History Files


Modern Britain

Gallery: Churches of Kent

by Peter Kessler, 24 January 2010



Thanet Part 3: Churches of Westgate-on-Sea

St Saviour's Church

St Saviour's Church occupies the space between St Mildred's Road and Ivanhoe Road, facing sideways onto Westgate Bay Avenue in Westgate-on-Sea. The new church was designed in the Gothic style by Charles Beazley, a London architect, and was intended to be an integral part of the exclusive development known as the Westgate-on-Sea Estate. It was built of Kentish ragstone with door and window arches of Bath stone, and was consecrated on 23 July 1884.

St Saviour's Church

The Grade II listed church possesses a fine organ and quality stained glass including a five lancet east window by Charles Kempe and six others from his studio. The War Memorial Chapel was designed by the William Morris studio. The church has a ring of six bells. In 1975, five of those were transferred to St Saviour's Church from the deconsecrated Holy Cross Church in Canterbury. Three of the bells date to the early 1600s and one was cast in 1300s.

Christ Church United Reformed Church

Christ Church United Reformed Church is also on Westgate Bay Avenue, a short way east of St Saviour's Church. The red-brick building was opened in April 1884 as the new town's Congregational Church, pipping the Anglican church to its first service by three months. In 1972 it became the URC church with the merger of the Congregationalists and the Presbyterians. The original foundation stone which was dated to 12 June 1883 was replaced by a Millennium stone in 2000.

Catholic Church of St Peter

The Catholic Church of St Peter sits to the south of the town, on the Canterbury Road. From 1904, the local Catholic congregation was allowed to worship at Tower House instead of at St Austin & St Gregory in Margate (now St Augustine's Conference Centre), but quickly grew too large for it. In 1937 the parish acquired Westgate House with its five acres of land, and work began on adapting the main house for use as a temporary church.

Catholic Church of St Peter

On Sunday 4 July the church building was opened with a celebration of Pontifical Mass. The local population dwindled during the war and the church stood desolate most of the time. Bombs and mines exploding in the vicinity of the building shook down ceilings, and broke windows and roof slates. In 1958, a generous donor paid off the remaining debt and construction of a new church began in February 1963. The church was formally opened on 11 May 1964.

St Augustine's Chapel

St Augustine's Chapel lies almost immediately alongside St Peter's on the Canterbury Road. In some sources, its history has seemingly been confused with that of the Ursuline Convent which lays a little further to the west. The latter formed a school in Westgate 1904, after the nuns were banned from teaching in France. St Augustine itself, a magnificent French-style chapel, was built in 1905-1915 by F A Walters as part of another convent school named Les Oiseaux.

St Augustine's Chapel

Westgate's Catholics were allowed to attend Mass at the chapel, instead of at the parish church of St Austin & St Gregory in Margate. By 1935 the numbers attending mass at the convent, swelled in the summer months by many visitors, was so great that it was clear that the people of Westgate needed their own church (St Peter's). St Augustine's, with 456 year-old carvings (in 2010) from France, became a boy's school in 1971, and is now a conference and wedding centre.

Parish Church of St James Westgate & Garlinge

The Parish Church of St James Westgate & Garlinge is on the Canterbury Road in the direction of Margate. Before the 1860s, Westgate consisted of only a farm, a coastguard station which had been built in 1791 and which still stands in Old Boundary Road, and a few cottages for the crew that surrounded it. During the late 1860s, businessmen developed the area into a seaside resort for the middle-classes, starting with a stretch of sea wall with a promenade on top.

Parish Church of St James Westgate & Garlinge

A housing estate was built with the intention that the resort would benefit its residents as a 'gated community', rather than serving the occasional tourists. The opening of a railway station in 1871 led to the rapid expansion of the population, which reached 2,738 by 1901. The demands of the increasing population led to the building of St James' Church in 1872. In 1884, it was reported that Essex was hit by a tremor so large that it caused the bells of St James to ring.

Garlinge Methodist Church

Garlinge Methodist Church lies a little under two hundred metres (yards) east of St James, serving the community of Garlinge from the corner of the Canterbury Road and High Street Garlinge. The two brown-brick buildings, with the church on the left here and the hall alongside it, are a blend of both modern and traditional styles, inside and out. The seating area in the church is fully modern, with chairs for the parishioners replacing fixed pews in the downstairs area.

Additional information provided by Kate Billson.

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