History Files


Modern Britain

Gallery: Churches of Kent

by Peter Kessler, 11 October 2009



Canterbury Part 23: Churches of Herne Bay

Christ Church in Herne Bay, Kent

Christ Church is the main parish church for Herne Bay and is located in William Street, just south of the High Street. Herne Bay was late to be developed, initially being little more that an outpost for fishermen from the village of Herne, two kilometres inland. Sir Henry Oxenden was a local landowner, and it was he who donated a tract of land which was to be the site of the town's first church, which was opened in 1834, probably to a design by A G Clayton.

Christ Church in Herne Bay, Kent

Initially, it was a nonconformist chapel, but it was purchased by the Church of England in 1840. The transepts and chancel were built in 1868. Its west front was altered - and visually damaged (see the previous photo) - in 1878. Either side of the church are two little square single storey buildings dating from 1839. These extensions housed schoolrooms and have quirky octagonal buttresses terminating in pinnacles. Bells were added to the church in 1895.

Herne Bay Baptist Church

Herne Bay Baptist Church is on the High Street just to the east of the old Methodist Church. It was opened in 1879 as the Baptist Chapel. As with Christ Church, this building is a simple brown-brick construction with its street elevation given a Classical dressing. Although in Classical terms the assemblage of motifs on the street gable, carried out in plain render, is rather gauche, this part of the building still makes a very valuable contribution to the character of the town.

Herne Bay Baptist Church

The chapel is of interest internally for its original full immersion baptismal pool under the floor. The Victorian High Street is apparently raised up around here to produce basements in buildings abutting the street, and this certainly helped with the incorporation of the pool. The inscription on the keystone at the foot of the main wall, underneath the triple window, reads: 'This stone was laid by C H Dean Esq for C F Allison Esq of London, February 26th 1879'.

Methodist Church, Herne Bay, Kent

Herne Bay Methodist Church, on the corner of High Street and Beach Street, was built in 1885, of Kent ragstone, a splendid example of polygonal stone walling (over brickwork) typically combined with smooth ashlared dressings. The tower, topped by a slender ragstone-faced spire, is a key landmark in the town. The building remained empty from 2002, when the Methodists joined forces with the United Reformed Church, worshipping from their Mortimer Street church.

Herne Bay United Church

Herne Bay United Church (Methodist and URC) is on Mortimer Street, which runs parallel to the High Street, although the church also has a less attractive frontage there. This former Herne Bay Congregational Chapel was opened in 1864, in a building of plain brick, with ashlared dressings and gables clad on top in coursed ragstone, a common practise in the town. In 2002 the Methodist congregation from the High Street joined the United Reformed Church here.

Herne Bay Salvation Army

The Salvation Army community church is on Richmond Street, close to the town's bus garage. This building was opened in 1907, five years before the death of William Booth, an ex-Methodist minister who was encouraged to found his own 'Christian Mission' in 1865. By 1912, his Salvation Army was at work in a total of fifty-eight countries. Herne Bay's small Salvation Army band still go out to play around the town, most notably when the Christmas lights are switched on.

Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses, Herne Bay

The Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses is located on the relatively quiet and leafy Station Road, just a few hundred metres south of the west end of the High Street, which is notable for its surviving but long-disused black gas lamp standards manufactured by 'Beck and Co. Ltd London'. A new building, this one follows a fairly standard pattern for a Kingdom Hall, with the same colour scheme being used in the brickwork, apparently wherever this proves possible.

Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Herne Bay

Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church is at 3 Sea Street, at the western end of the High Street, although the main body of the church building looks out over the far more narrow Clarence Road. The church was built between 1889-1890 as an example of the more refined Victorian work, and is regarded as a local landmark. It was gifted to the Passonist Priests, who were founded by St Paul of the Cross (1694-1775) and who continue to run it today.

Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Herne Bay

The building's form is relatively simple, allowing the random coursed ragstone walling, which is very typical of central Herne Bay's churches, to feature as a major aspect of the building's character. It is certainly a building that has been designed to be seen from all sides in order to appreciate it fully. Inside, there is a Gothic Revival three-tier altar which is still seen by a congregation of four hundred, half the 1890s figure but still respectable for the twenty-first century.

Two photos on this page contributed by M Kessler.

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