Dover - St Paul

Maison Dieu Road, Dover, Kent CT16

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A small church of the 1860s in the High Gothic style, unmistakeably the work of E. W. Pugin, with a contemporary parish school attached (now the parish hall). The interior with its long arcades and steeply-pitched roof is an impressive space.  The roof was renewed in the 1980s after a fire and the interior has been rearranged, but some of the original furnishings survive.

The  Catholic  mission  to  Dover  was  established  in  1822  and  in  1834  a  former Wesleyan chapel in Elizabeth Street was purchased for use as a place of worship.  The Catholic population of Dover continued to expend during the 19th century and in 1864 the present site was purchased for a new and larger church. Much of the money for the new building came from an endowment from the estate of Countess de Frant. The church was begun in 1867 and opened in 1868. A school adjacent to the church was built in 1872 and an apse was added to the church in 1873.  All these works were by E. W. Pugin.  The presbytery adjacent to the church is a substantial speculatively-built villa of the 1860s which was purchased in the 1970s for the use of the priest.   The church was repaired in 1959, when the sanctuary was lowered and the original elaborate Pugin high altar ensemble taken down (with the altar brought forward), and in 1964 the nave was re-floored and re-pewed and the pulpit was removed. In October 1987 the roof of the church was destroyed by fire, which also destroyed the organ. The nave roof timbers and coverings were renewed and the interior redecorated. 

The church of St Paul is a typical E. W. Pugin design in Middle Pointed Gothic.  The church consists of a nave with lean-to north and south aisles and a steeply-pitched roof with two small transeptal projections at the east end, and an apsidal sanctuary. There is no clerestory. The exterior walls are faced with Kentish Ragstone, the nave and aisle roofs are covered with Welsh slate with a red tile ridge.  On the west front the nave is defined by large stepped buttresses either side of the pointed arch of the central entrance door, which has a large rose window above with Kentish tracery. At the head of the steep west gable is a bellcote on corbelled buttresses with a quatrefoil window between them.  The west ends of the aisles each have a single very narrow traceried window. The aisle side walls are of eight bays defined by stepped buttresses. The westernmost bay has a two-light window, the others have three-light windows, all steeply-pointed with a trefoil in the tracery.  In the fifth bay of the north aisle is a Gothic doorway. The north east end of the church is attached to the former school, now the parish hall.

 Inside, the nave arcades are each of eight bays with pointed moulded arches on cylindrical stone columns with octagonal capitals. In the spandrels of the arches are the stone corbels for the principals of the scissor-braced timber roof. The underside of the roof is boarded and painted. An additional narrower western bay contains the organ gallery. The space below the gallery is now enclosed by a glass screen. The aisles also have exposed roof principals and the aisle windows are set in segment- headed reveals.   At the east end of the nave arcades a narrow and steeply-pointed arch makes the transition to the unaisled five-sided apsidal sanctuary with its painted timber roof.  The east wall of the sanctuary has a single pointed window, while the two walls on either side have three-light windows.

Of the furnishings, Pugin’s main altar and Lady altar survive, though the former has been re-positioned. Almost all the windows in the church are filled with stained glass, some 19th  century and some modern replacement after the 1987 fire.  The sanctuary paintings are by Dr Henry Campbell.

Diocese: Southwark

Architect: E. W. Pugin

Original Date: 1867

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed