History and Architecture

St Stephen’s History & Architecture

Although the St Stephen’s Church building we see today is a fairly typical small medieval village church, it has an unusually rich history, which is why it has Grade I listing, given to buildings of national importance. Scroll down to read more about the history of our parish and church.

597

  • ENGLISH CHURCH HISTORY

St Augustine arrives in Canterbury

Sent by Pope Gregory the Great, St Augustine’s mission was to re-establish Christianity amongst the people of Britain. He landed in Pegwell Bay on the Isle of Thanet and headed to Canterbury where he met with Ethelbert, King of Kent. Ethelbert allowed him to preach and to baptise in Canterbury, and was later baptised himself.

597

1170

  • ENGLISH CHURCH HISTORY

Thomas Becket

Thomas Becket was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral on 27th December 1170 by knights who thought they were following King Henry II’s orders to rid him of ‘this terrible priest’

1170

1185

  • ST STEPHEN’S HISTORY

Archbishop Baldwin begins a new Cathedral Church at Hackington

Archbishop Baldwin fell out with the monks at Christchurch (what is now Canterbury Cathedral) and set out to establish a secular college of priests who were not monks, and therefore easier for him to control. The monks protested to the Pope, and after a few years the he ordered work to stop.

1185

1221–1267

  • ST STEPHEN’S HISTORY

Lady Loretta de Braoze Anchoress at St Stephen’s

Loretta lived in enclosure at St Stephen’s for over 40 years until her death but had an important ministry which included welcoming Franciscans to England and on at least one occasion advising the King. 

Find out more…

1221–1267

1519; 1522

  • ST STEPHEN’S HISTORY

The Rood Screen erected in St Stephen’s

A copy of the indenture [contract] for the screen to support the Rood (figures of Jesus on the cross, with Mary his mother and Saint John) from 1519 is in the British Library. The screen was erected in 1522, and – despite undergoing several changes over the years – is still in St St Stephen’s today.

Read more…

1519; 1522

1533

  • ENGLISH CHURCH HISTORY

The English Reformation begins

In 1533, Henry VIII broke with Rome and married Anne Boleyn. Thomas Cromwell was appointed as Henry’s chief minister. He helped Henry to break away from Rome, establishing Henry as head of the Church of England. This act also brought Henry much needed wealth. Over four years Cromwell ordered 800 monasteries to be disbanded and their lands and treasures taken for the crown, including St Augustine’s Abbey in Canterbury.

1533

1538

  • ENGLISH CHURCH HISTORY

Becket’s Shrine destroyed

As the Reformation continued, the shrine of Thomas Becket that stood in the Quire of Canterbury Cathedral was destroyed.

1538

1538

  • ST STEPHEN’S HISTORY

John Bale’s play ‘King John’ performed at Hackington

In 2019, the University of Kent presented a workshop on Bale’s ‘King John’ in St Stephen’s, performing extracts nearly 500 years after the first performance. You can read more about the project here…

1538

1549

  • ENGLISH CHURCH HISTORY

First Book of Common Prayer published

The Act of Uniformity passed by the House of Lords on January 15th, 1549, abolished the Latin mass in England. For the first time the only legal services throughout the country were those in English in the new Book of Common Prayer, largely written by Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury.

1549

1553

  • ENGLISH CHURCH HISTORY

‘Bloody’ Mary I becomes Queen of England

Mary, the daughter of King Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, endeavoured to turn back the tide of protestantism and return the country to the Catholic Church. Many Protestant reformers, including Cranmer, were burnt at the stake.

1553

1558

  • ENGLISH CHURCH HISTORY

Elizabeth I becomes Queen of England

One of her first actions as Queen was to re-establish the English Protestant church – the Church of England. Attendance at church and the use of an adapted version of the 1552 Book of Common Prayer were compulsory.

1558

1563

  • ST STEPHEN’S HISTORY

Sir Roger Manwood comes to Canterbury

Queen Elizabeth I grants the Royal Manor of Hackington (St Stephen’s) to Sir Roger Manwood, her Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer. Sir Roger makes the Great House at St Stephen’s his principal residence.

