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Modern Britain

Gallery: Churches of Kent

by Peter Kessler, 21 March 2010

 

 

Medway Part 4: Churches of Borstal

Church of St Matthew Borstal

The Church of St Matthew Borstal lies on the western side of Borstal Street, the main connecting route between Rochester and the village of Borstal, which is immediately to the south-west of Rochester, offering splendid views over the River Medway. The church is described as a simple, homely building of Kentish ragstone, constructed in a design that was very common in the late Victorian period. The church only has an unassuming tower containing one solitary bell.

Church of St Matthew Borstal

There had been no Anglican church in Borstal until the church school was built on the bank opposite the current church in 1868. It also served as a place of worship for the next decade until work could begin on a proper church building for the village. Thanks to its location on a steep hillside, the new church had to be orientated north to south, instead of the more usual east to west pattern. The architect was C A Luck, and the builder J G Naylar.

Church of St Matthew Borstal

The foundation stone was laid on 29 June 1878 'by the Right Honourable the Earl of Darnley'. The family of the earl of Darnley lived for some centuries at Cobham Hall, the famous Tudor mansion five miles westward across the River Medway. The design was simple - a nave boasting only a central aisle, with colour-washed walls below a solidly-constructed timber root of the 'upturned boat' variety, lit by tall, lancet-type 'West End' windows.

Church of St Matthew Borstal

The first service was held in the new church on 22 July 1879 and the building eventually became the base of the newly-constituted parish of St Matthew, hived off from the very extensive parish of St Margaret. A few years later, in 1904, the church was extended to accommodate the present choir stalls, sanctuary and choir and clergy vestries. The foundation stone for this extension was laid by the countess of Darnley in 1905.

Borstal Baptist Church

Borstal Baptist Church also sits on the western side of Borstal Street, just a few metres (yards) to the south of St Matthew's and also overlooking the steep valley down to the River Medway. The church was erected in the centre of the village by Samuel Barker Booth in 1880, with a hall attached (to the left here). Initially, it was primarily a place of recreation for Booth's employees at Borstal Cement Works, and at first, the ground floor was used as a recreation room.

Borstal Baptist Church

At this time, nonconformist services were held in a nearby house. With increasing attendances, services were transferred to the upper room (which also held some early Anglican services). The premises continued to be known for years as Borstal Institute, then Borstal Chapel, then Borstal Free Church, and finally, comparatively recently, as Borstal Baptist Church. From time to time, magic lantern shows were held and this was the great attraction of this church for local children.

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