All Saints, Frindsbury is a Parish church serving the combined parish of Frindsbury with Upnor and Chattenden. The church dates from 1075 and lies in the north-west corner of the Medway Towns, historically part of Kent, England. It is a Grade II* listed building, National Heritage List number 1107886.
The church stands proudly in an elevated position looking over the Medway. We were asked to replace the existing heating system with something more efficient, which would meet the needs of the congregation.
The replacement system was to be a gas fired system, which presented the first challenge as there was no gas at the church with the nearest supply being over 150 metres away and then once the utility suppliers had decided that they could supply gas then the second challenge was for them to put the meter inside the tower base rather than outside as they wanted to do, much against the wishes of the church.
We then installed a low pressure hot water system with a wall mounted condensing boiler sited discretely in a cupboard in the tower base serving a special flat fronted radiator system throughout the church.
As is usual at the end of an installation, after my engineers have worked long and hard for over one month I visit the church to pick up the thoughts and usual compliments of the church. I think it is fair to say that the system exceeded the expectations of the church and everyone connected to the church are delighted with the system.
Early history of Frindsbury
The Romans built a stone bridge across the Medway and laid a road on a causeway across the marshy ground below what is now Frindsbury. Evidence of a causewayed road along the bank towards the Frindsbury Peninsula leading to a villa was found in 1819. The present road and field pattern suggest that there was a substantial Roman agricultural settlement centred near Frindsbury.
Bishop Eardulf of Rochester obtained Freandisberi and Wicham in 747. Either in confirmation or in addition Offa, King of Mercia, and Sigered, joint King of Kent, granted 20 sulungs of land at Aeslingham in Freodesbrei to the bishop in 764. In 778, King Egbert gave more land to the bishop. In 840, 994, and 998 AD Strood was pillaged by the Danes. The area was wrested from the church and eventually came under the control of Harold Godwinson. After Harold’s defeat at the Battle of Hastings, William the Conqueror gave the lands to Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, Earl of Kent, and William’s half brother. Archbishop Lanfranc recovered them again at the Trial of Penenden Heath (c. 1072) and restored them to Bishop Gundulf of Rochester. Gundulf was responsible for commencing the rebuilding of Rochester Cathedral and establishing the Benedictine Priory of St Andrew based upon it. He gave the land at Frindsbury to the new priory though insisting they paid an sum to him or his successors on St Andrews day.
The Medieval Church
Whether there was a Saxon church at Frindsbury is not known for certain, however Wade regards it as “highly probable”. The original Norman church was rebuilt in stone around 1075 by Paulinus, sacrist of Rochester who gave books and vestments to it. The Domesday book records the presence of the church in 1086, but no further details of it. Domesday does however record that the bishop was entitled to 10 shillings (50p) from the manor of Frindsbury. The church was rebuilt in 1127. The term “rebuilding” may refer to a large repair rather than a complete reconstruction.
A small wooden church was erected at Strood in 1122 as a chapel of ease to the parish church. It became St Nicholas’, the parish church of Strood in 1193 and is situated where the Watling Street left the firm ground to run over the marshes to the Medway bridge.
Bishop Gilbert de Glanvill claimed Frinsdsbury back from the monks “as belonging to the maintenance of his table” in 1185. According to Hasted the bishop succeeded in obtaining the church, but the manor remained in the possession of the monks until the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII in 1523. Barnard however records that in 1256, the church of Frindsbury (and thus the income) was returned to the Bishop.
There was a chapel dedicated to St Peter (1142) within the Manor of Islingham. Services were held 1330 to 1542 when they were discontinued. The building became an oast house.
In 1279 and again in 1293, 1314 and 1357 the bishop of Rochester claimed liberties in the lands of the priory of Frindsbury as well as all lands belonging to the church. There was more building in the 14th century and around 1407
During the English Reformation, decorations were removed or painted over. Wall paintings of St Lawrence, St Edmund of Canterbury, and St William of Perth were discovered in 1883. The church was extensively restored in 1884, with a large donation from a Mrs Murray, wife to Rev. George Edward Murray, son of a former bishop of Rochester.
Upnor (St Philip and St James) became an independent parish in 1884, but was reabsorbed in 1955.
The church is a composite building of flint and ragstone rubble with ragstone and Caen Stone dressings. Generally the earlier work is flint/ragstone and the later rubble/limestone. The plan is traditional with a rectangular chancel, arch, nave with aisles north and south and west end tower. The chancel, nave and lower parts of the tower are Norman. In the 14th century the tower stair and south aisle were added. The north aisle was added (or possibly rebuilt) in 1884.
The tower is topped by a shingle spire set within the battlements. Fine views are afforded all round, but access is through the bell chamber which is difficult and not open to the public. There are three stages, the lowest being a west end porch, above that the present ringing chamber and above that the bell chamber.
The south aisle extends from the chancel arch back towards the west end, but stops one bay short. It is roofed in metal with a plain parapet. It has the south door, now available for wheelchair access.
The vestry lies to the northeast alongside the chancel. It runs into the north aisle which extends to the west end. Again the roof is of metal.
The nave and chancel roofs are pitched and tiled, the latter with traditional Kent tiles.