Norton Church History
THE CHURCH OF ST. MARY, NORTON
The Domesday Book of 1087 records that the village of Norton had three churches. What happened to the other two we know not, but it would seem that this one, the Church of St. Mary, must date from circa 1080.
The church consists of a nave, a narrow chancel, a western tower, and a modern porch (1872). The nave and chancel were erected at the same time, probably soon after the Norman invasion. The materials used were flint plastered over and travertine (tufa) for quoins, windows and doubtless the chancel arch..
The nave is 29ft 2in long with a mean width of 20ft 4in. The chancel is approximately 3ft narrower, on average 16ft 10in. Its length 31ft. This seems unusually long for an 11th century church. A theory put forward by a Mr. C.H.Drake in the early part of the last century is that the chancel was lengthened later, perhaps in the 13th century. He claimed to have found evidence in the outside walls of a break in construction as if the extra length had been added on. He suggested that the original east wall was taken down and rebuilt when the side walls were extended. If Drake is right the original dimensions of the chancel would have been about seventeen feet long, in other words nearly square. Other Norman chancels in the neighbourhood – Graveney, Goodestone, Baddlesmere and Luddenham – have roughly the same proportions. The thickness of the wallls varies from 2ft9in to 3ft.
The main entrance was on the north side probably because the Lord of the Manor’s house was in that direction together with most of the villagers. The door is still to be seen. It is in Caen stone with square jambs. The original round arch has been replaced by a 14th century one.
The south door dates from the 13th century and the door is the original of the same date. The east window of three lights can be dated around the middle of the 13th century. Another window of similar date is in the north wall of the chancel. Most of the other windows are around 1320.
The tower was begun in the early part of the 14th century.
(Extracted from “A History of the Three Villages of Kingsdown, Lynsted and Norton” by Revd William Hill