History and Heritage
A Christian Church has stood by the River Medway in what is now the middle of Maidstone, since about 650. The first church on the present site was an Anglo-Saxon building. It survives only in references in manuscripts such as the Doomsday Monachorum at the Chapter Library, Canterbury. By reference to this document, the late Dr. Gordon Ward showed that this church of St. Mary was important enough by the eleventh century to be at the head of an organisation resembling the modern Rural Deanery.The church on this site became called St. Mary's and was a minster church, the base for a community of clergy serving seventeen villages from Detling to Goudhurst. The Archbishops of Canterbury were Lords of the Manor of Maidstone from about 750 until the 1530's and from 1200 they lived in the Manor House they built just to the north of the church.
We do not know what the Anglo-Saxon church looked like. During the Norman period "improvements" would doubtless be made, but everything was destroyed when Archbishop William Courtenay with Pope Boniface II's permission decided in 1395 to pull down St. Mary's and to erect in Kentish ragstone a collegiate church attached to his foundation of the College of All Saints. Parts of the demolished building ( mainly pieces of limestone tufa quarried locally) may be seen in the wall outside the West end of the church. The medieval priest's house stood here. The new church was called All Saints and it was to be served by a college of priests just to the south of the church.
At the Reformation the church had its endowments and property confiscated by the government in London and it became the Town Church of Maidstone. In the 19th Century the single parish of All Saints was divided as other parish churches were built to serve the newly built districts of the town. All Saints remains the municipal church and serves a relativly poor district of Maidstone to the south of the town as well as the town centre itself.
All Saints is essentially a church of one period of architecture. The large, square nave owed much to the influence of the friars who designed their churches to be preaching chambers for large congregations. The Chancel also was no haphazard erection. It was shaped to hold twenty-four priests attached to the College (their memorial is truly in the misericords in the Choir Stalls) and to be a cenotaph to the Founder, whose large and magnificent brass indent, symbolic of the man himself, spreads itself between those stalls. John Harvey has brought forward plenty of evidence to show that Archbishop Courtenay used the country's top master mason, Henry Yevele, as the designer of his church.
In recent years All Saints has been used both for the worship of the parish and for civic and town-wide services. It has also been used for an extensive programme of concerts and a wide variety of music.
Between 1883 and 1907 much work to All Saints was carried out under the direction of the noted Victorian architect John Loughborough Pearson. This included completely new roofs, screens, reredos and wall paintings in the chancel; extending the church for an organ chamber.
Much of the work done by Pearson is coming to the end of its life; other parts of the church also need repair. We would like to restore the church and help equip All Saints for the twenty-first century.
See and hear The Revd. Canon Christopher Morgan-Jones, Vicar of Maidstone, talking about the history of All Saints Church in a video/DVD production 'Historical Maidstone' available direct from Meadowbank Production or from All Saints Church Shop.
Go to: All Saints Restoration and Development Trust
Go to: Items removed from the church
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