Abbey Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Sexburgha was founded in AD664 By Queen Sexburgha. The land was given to her by her son Earl Ercombert, the King of Kent. There has been Christian worship on this site for over 1300 years, but the site has been used as worship ground for a lot longer as will be explained later.
Viking invaders destroyed the priory during the ninth century, it was further damaged by a raid of Earl Goodwins family in the 11th century.
The church and priory were partly rebuilt by William the Conqueror, he then installed the nuns from Canterbury there. The buildings were still in very bad condition until Archbishop De Corbeuil rebuilt both the buildings. He also rebuilt the parish church that adjoined the nuns’ chapel.
The priory carried on until 1536 when Sir Thomas Cheyne acquired the church, buildings, farms, windmill and manorial rights. They were sold for £198. Sir Thomas demolished all monastery buildings except the gatehouse, which was used as living accommodation. When he died he had requested to be buried in the chapel of St Katherine at the abbey church Minster. When Sir Henry inherited Sir Thomas’ buildings he sold them off and acquired permission to demolish the Chapel of Saint Katherine. Permission was granted and the tombs of Sir Thomas Cheyne and “Divers ancestors” were moved in to Minster Abbey.
By 1623 Sir John Hayward owned the property, all income made from the church and surrounding buildings was given to charitable causes. This carried on until the charity dissolved in 1800. Any repairs were then neglected and by 1877 it was in a very bad state of repair.
Not long after Reverend William Bramstone was appointed and he worked tirelessly to repair and restore the Abbey. It was reopened in 1881 for worship.
The abbey as it stands today is a mixture of architecture. The northern wall dates from the twelfth century, the eastern wall of the sanctuary and southern wall dates from the thirteenth century, the tower on the western side dates from the fifteenth century and the porch from the nineteenth century.
Minster Abbey stands on the site of an earlier worshipping site. The Abbey itself is built in the centre of a former Druid or pre Druid place of worship. The site is marked by the ‘Minster Triangle’, the triangle is formed by three ancient healing wells. Excavations of the wells found artifacts that proved the wells were used for worship of the Celtic triple headed fertility goddess. A three headed metal cast, depicting a heavily pregnant goddess who is squatting in an ancient position of childbirth over the main well. This well is now known as the well of the triple goddess. Also found was a broken beeswax picture of the goddess, it is believed the picture was broken up and dropped down the well as an offering to the goddess. The wells have been dated to approximately 1500BC, some people still believe the water from the main well can help fertility.