History Files


Modern Britain

Gallery: Churches of Kent

by Peter Kessler, 21 March 2010



Medway Part 2: Churches of Rochester

The Parish Church of St Nicholas

The Parish Church of St Nicholas stands alongside Rochester Cathedral, and is rather dwarfed by it, being something that few people notice. It was built between 1421-1423 as the result of a disagreement. In the Saxon period the cathedral had always served as the parish church, but after the establishment of a monastery there, monks and parishioners quarrelled as to their rights, and this new parish church was built as a result, to cater to the needs of the townsfolk.

The Parish Church of St Nicholas

In 1549, St Nicholas had the former parish of St Clement attached to its own, as this example of one of the three ancient parishes of Rochester was no longer required. The church underwent rebuilding work in 1624, although the extent of that work is unknown. A fire swept through it in 1892, and further work was needed to restore it. In 1964 it was converted for use as administrative offices for the diocese of Rochester and now sits hidden behind a screen of trees.

West Kent Quakers

West Kent Quakers are based on Northgate, just a little to the north-east of the cathedral in Rochester and on the corner with the extremely busy Corporation Street. Attracting between twenty and forty people on Sundays, this local congregation in its simple red brick building is a member of the West Kent group of meetings that are based in Gravesend, Maidstone, Rochester, Sevenoaks, Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells.

Rochester Baptist Church

Rochester Baptist Church is at The Moat House, on the northern side of the narrow Crow Lane which leads away from the High Street. The original church here was built in 1890 (the smaller building on the far right). By 1907 a larger building was needed, and the main church was built. The old church was converted into a school and today serves as the Baptist Institute. The old church was in use again in the 1980s while the main building was renovated.

Rochester Baptist Church

After the renovations were complete, the Institute was used by a community care organisation for a while before returning to the church. A large stone inset on the lefthand side of the church reads, 'In grateful memory of the Protestant Martyrs of Rochester...' and goes on to name several men of note who had local links and who were burnt during the reign of Queen Mary I, or 'Bloody Mary', and her short-lived Catholic Restoration.

The Vines United Reformed Church

The Vines United Reformed Church is further west on Crow Lane, on the south-eastern side of the road. The church was originally built between 1853-1854 as a Congregational Church, before being converted to a URC church during the 1972 union with the Presbyterians. The main church building is now owned by King's School Rochester, and is named Vines Hall. The URC congregation meet in a smaller, modern attachment at the rear.

St Margaret's Church

St Margaret's Church is just 400 metres or so (a quarter of a mile) south of the cathedral. When the first church was built here is unknown, but there was a Saxon settlement nearby which suggests the seventh or eighth centuries. The list of vicars begins in 1272, but the Norman church is known to have been established by the early years of the same century. The tower was built (or heavily rebuilt) between 1458-1465 from flint and Kentish ragstone.

St Margaret's Church

Today's church mostly dates from the first half of the nineteenth century. By the 1820s it was clear that the old church would not be able to cope with the expanding population, so it was rebuilt in stages. The nave was completed by 1824, and the chancel was replaced by 1840. The tower was the only part to escape rebuilding. Unfortunately, time took its toll on the wooden bell frames, and between 1999-2006 they fell silent until repairs could be made.

Elim Pentecostal Church

Elim Pentecostal Church is on Delce Road, at the junction with Star Hill, to the east of St Margaret's. It sits on the western side of the road opposite a small green which divides it from Star Hill itself. The church was built in 1856 as a Congregational Church for a group which was breaking away from The Vines Congregational Church. In 1882 the church became Star Hill United Free Methodist Church but this arrangement came to an end in 1928.

St Peter's Church and Parish Centre

St Peter's Church and Parish Centre lies further south on Delce Road. Built in 1974, the modern venue was the successor to an earlier St Peter on King Street (close to Elim Pentecostal Church), which had been built between 1858-1860. That church was demolished in 1973 for reasons unknown. This new building houses a space for worshippers on a Sunday, but also offers facilities for other groups such as meditation classes and the Medway Fossil and Mineral Society.

In Depth
In Depth


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