2009
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D
    • Taken on 2009/04/05 09:17:29
    • Exposure: 0.006s (1/180)
    • Focal Length: 35.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/6.700
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: 0.50 EV
    • No flash