St. Martins – History

 

St_Martins_north__east_sides-320.jpgA church has stood on the hillside at the top of the Horn Street valley for over a thousand years. The date the church was built is not known, however the original building (consisting of the nave and tower) was built during Saxon times prior to 900AD. Inside of the church one can see the original Saxon doorway into the tower and a Saxon window above; and on the outside of the tower one can see the remnants of an earlier doorway above the present tower door.

The Chancel was the next addition to the church, probably around 1225AD, for which deep foundations were dug into hill, and originally there was a doorway (now blocked in) in the north wall of the Chancel. Inside the Chancel are 6 arches on each side of an Early English style with thin shafts of Bethersden marble.

During the 14th Century the South Aisle was added, and a small chapel, the Enbrook Chapel, added to the north side. Also it is probable that the diagonal buttresses on the west outside wall of the tower were added at this time when extensive additional work was carried out on the tower.

The next major period of building came during the Victorian age. By now a porch had been a feature of the church and originally stood next to the Enbrook Chapel, however between 1873 & 1878 the church was enlarged further, with the Saxon north wall and porch being demolished and a North Aisle added. The new (and current) porch was then erected as a memorial to one of the first two Lord Justices of Appeal in Chancery of England, Sir James Lewis Knight-Bruce. Also a Vestry was added on the south side.

During the Victorian restoration, extensive work was also done inside the church including the somewhat out of place looking arcading on the east wall of the Chancel and a hot water central heating system (that kept the church warm until 1985!) fuelled from a boiler room beneath the vestry.

Oil lamps were replaced by electricity in 1928, and the church narrowly escaped being destroyed during the Second World War when a German bomb exploded in the churchyard luckily only damaging some of the Chancel and South Aisle windows.
By the end of the 20th century, the church was in need of another restoration, with the roof and heating being replaced and major structural repairs carried out to preserve this beautiful building well into the next millennium. And bringing the story up to date, a toilet was added, adjoining the porch in 2008.

It is also worth mentioning that the churchyard also contains the grave of Samuel Plimsoll, a Liberal M.P. for Derby, who is world renowned for creating the “Plimsoll Line” on ships which has undoubtedly saved the lives of many thousands of seamen, and earned him the nickname “The Sailor’s Friend.”

A fuller history of the church is available in an illustrated book, priced at £10, which is available from the church or from two local Cheriton shops (Rocheforts and Forget-Me-Not.)


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