1563

1570

  • ST STEPHEN’S HISTORY

Building of the Almshouses

Sir Roger Manwood builds a hospital at St Stephen’s to provide homes for the ages poor and needy. This comprised of six almshouses and one larger house to be the home of the Parish Clerk.

1570

1592

  • ST STEPHEN’S HISTORY

Sir Roger Manwood dies

Sir Roger Manwood dies on 14th December 1592 and is buried in a vault in the South Transept of St Stephen’s Church. A large tomb is erected in the transept.

1592

1611

  • ENGLISH CHURCH HISTORY

King James Bible first published

1611

1649–1660

  • ST STEPHEN’S HISTORY

The Commonwealth

During the Commonwealth, the Bishops of the Church of England were abolished and the Book of Common Prayer was banned. During this period, Richard Culmer officiated for services in St Stephen’s; he was responsible for destroying much of the stained glass in Canterbury Cathedral, and this is likely to be the reason that there are only a few fragments of medieval stained glass in St Stephen’s.

Read more about Richard Culmer’s views on Canterbury Cathedral and other city churches (external link)

1649–1660

1939–1945

  • ST STEPHEN’S HISTORY

Second World War

The city of Canterbury was impacted by a number of air raids during the Second World War. Fortunately, St Stephen’s Church was undamaged but events still impacted the people of the parish.

Read more…

1939–1945

You can find out why this is from the documents below.

General History

A Short History of the Church and area

This guide is based on “The Church of St Stephen Proto-martyr, Hackington – A History and Guide” by John Hayes written more than 50 years ago, updated and expanded with material from other sources  by Dr Peter D Toon, Reader at St Stephen’s In 2019

A Short Account Of The Parish Of Hackington Alias St Stephen’s Near Canterbury

An older, somewhat idiosyncratic account of the Parish of Hackington alias St Stephen’s near Canterbury made by Rev Philip P SOMERVILLE, Rector of St Stephen’s from 1906 to 1926, and published by Gibbs and Sons, Palace Street, Canterbury, in 1915. Amusing but should be taken with a large spoonful of salt!

Lady Loretta 

From 1221 to 1265 Lady Loretta de Braose, an English noblewoman lived at St Stephen’s as a anchoress; a woman who lived  her whole life alone in one room, usually attached to a church, spending her time in prayer and offering counsel to visitors through a window.

An introduction to Lady Loretta

A talk given by Rev Dr Julie Hopkins on the anniversary of Loretta’s death in 2019

The Lady Loretta and her sister

An older  and more romantic account of Lady Loretta’s life, with some information on her sister Annora, who was also an anchoress, at Iffley near Oxford.  This comes from an unpublished manuscript by Rev H E B Arnold, a priest in the early 20th century whose approach was somewhat less historically rigorous. 

You can read more about Annora here and more about the anchorite movement here.

Sir Roger Manwood

In the 1560’s Sir Roger Manwood, a civil servant of Queen Elizabeth 1 was given the house next to St Stephen’s church which had previously been used by the Archdeacon of Canterbury. He sponsored the building of the almshouses which still stand on St Stephen’s Green, had the south transept of the church rebuilt as a family mausoleum and donated the font which still stands in the church.

You can read more about his life here

For the 400th anniversary of his death a booklet on the association of Sir Roger Manwood and his family with St Stephen’s was produced.

The Roger Manwood Hospital Charity set up under his will still runs the alms houses on St Stephen’s Green.

The Architecture of the Building

A Guide to the Church

This guide is based on “The Church of St Stephen Proto-martyr, Hackington – A History and Guide” by John Hayes written more than 50 years ago, updated and expanded with material from other sources by Dr Peter D Toon, Reader at St Stephen’s In 2019

Report by Kenneth Jones 1932

A survey of the building by an authority on Kent churches

Kent Archeological Society Report 1993

A more recent report which disagrees with some of Jones’s conclusions

The Indenture for the Screen

A transcript of the commission for the screen now at the entrance to the Manwood Chapel, ordered in 1519 and delivered in 1522. The original is in the British Museum.