Diocese of Canterbury

Saint Martin of Tours – Guston Parish Church

 

Dover Priory

Over 900 years in the service of God

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Dover Priory from early post cards

 

The Refectory and ruins of the claustral buildings (view circa 1908)

 

 

The Gateway (view circa 1917)

 

 

Dover Priory, on the site of the present Dover College, had its origins in a Saxon foundation, and as the Doomsday book records the farmlands at Guston as belonging to it at the time of the Norman Invasion of 1066, it is clear that the site of the current parish church would have had a chapel for the Saxon religious and the farm workers.

 

The religious house which became Dover Priory was founded in Dover Castle for twenty-two secular canons who were transferred to the present site in 696 AD, where they remained until Henry I gave the church to the Benedictine House at Canterbury Cathedral, in 1130.   In the following year, the secular canons were replaced by canons living under the Rule of St Augustine, but these in their turn were replaced by 12 Benedictine monks from Canterbury, in 1136.   Their position was re-enforced by command of Archbishop Theobald of Canterbury in 1139, when he formally pronounced it a cell, or dependency, of Canterbury.  This status continued until 1534, when finally the Prior and twelve monks (some records indicate that there may have been slightly more than that number) subscribed to the Act of Supremacy, and the following year surrendered the Priory and its possessions to Henry VIII and Cromwell’s Commissioners, at which time the ownership of the church in Guston passed to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer.

One other interesting fact from this period is that the renowned composer, Thomas Tallis (c.1505-1585), found his first employment as organist at Dover Priory, when he was in his mid-twenties; his salary was Ł2 per annum.   It is not stretching the bounds of probability too far to suggest that he may well have visited the Priory’s little church Guston from time to time.

 

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