St. Mary the Virgin, Eastry.

Eastry Village and its History

Eastry is a large and interesting village situated just off the A256 approximately 2 miles from Sandwich, 9 miles from Dover and 12 miles from Canterbury.

The name, meaning Eastern district, originated in the 7th Century, when the village was the capital of the most easterly of the provinces of the Kingdom of Kent, the Lathe of Eastry.

Here the Saxon kings had a Royal Hall on the site north of the Church, now occupied by Eastry Court, which was reputedly the scene of the murder in 665 of the two young princes, Etheldred and Ethelbert.  Two Saxon burial sites in the village date from this period.

On the south side of the Church lies the former Tithe Barn (rebuilt 1832), now Aumbry Cottages, and the Parsonage Farm now known as the Aumbry (rebuilt 1825) from its having belonged to the Almonry of the Prior and Convent at Canterbury from the 12th Century.

The village was the birthplace of Henry of Eastry, Prior of Christ Church, Canterbury 1285-1331 in whose honour the Cathedral tower bears the name Bell Harry.

In Lower Street on the west side is Fairfield a 15th century aisled hall house, and in Mill Lane, the former Union Workhouse (1835) which became Eastry Hospital and which is now closed.

Beneath the garden of Beckets on the west side of Woodnesborough Lane are the Caves (now closed), a long series of galleries excavated in the last century by the Foord family in the course of extracting chalk for lime burning.

The Old Vicarage in Church Street was in use as the Vicarage until 1980 and stands on a site appropriated to that purpose in 1367.

In the 19th century the village possessed four windmills, only one of which now remains, as a private residence.

In 979 AD King Ethelred made over the Palace and Manor in Eastry to Archbishop Dunstan and the Priory of Christ Church Canterbury.  The Normans built a new church in the late 11th - early 12th century, and in the early 13th century the church  was  lavishly rebuilt in the early English style of architecture by the monks of Christ Church Abbey, Canterbury.

The Norman church almost certainly replaced a Saxon building, since Eastry boasted a Royal Palace for the Kings of Kent as early as 660 AD.  The origins of Christian worship on this site are lost in antiquity.

However, the building is still home to a thriving Christian Community, so please come and see us!

St. Mary's Eastry

Medieval Frescoes - "St. Mary's Medallions"

The beautiful church of St. Mary's Eastry, a place associated with the notable Prior of Canterbury, Henry of Eastry (after whom the "Bell Harry Tower" of Canterbury Cathedral is named), contains a most unique feature, restored during 1987.

Above the Chancel Arch, enclosed within a rectangular frame, are rows of seven "medallion" wall paintings; the lower group was discovered in 1857 and the rest in 1903. They remained in a rather dilapidated state until the Canterbury Cathedral Wall Paintings Department brought them back to life.

The medallions are evidently of the 13th Century, having been painted while the mortar was still wet. Each medallion contains one of four motifs:


The trefoil flower, pictured left, is perhaps a symbol of the Blessed Virgin Mary to whom the church is dedicated; or symbolic of Christ.


The lion; symbolic of the Resurrection


Doves, either singly, or in pairs, represent the Holy Spirit


The Griffin represents evil, over which victory is won by the power of the Resurrection and the courage of the Christian.