High Street, Edenbridge, Kent TN8
Built as a church hall in 1952 and of little architectural note, although the 1962 sanctuary by Maguire & Murray is interesting as a minor work of this progressive firm of church designers. The adjoining presbytery is of early 18th-century date or earlier, and is listed grade II.
A Mass was celebrated on Christmas Day 1896 at the Oddfellows Hall, Edenbridge, and subsequently a Mass centre was opened at Eden Hall, served by Jesuit Fathers from Farm Street. In 1906 the Plowden Wardlow family erected a chapel, dedicated to St Margaret of Scotland, in the grounds of their home, The Manor House, but this lasted only four years, when the family left the area. Various arrangements were then made for occasional Mass until the purchase of the old Cottage Hospital in the High Street in 1929. This was itself a converted house of largely early 19th-century character and is now the presbytery. Possession was taken in 1931 and the men’s ward on the ground floor became the chapel. It was at first served from Oxted but by 1936 Fr de Ternant had taken up residence in Edenbridge. By the late 1940s the parish had outgrown the chapel in the former ward and Alleyn & Mansel drew up grand plans in 1949 for a new church, church hall and presbytery, all on the land west of the former cottage hospital which formed part of its extensive grounds. These were overambitious and in 1951-52 the church hall alone was built, to be used as a temporary church, at a cost of around £11,000. At first the hall was let as a classroom for the local primary school which was being enlarged, with occasional use for Mass on Sundays, but from 1957 it became the permanent church. In 1959-62 Maguire & Murray, architects added the semi-circular apse as a sanctuary, once it became clear that the grander ambitions would not be realised.
The altar of the church faces west but for the purposes of this description all references to compass points will assume an eastward facing altar. A rectangular brick building with interlocking concrete tiled roof. Narrower, slightly tower-like element at the west end with semi-circular arches on three sides, blind to south and west and with the porch entrance to the north. Within the west arch there is a rectangular window, with above it, a tile picture of the Virgin and Child, 1959 by Teresa Fuller. The side windows are plain rectangular openings, indicative of the intended hall use, now with UPVC frames. Southeast sacristy. Maguire & Murray’s 1961 sanctuary extension is most impressive from the east where the main apse is largely of unrelieved brickwork. There are just two tall side windows with round-arch top and bottom. A similar smaller structure is set above, rounded to the east and glazed to the west. It rises above the apex of the nave roof and its purpose is to throw light onto the altar. However, as it does not rise much above the apex it has little impact in views from other directions or from further afield.
Internal porch with a dogleg staircase leading up to the west gallery. Stained glass window, possibly by James Powell & Son, of circa 1910. It was brought from St Lawrence’s Convent, Frant (now Frant Court), in 1972 but was in turn originally from another, unidentified, location. Portable wooden holy water stoup of late Victorian character also brought from elsewhere and possibly used originally as a font. The interior of the church shows the boxed-in trusses and the underside of the roof is lined in fibreboard. The walls are plastered and painted. It looks very much like a hall but the sanctuary immediately draws the eye owing to the smooth curve of the apse and the handling of external light. The lantern has a skylight set flush with the flat ceiling. The curve of the apse is reflected in the curve of the stone sanctuary floor which projects into the nave. These curves are also reflected in the lighting track above. Boldly placed drum font. It is prescient that this work all dates from 1961-62, just before Vatican II. The architect (Robert Maguire) has told the writer that ‘the then parish priest, Fr O’Sullivan, had given a lot of responsibility and ‘say’ to his congregation, and there were several ‘liturgically advanced’ people among them – which of course is how we came to be appointed. Mass versus populum was extremely radical, but Fr O’S [sic] took the plunge and approved the altar position. It then went to the Diocese for approval, and the Bishop of the day wrote to me saying that the altar should be against the ‘east’ wall. I replied extremely politely, quoting from the current rubric of the Sacred Congregation of Rites which actually said that the altar should not be attached to the wall of the church, so he let it through’ (pers. comm.). The font is of the same time but has been moved to its present position from the former baptistery (now repository) where there is a circular imprint in the floor. To either side of the sanctuary, two more tile pictures, the Ascension and the Annunciation, again by Teresa Fuller. Stained glass in the circular window at the east end of the nave, dating from around 1985.
Original Date: 1951
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed