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Churches of the British Isles

Gallery: Churches of Kent

by Peter Kessler, 30 August 2009. Updated 13 May 2010

Canterbury Part 2: Churches of Canterbury

Holy Cross Church Westgate, Canterbury, Kent

Holy Cross Church Westgate stands alongside the ancient Westgate in Canterbury. A large number of the city's churches no longer exist or have only more recently been deconsecrated, and Holy Cross is one such church. Canterbury's West Gate was rebuilt in its current form in 1381. The previous Holy Cross Church building had (like St Mary Northgate) stood over the gate, and was now rebuilt alongside it. This is the building seen today, despite later changes.

Holy Cross Church Westgate, Canterbury, Kent

In the nineteenth century the church was extensively renovated, and the tower was completely rebuilt in 1871. The church remained active into the 1960s, until many local houses were demolished for the new ring road. Failing to find it a new purpose, the church was declared redundant in 1972, and in 1978 it was converted into the city's Guildhall (the medieval version of this had been demolished by its supposed guardians in 1951).

St Peter the Apostle Anglican Church, Canterbury, Kent

St Peter the Apostle Anglican Church in St Peter's Street is thought to stand on the site of a Christian church built during the Roman period and which was possibly rebuilt by St Augustine after he landed in AD 597. Evidence of its early origins can be seen in the tower, which incorporates Roman tiles, and in its lower levels where Saxon quoins or cornerstones can be seen. The tower in its present form dates from around 1100 and houses four ancient bells cast in 1325-1637.

St Peter the Apostle Anglican Church, Canterbury, Kent

By the middle of the 1600s the parish of St Peter's was the home of many Huguenot and Walloon refugees who had fled France and the Low Countries. As early as 1681 St Peter's was united with the adjoining parish of Holy Cross, and this connection only ended in 1959. Having survived a threat of demolition, in 1872 the church was in need of repair and was closed for a few years. Services were suspended between 1923-1959 but have now fully resumed.

St Peter's Methodist Church, Canterbury, Kent

St Peter's Methodist Church lies a little way back from St Peter's Street. John Wesley first visited Canterbury in 1749, at a time when Methodists still worshipped within the Anglican Church. Eventually the need arose for a separate building, King Street Chapel (now lost), using materials from the recently demolished St Andrew's (Old Church). The polygon chapel was primarily a preaching place, although its organ was later transferred to the current building.

St Peter's Methodist Church, Canterbury, Kent

St Peter's was built in 1811, and became the main place of worship for the city's Wesleyans. By about 1820 the Sunday School had 37 members. In 1851 a church census says St Peter's had 1,100 seats and a healthy congregation. Alterations over the years cut back the gallery, and lowered the pulpit, while moving it to one side. In 1976 the sanctuary area was enlarged and the pulpit was lowered even more. The latest alterations were completed in 1998.

Canterbury Pilgrims Hospital of St Thomas, Canterbury, Kent

Canterbury Pilgrims Hospital of St Thomas, formerly Eastbridge Hospital, lies on the western side of St Peter's Street, over the River Stour. The hospital was built by Edward FitzOdbold and endowed by Archbishop Lanfranc to receive, lodge, and sustain poor pilgrims. In 1313 the hospital's master and brethren became responsible for maintaining the East Bridge. In 1576 the hospital was said to be ruinous, becoming an almshouse soon after. It was restored in 1933.

All Saints (Old Church), Canterbury, Kent

All Saints (Old) Church was located on the corner of the High Street and Best Lane, and its churchyard still exists behind the railings there. The medieval church is mentioned in 1616, but the tower was demolished in the 1700s to make space on the crowded road (and is seen here in the 1780s). A new, yellow-brick, Regency church was built on the same site in 1828, but closed in 1902 and, its role as a church hall no longer needed, the building was demolished in 1937.

St Augustine Anglican Catholic Church, Canterbury, Kent

St Augustine Anglican Catholic Church lies a little way along Best Lane from All Saints' former churchyard. Increasing liberalisation of the Anglican church in the USA saw this denomination created in Illinois in 1978, and it arrived in Britain in 1992. This church was formed in May 2005, originally meeting at Canterbury City Cemetery Chapel. The present building used to be a nonconformist chapel which had become secular in use. It was reconsecrated on 20 September 2008.

Religious Society of Friends Meeting House (Quakers), Canterbury, Kent

The Religious Society of Friends Meeting House (Quakers) lies alongside the River Stour at 6 The Friars, on the northern side of the street. Quakers first met in the Friends Meeting House, Canterbury Lane, which was opened in 1688, and which could hold about two hundred and fifty members. The building was altered in 1772, but destroyed in the June 1942 Blitz of the city. The Quakers eventually found this new meeting place close to the Marlow Theatre.

Nine photos on this page by P L Kessler, and one print kindly contributed by Stephen Bax.



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