Christian worship has been offered on or near this site since 630 AD when Eadbald, King of Kent, built a convent and church for his daughter Eanswythe – believed to be the first religious house with an abbess in the country. His father, King Ethelbert, had welcomed St Augustine and his monks in 597. Eanswythe died in about 640 AD and was made a saint soon after. Her relics became a focus of pilgrimage and in 1138 were brought into the chancel of the present church (the fourth to occupy this site) on 12 September – the date we still keep as our Patronal Festival.
In the 11th century the Priory was established but was suppressed, like almost all the others, by Henry VIII in 1534 and the church entered a long period of neglect and decline.
Canon Matthew Woodward, the vicar from 1851 to 1898, transformed it into the beautiful church you see today, with stained glass, murals and mosaics of the highest quality.