St Clement's Church is on Knightrider Street
in Sandwich, to the south of the junction with Sandown Road. The town
contains three churches which gave their names to the old parishes, and
Sandwich remained divided into three parishes until comparatively recently.
Adjoining the town's ramparts, the church was originally built in a
characteristically Norman cruciform plan in the twelfth century when
Sandwich was becoming a royal harbour of some importance.
The church was aisless, but with the massive stone central
tower and the east and west part of the nave. The tower is one of the finest
in England - the pillars which support it have rounded arches and curiously
carved capitals with various ornamentations of scrolls, frets, foliage and
grotesque figures. In the thirteenth century the chancel was rebuilt with a
north chapel using flint and sandstone, and some Caen stone, and in the
fourteenth century a south chapel was added.
Margaret and St George chapels between them contain a complete medieval
tiled floor, and a statue of St John taken from Lincoln Cathedral by the
Puritans. The spire and defensive battlements were taken down between
1670-1673, and the nineteenth century Dutch residents were allowed to
perform divine service here on the payment of forty shillings a year.
The town's three parishes were united in 1948, and St Clement's became
the single parish church.
St Peter's Church lies on the street of the same
name, with King Street on the far side. The Domesday book makes no mention
of it but a Saxon building probably existed here, to be replaced by a Norman
building in stone. The earliest stones in St Peter's (at the west end of the
nave) probably date from shortly after the Norman conquest. This church was
probably destroyed in the fighting of 1217 when Sandwich was attacked and
severely damaged by the French.
The church was rebuilt, and it is this thirteenth
century work that forms the core of the present church, traditionally
held to have been the work of the Carmelite 'White Friars' from France.
It had a wider nave, a tower and a chancel and two aisles on either
side, narrower and lower than the present north aisle. The interior
windows above the arches at the west end of the nave originally
looked out over the roof. In the fourteenth century the north aisle
In 1564 there was a severe plague, and St Peter's was
given to the 'Strangers', Dutch Protestant émigrés, for their use to
discourage the spread of infection. In 1661 the tower collapsed due to lack of
maintenance. No one was hurt but the south aisle was buried, so the
Flemish community rebuilt the tower. In 1779 a ring of eight bells
was cast and a clock installed in the tower. The church was declared
redundant in 1948, and in 2009-2010 it underwent restoration