Medieval Mural, St Mary the Virgin Church, Dover, Kent, United Kingdom

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John Latter on March 25, 2009

A recently discovered medieval mural on the wall separating the bell-tower and nave of St Mary the Virgin Church (St Mary's) in Dover, Kent.

St Mary's is a Norman church and was constructed between 1066 and 1086. It was probably built on top of a Saxon church, but certainly built on top of an even earlier Roman structure.

I spoke to two volunteer helpers at the church about the mural who said little information is currently known about the painting.

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).

[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). 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 two other photos of St Mary's currently available but see later 'Comments' for additions or click on the "St Mary's" tag on the right. The two photos are:

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

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

The medieval mural in the photo depicts the Nativity. The halos (alt. haloes) surrounding the heads of Jesus, Mary and Joseph appear particularly striking.

Originally posted on May 25, 2007 and October 29, 2007; updated March 26, 2009.

This is the Images of Dover website.

John Latter on April 6, 2009

Click to see 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').

John Latter on April 8, 2009

The Kent Archaeological Society has published Epitaphs from Kent Churches on the internet which was written 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

John Latter on September 11, 2009

John Latter, on March 25, said:

A recently discovered medieval mural on the wall separating the bell-tower and nave of St Mary the Virgin Church (St Mary's) in Dover, Kent...

...I spoke to two volunteer helpers at the church about the mural who said little information is currently known about the painting.

A couple of weeks ago, I spoke to another volunteer helper who told me that the mural wasn't "recently discovered" and that "some helpers know more than others."

Oh, well! :)

John Latter / Jorolat

My Facebook | My 'Videos of Dover' YouTube | Evopsychology.com | Dover Blog

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:

Details:

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

II*

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.)

2

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.

John Latter on November 12

Also see the February 2012 photograph:

Bell Tower of Church of St Mary the Virgin in Winter, Dover

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on May 25, 2007
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX Optio 33LF
    • Taken on 2007/05/24 09:25:40
    • Exposure: 0.017s (1/60)
    • Focal Length: 5.80mm
    • F/Stop: f/2.600
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • Flash fired

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