Tilbury - Our Lady Star of the Sea

Dock Road, Tilbury, Essex RM18

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A substantial, functional Gothic church built to serve the workers of Tilbury Docks. The interior has been redecorated and the sanctuary re- ordered, but the exterior is little-altered and has some townscape presence and group value with the adjoining presbytery and convent.

The  Tilbury  Docks  were  built  in  the  1880s  and  opened  in  1886.  A  mission  was founded from Grays in 1887 but the increasing population required a new church. The building was erected near the docks on marshland soil. Forty ferro-concrete piles were driven into the ground and joined together to form a concrete foundation. The foundation stone was laid on 21 June 1906 and the church opened in the following year. The architect was Robert Leabon Curtis, responsible for several church designs in East London. A presbytery and Convent of Mercy were built alongside, in matching materials but a rather more domestic style.

The church was consecrated by Bishop Beck on 8 June 1954. A new forward altar was consecrated by Bishop McMahon in 1990.

The church of Our Lady is in a version of the Early English or First Pointed Gothic style. The walls are faced in bright yellow brick with dressings and window surrounds of red brick. The roofs covered in grey concrete tiles. The building consists of a five- bay nave and a chancel under a continuous pitched roof, the division marked by a bellcote on the ridge. The two eastern bays of the nave and the chancel have aisle-like additions under lean-to roofs. The west end of the church has a central entrance door with a chamfered pointed arch flanked by two small pointed windows on each side. Above the doorway is a three-light pointed window with ‘Y’ tracery flanked by two lower windows, all under a pointed relieving arch. On each side the first three bays have three-light windows in the upper part of the wall. In the next two bays the windows are raised clerestory-like above the lean-to aisle roofs and have dormer-like cross-roofs.  The aisles beneath have two single windows in each bay. The chancel has two pairs of small windows in both aisles and a clerestory. The east end gable wall has a single three-light window with ‘Y’ tracery.

Internally the church has a parquet floor, plain plastered walls and an open timber roof with scissor trusses to the nave and a four-sided profile to the chancel. The windows are all clear-glazed with diamond quarries.  There is a timber west gallery, now enclosed beneath to form a vestibule. The fourth and fifth bays of the nave have chamfered  pointed  arched  openings  (one  now  blocked)  to  side  aisles  leading  to chapels flanking the chancel. The nave is divided from the chancel by a pointed chamfered arch. The sanctuary itself has been re-ordered, with a central modern altar (1990). Other fittings include the pine benches which are presumably original and commemorative tablets to Canon Keens (founder of the Tilbury mission) and to Ada Stephenson, benefactress.

Diocese: Brentwood

Architect: Robert Leabon Curtis

Original Date: 1906

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed