St Margaret’s Church

St Margaret’s Church

Wherever you stand in the Parish of Rainham if you look up you are bound to catch a glimpse sooner or later of our magnificent tower, standing as a witness to faithful Christian worship since its construction many centuries ago. Or maybe you will hear the peel of the bells, carried on the breeze, a timeless reminder of a worshipping community with a mission of outreach and service to the people of Rainham and beyond!

Rainham first had a church in Saxon times, about 800AD, but this was replaced by a stone building soon after 1066. The present church probably dates from the middle of the thirteenth century, although a small amount of Norman walling remains at the East end.

The Parish

The present Parish of Rainham is a very large one and has over 30,000 people living within its boundary.

There was a
village here by 811 AD when a charter records a grant of land at ‘Roegingaham’
to Wulfrid, Archbishop of Canterbury. In 1137 Robert de Crevecoeur gave Rainham
Church and 18 acres of land to Leeds Priory, which he had founded. This meant
that the abbot was also the rector of Rainham and would have appointed the
vicar as the abbey’s representative to act as the parish priest.

After Leeds
Priory was dissolved by Henry VIII, vicars were appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury,
who became Patron of the Parish. The names of most of the vicars since 1282 are
listed on a display inside the church.

The Parish
was transferred from Canterbury to the Diocese of Rochester in 1938, when the
Patron then became the Bishop of Rochester.

Church of St.Margaret.

The present
church building is almost entirely of Gothic design, with just a few remains of
the Norman church still incorporated in the east wall of the chancel. The 13th
century Early English style can be seen in the chancel, the 14th century
period, known as the Decorated, represented in the nave and aisle, with the
latest period of Gothic architecture, the Perpendicular most obvious in the
15th century tower.

The church
itself is built of Kentish ragstone and flint. The church underwent major
restoration in the 1860’s and 1870’s, and there have been several further
important periods of reconstruction in the 20th and again in this century, when
it was discovered that the main roof and tower were in an advanced state of decay,
and required a comprehensive programme of works to ensure the long term safety
and integrity of the building. The repairs were initially estimated to cost up
to £1million, but were completed in April 2010 for less than £1/2 million.

The tower is a major local landmark and was built about 1480. It stands 30m (100ft) high with an octagonal stair turret probably housing a beacon at the top to act as one of a chain between coast and capital. The tower houses a peel of eight bells (read more about the Bells on the page about the bell ringers)

14th century
nave, is very plain and almost all the roof timbers are original. Most of the
window stonework was replaced in the 19th century. The stained glass of the
south-east window is by Hardman (1871)

The most
interesting feature in the nave is the celure which is unique and once formed a
canopy for a rood screen. It was painted in the 1460’s on the orders of Sir
Thomas St Leger, who married Edward IV’s sister, and depicted the King’s badge
of the Sun in Splendour. This was changed rapidly after the demise of the House
of York, following the Wars of the Roses, with the rose of Lancaster.

mediaeval wall paintings and consecration crosses were uncovered in the 1920’s
following a chance discovery by workmen of a cross beneath the surface of the
south wall. The consecration crosses date from the reconstruction of the nave
in the 14th century. In the chancel are the earliest remaining parts of the
building in the form of 13th century wall arcading.

There are
three sedilia and nearby is a 13th century piscina. By comparison you will also
see the newest addition to the chancel, the Millennium Cross, made out of
branches of our 1000 year old yew tree, which can still be seen in the

Between the
chancel and chapel is the arcade, with the two arches nearest the nave dating
from the 13th century. The parclose screen inserted into the arcade is a very
fine example of 15th century woodwork.. The chapel also houses a particularly
fine 14th century oak chest.


The oldest
monument in the church is a very short 13th century ‘tomb chest, a cross, which
lies in the south east corner of the chapel. Beside the east window is a
memorial to Thomas Norreys, a commissioner in the navy who died in 1624.  The chancel also contains a number of brasses.
The oldest lies between the choir stalls and is that of James Donet who died in
1409, but only the inscription survives. There are others of interest,
including William Bloor 1529, one dated 1500 and another of Charles Garlick,
who died in 1573. The chapel contains two large marble monuments commemorating
members of the Tufton family. One of these is of Nicholas, 3rd Earl of Thanet,
who died in 1679 and twice suffered periods of imprisonment under Cromwell. The
other is that of his younger brother George.

recently following the major work on the roof and tower additional work has
taken place inside the Church. Thanks to the Friends of St. Margaret’s the wall
paintings in the Nave have been restored and these are well worth a look if you
happen to be passing the Church. A number of the brasses in the Chancel were
also removed and taken for repair, and at this point it was found that there
were inscriptions on the reverse -they had in fact been reused – a Palimpsests.
This is a form of medieval recycling!

We have
taken the opportunity to have resin casts made of the palimpsests and these
have been set in a board with an explanation attached, and this is on display
in the Chancel.

the repair of the brasses they have been relaid in the Chancel. We were advised
that we should now cover the brasses to avoid damage and again thanks to the
Friends of St Margaret’s and the assistance of Gerald Lukehurst & Son a new
carpet has been laid in the chancel.

In 2017 a
re-ordering project to remove some of the pews from the back section of the
Church to create a multipurpose space with many exciting possibilities for its
use has been completed.

Several of our main lights failed over time and could not be replaced, so a new lighting scheme along with  the upgrading of our sound and audio visual equipment to enhance and give more flexibility to the use of our building and also enable the live streaming of services was installed during the early part of 2020.

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