History Files


Modern Britain

Gallery: Churches of Kent

by Peter Kessler, 13 May 2010. Updated 13 December 2012



Canterbury Part 9: Churches of Canterbury

Church of St Gregory the Great

The Church of St Gregory the Great in Canterbury lies in a heavily-wooded churchyard a little way off North Holmes Road, to the east of the city itself. It was a late addition to the city's large number of churches, designed by George Gilbert Scott and completed in 1851 as a memorial to the late Archbishop William Howley. From the start its relatively remote location placed it at a disadvantage, and a daughter church, St Columba (see below), failed to solve the problem.

Church of St Gregory the Great

With the closure of the nearby barracks, the Garrison Church was ideally placed to take over, and St Gregory's was closed down in 1978. It sat vacant for some years, becoming a target of vandalism before being restored. The church is now St Gregory's Centre for Music, part of Canterbury Christ Church University. The grounds have been sealed off from the general public, but applications to visit the building or tend and inspect graves can be made to the university solicitor.

All Saints Church

All Saints (New) Church is on Military Road, immediately east of Canterbury, close to St Gregory the Great (above). It is not the first church of that name in the city, All Saints (Old Church) being its ancient forebear. This All Saints began as Canterbury Garrison Church of St Alban, constructed in the 1840s as part of Northgate military barracks for regiments such as the 9th and 17th Lancers, the 8th Hussars, a battery of the Royal Horse Artillery, and the East Kent Militia.

All Saints Church

Details of services from 1917 show it being used for worship after Parade Service on Sundays, although it was also open to the public for all services, which were conducted by the Reverend A R Witt, MA. The closure of the military barracks left it vacant, but it was ideally situated in the centre of St Gregory's parish, so when that was closed and sold to Christ Church College in 1974, the Garrison Church was purchased and renamed All Saints Church. It opened for services in 1978.

St Columba

St Columba's Church lies at the south-west corner of Sturry Road and Reed Avenue in eastern Canterbury. The church seems to have been built as a mission for St Gregory (see above), being dedicated in 1937. It was hit by fire in 1972, at which time the Kentish Gazette mentioned the caretaker living at 2 Reed Avenue, which is next door. The church was incorporated into the new parish of All Saints (see above) in 1976, and the building was certainly sold. It is now a shop.

Canterbury Spiritualist Church

Canterbury Spiritualist Church is hidden away at the south-west corner of Kirby Lane and Beckets Mews, close to St Dunstan's Street. The Spiritualists offer clairvoyance services along with spiritual healing which is strongly favoured by those seeking alternative forms of therapy, but they do not profess to offer a religion. The building was given as a gift to the church in 1953 by P J Chittenden. There is a second branch at Pettman House, Hanover Square, Herne Bay.

Jewish Synagogue, St Dunstan's Street

The Jewish Synagogue, St Dunstan's Street lay on the northern side of St Dunstan's Street, approximately where the Canterbury West level crossing is today. Jews settled as early as 1730 in Canterbury, and this synagogue was founded in 1762. It stood for nearly a century, but in December 1846, the congregation assembled for the last time, before moving to King Street. The building was taken down in 1858 to allow the railway to run through the street.

Parish Church of St Dunstan

The Parish Church of St Dunstan is on the corner of St Dunstan's Street and London Road. It was one of the many churches founded by Archbishop Lanfranc (1070-1089), who attached it to his Priory of St Gregory. In 1174 it formed a stage in the pilgrimage of Henry II to Thomas Becket's shrine. Henry dismounted at Harbledown, and walked to the church where he partly stripped and put on the hair shirt and cloak of the pilgrim, before walking barefoot to the cathedral.

Parish Church of St Dunstan

The little Norman church almost certainly became a place of note for other pilgrims who followed Henry's example and paused at St Dunstan's before passing into the city. The vicarage was established and endowed by Archbishop Reynolds in 1322, and two chaplains were maintained by the Roper family which lived nearby for several centuries, at Place House, or St Dunstan's Place, which stood opposite the churchyard. Only the old gateway of the mansion remains.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is one of the most recent arrivals in the church's 'ward' of Canterbury. Its spiritual leader is a member of the congregation who has been asked to serve in this position, under the church's practise of using a voluntary lay ministry rather than paid clergy. This church is on Forty Acres Road, close to St Dunstan's Church - a haven for local genealogists as it holds copies of the registers for births, marriages and deaths.

Additional information provided by Tricia Baxter.

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