History of St Mary’s Kennington

For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.

Matthew 18:20

The Church, built of local ragstone and Caen stone was erected on a hill in Norman times between the years 1100 and 1154 with just a nave and the square chancel. In about 1270 the chancel was extended to its present length. This is offset to the nave.

The east window is typical of Edward 1st reign, 1272-1307. In about 1300 a small chapel was added on the south side. An arch has been cut through at the head of the nave. The window in the nave has a more decorated top than that of the east window.

From the Lambeth Registers we have a record of the first vicar in 1315 and from that time to the present date, the church has had 45 vicars/priest in charge (click here to download a list of St. Mary’s vicars.)

In about 1400 the tower was built and the nave extended a few feet. At this time some of the windows would have had glass added. The small chapel, known as the Kingsley Chapel, was extended to nearly the length of the chancel. Some of the Kingsley family are buried there. Two arches were made leading from the chancel to the new chapel which was divided by 16 iron bars, removed in about 1850.

The font dates from the 15th century. A top lid was originally hinged. There are holes where the hinges have been and it would have had a padlock. In medieval times this was done to prevent witches from stealing holy water to use in their black masses.

The oldest doors are the heavy medieval doors to the church from the porch and some of the roof timbers in the porch.

By 1552 the Kennington church had five bells in the “steeple”. One, the “A” bell was cast in 1540 by Oldfield and continues to ring after 453 years. Three other bells of 1540 were recast in 1605, 1784 and 1804. A further bell was added in 1605 an “E” in 1883.

The chalice and paten are inscribed “Kennington 1634”. Click here to read more about the bells.

The monuments are dominated by those of Carters. George Carter Esquire rebuilt Kennington Hall in about 1775. Their monuments extend from Baby Sarah, 1815, in the aisle, through the generations, (the family being recorded on the wall tablets and hatchments above the chancel arch), to Charles Carter, in 1905, whose memorial is the Mary Magdalene window.

Around 1800 it was the custom if one had a coat of arms to have it emblazoned on a lozenge of wood. At death it was housed in the church, the all-black background denoting the second partner’s demise, the half-white background, survival of the spouse.

Renovations were chiefly carried out in 1852 and 1878. A donation of £600 was made by the Earl of Winchelsea but it is doubtful if this was paid. The incorporated Society for Buildings and Churches granted £25 in 1877 towards re-seating and restoring the church. A notice in the porch read “All seats are for the free use of the parishioners”.

In 1879 an arch was cut in the north wall of the chancel and the boiler room and organ chamber built. The 2-manual Walker organ has 14 stops. The original organ was hand- pumped and later changed to an electric blower. In 1987 it was completely renovated.

A vestry was built as a memorial to Canon Welldon by his daughter. He was the vicar of St. Mary, 1876 to 1896. To do this, a space between the porch and the chapels was closed by a stone wall, roofed and the arched doorway was cut into the church.

The medieval glass looks pale beside the brilliant east window with its nine scenes from the life of Our Lord. This is a memorial to Henry Tritton, 1877.

There are 2 “Kemp” windows, the “Mary Magdalene”, in memory of Charles Carter, and “the Raising of Jairus’ Daughter”, in memory of William Young, a churchwarden for 43 years, 1897. The Kemp trademark, a weatsheaf, can be found on a capital in each of the windows.

The Burra family of Bockhanger is remembered in the “Emmaus” window, 1911, and also the “Saints” window in the tower, 1913.

Major alterations in the fabric were made in 1985. A circulation area was constructed, pews and screens in the small chapel removed and the floor raised. Windows have been double glazed with polycarbonate panels.

The above was part of the History of St. Mary Church by Miss Margaret Ford in 1987.


In 1993 a new flagpole with lightning conductor was erected and a St. George flag with the crest of Canterbury Diocese was dedicated. The church oil-fired central heating system was extended and improved; pipes removed from either side of the aisle and put in gratings the floor below the pews and radiators added.

In July 1997 a church extension was built to the south side of the church to accommodate a Sunday School room, a choir vestry, a parish office, a kitchen area and toilets for the church.

On 18th September 2002. new oak church doors on the outside of the entrance were fitted. These have replaced cast iron gates. The oak doors on the inside wall of the church, which were part of the original screen, have been removed and now hang on the west wall either side of the bell tower window.

On 13th December 2002, new glass doors were fitted to replace the baize-fronted doors to the church. In the spring of 2004 all the gutters and down pipes were renewed with cast iron replacements.

More recent additions to St. Mary’s include items of a more technological nature. A screen, projector and sound system means we can use modern media to supplement our teaching and worship.