In the middle ages, Murston was a notable port on the banks of the Milton Creek, on the north coast of Kent, and the church and churchyard of All Saints were at its heart. The first church probably dated from before 1100 AD. What you see today of the old church is the chancel, the central part of a three aisle church, which dates back to at least the fourteenth century.
The original building had few windows and must have been very dark inside. In 1623, a rector of Murston was charged with neglect of his duties and with keeping his horse in church, even during Sunday services, when it “did begin to neigh aloud and make a great noise whereat … some of the younger members of the congregation were moved to unseemly merriment”.
In 1798, the area of Murston was described by the great historian of Kent, Edward Hasted, as an unhealthy place to live: “the greatest part lying so exceeding watry [sic], enveloped by creeks, marshes and salts, the air is very gross and much subject to fogs … which with the badness of the water, occasions severe agues.” However, he admired the land of the parish as “very rich and fertile for corn, and there is some good hop-ground in it.”
By 1870, industrial development and housing had grown up around the churchyard. Brickfields and kilns were developed close by, and a gas works built on the west side.
The village population had increased rapidly from 141 adults in 20 dwellings in 1821 to some 700 persons. It was reported that the “noxious industry lately established near the church makes it difficult for the congregation to breathe.”
A new church was needed and so most of the original building was demolished in 1873, with many of the materials recycled to build the existing All Saints Church at the other end of Church Road, Murston. The last burial in the old churchyard took place in 1920.
The old church building was saved from demolition in 1976. New uses were explored and it was briefly used by the Murston and Bapchild Scout Group, but problems with recurring vandalism mean that successive repairs were needed and it was added to the English Heritage “At Risk” register in 2010. The church and churchyard are both Scheduled Ancient Monuments.
In 2014, the Murston All Saints Trust was set up as a new trust with the mission of preserving the church and churchyard and pursuing activities to benefit the local community.
For further information about the history and archaeology of the site please refer to the reports prepared for MAST by Canterbury Archaeology Trust. (see below)