The Catholic Church of Our Lady & St Benedict
is on Minnis Road. Catholicism slowly re-emerged in Britain after
the Reformation, and by the middle of the 1800s the small number of
Catholic worshippers in Birchington were travelling to other
communities to worship. The population of the village rapidly
increased after the arrival of the railway in 1863, and the numbers
of Catholics also grew. They eventually began meeting in the
Institute at the back of the Square.
In 1908, a three-sided wagon shed was converted
into a church in Minnis Road, beside the Malt Houses. A presbytery
was added at the front and the little congregation grew in strength.
By the time the Second World War had ended the church building was
covered from top to bottom in ivy. In 1959, the church was rebuilt
to a larger scale on the same site, while the presbytery was moved
over to the left and a hall added at the rear, to establish the
building seen today.
St Thomas Minnis Bay is a daughter church
of All Saints, and is located on the main road north-west from the
station, in the newer district of Minnis Bay which was created when
the village became a popular seaside resort. The church was built in
1932 when it was felt that the community at Minnis Bay needed its
own Anglican place of worship. The earliest services were held in
Arthur Rayden's Pavilion in the 'Dip', officially until such time as
a small iron church could be built.
The iron church never materialised, probably due
to a lack of funds. Instead, in 1924, the new archbishop of
Canterbury accepted the generous gift of a site for a church at the
Bay from Mrs Haidee Kearns in memory of her husband, Col Thomas J
Kearns, along with a handsome donation of funds. The foundations
began to be dug during 1931 and the first service was held on
Christmas Day 1932. Beautiful stained glass windows were added
around the turn of the Millennium.
The Bay United Reformed Church
is on Ethelbert Road. It began life as an Inter-denominational Church
founded by Charles Robert Haig of Minnis Bay in 1885. It became known
as 'The Bay Church' and provided a focal point for the growing and
thriving community of Birchington Bay, as it was then called. The Coast
Guards in the cottages next door built it in two weeks from wood
left over from the Exhibition Building. In 1908 the church was
affiliated to the Congregational Church Union.
In 1931 Mrs Annie Erlebach donated a sizable sum
for a new church, so the decision was taken to raise a new
brick-built church with a hall behind. Work began on the hall in
1933 and when completed, services transferred there, while the old
wooden church building was demolished and the new church was being
erected. On 5 May 1934, the new Bay Congregational Church was
dedicated and opened. In 1972 this joined the United Reformed Union
of free churches.
Three photos on this page contributed by M