Warden Church dates back to at least 1595 and was dedicated to St James, unfortunately the remains of this church are now a few hundred yards out to sea due to severe coastal erosion. The church replaced an earlier church that was situated a mile or so further along the road, again the previous church suffered the same fate and is also below the waves, regularly disturbed by the busy shipping lanes. According to Hasted, who wrote about this church in 1798, it was small with just one aisle and a chancel. He wrote:
“The church, which consists of one aisle and a chancel, with a small turret at the west end, is a poor, mean, plastered building. It is dedicated to St. James, and was for many years in a dilapidated state, insomuch that there had not been any divine service performed in it, excepting on the induction of a Rector, for a long time, the parishioners, usually resorting to the adjoining Church of Leysdown for that purpose; but it has been, some years since, put into some kind of repair, and made but hardly fit for divine service; though the whole building seems so decayed by length of time, that it cannot stand many years.
The church was part of the ancient possessions of the Crown, and continued so till King Henry III by his charter, in his 9th year (1235) granted it to the Hospital of St. Mary, commonly called the Maison Dieu, in Dover, and the brethren there, forever, in free, pure, and perpetual alms, which gift was confirmed by Henry VI. In his second year, by his charter of Inspeximus; before which this hospital was possessed of a manor and lands in this parish, by the benefaction of Simon de Wardune, who had given to it his whole mesuage and park adjoining to it, an one hundred acres of land in the field of Wardune, with the homage, suits, and services due to him from several persons, as mentioned by his deed of it. The church remained with the hospital until the dissolution in 1539, when it was surrendered, with all its possessions into the King’s hands. After which the church was granted to Sir Thomas Cheney, whose son, Henry, Lord Cheney, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth exchanged it for other lands. The Queen soon granted it to Sir Thomas Hoby, of Bisham, whose son Sir Edward Hoby gave it by his will to his son Peregrine Hoby, esq. Who was possessed of it in the latter end of the reign of Charles I”.
During the Reign of William III the church was owned by Godfrey Meynel, esq. And later it was owned by Francis Hosier, esq. the Vice-Admiral of the White. On his death in 1727 the church passed down to his widow, Mrs Diana Hosier and then to their daughter Frances, who married Richard Hart. When he died the church was owned by their three daughters, who were the owners in 1798.
In 1836 Delamark Banks esquire insisted the church aisle and chancel was renovated as it was again in a terrible state, he also rebuilt the tower using old London Bridge stone which his father’s company had acquired whilst demolishing the old bridge. A commemorative tablet was installed above the door in the church tower, it was engraved:
“The tower of this church was erected at the expense of Delamark Banks esqr. Magistrate for the county anno domini 1836; with the stone of old London Bridge which was built in the year 1176; and taken down in the year 1832.”
Thirty two years later the church was mentioned in a local newspaper due to its close proximity to the constant receding of the cliff edge nearby, it stated:
“Prevalent heavy winds destroyed a great portion of the chancel wall of Warden Church, which, although when first built was placed a considerable distance inland, was now, by the frequent landslips, perched on the edge of cliffs. The exterior of the sacred edifice was now exposed to the weather. It was proposed to put up a wall between the chancel and the nave to make the nave available for worship. It was considered useless to repair the chancel as it was expected that in a couple of years the church and graveyard would probably disappear over the cliff in a north easterly squall.”
The Bishop of Canterbury remarked that it would be desirable to move the church and rebuild it further inland, however this never happened and as the cliff edged nearer the church was closed. The last service to be held at the church was conducted by Reverend George Bryant, the Vicar of Holy Trinity Church in Sheerness, although Reverend Dr Willis was the Vicar of Minster and Rector of Warden. Reverend Bryant travelled to the church on “Shanks” pony.
Locals then proceeded to remove pews and the pulpit to be used as firewood and the doors, locks, bell rope and other items were stolen. The bell is a mystery as one story states it was removed and placed in the Abbey at Minster in 1885, however a newspaper report states it was left in a farmyard for a time before being moved to St Peter’s Church in Sheerness, where it fell from the tower with a crash during a fire and cracked. It was decided that before the church was claimed by the cliffs it would be demolished as it was in a severe dangerous state due to decay and vandalism, the commemorative plaque was removed and placed in the garden of Bridgestone House, a stone was also removed from the church tower, engraved with “Relic of old London Bridge: built 1176 and taken down 1832; and laid here by Delamark Banks esq Magistrate for the county. R. Dodd”. This stone was placed into the wall of Bridgestone House. By 1887 the church had been demolished and anything that remained fell down the cliffs, a local rumour states that the skeletal remains from the churchyard were collected by an eccentric old woman from Shellness to decorate her home with.
Over the years the two stones from the tower have disappeared, the one that was placed in the wall of Bridgestone House, also known as Stonebridge House and Bridge House, was removed before the buildings demolition by an unknown person before it too was dealt the fate of cliff erosion. The plaque has now been found to reside in storage owned by the Museum of London.
It has been said that if you stand on the cliffs at Warden Point you can hear the sound of bells ringing from the sea, coming from the old site of the church.