Building » Westerham – St John the Baptist

Westerham – St John the Baptist

Hosey Hill, Westerham, Kent TN16

The first reference to a Mass said in Westerham was in March 1920 but this ceased sometime after 1925 when a Catholic Church was opened at Biggin Hill. The land for a church at Westerham was purchased in 1935 and plans were drawn up by John Hicks of St Leonard’s on Sea in 1937. Lack of funds, followed by the outbreak of war meant that the project was shelved and Mass was once again said at various premises in the town. In 1951 the project was revived and funds secured to start building. The pre-war plans were little altered and the foundation stone was laid on 24 April 1954, with  the  formal  opening  on  3  July  1955.  Fr  Maurice  Castelli,  the  builder  of  the church, came to Westerham as priest-in-residence in 1949. He died in 1969 and his body is interred near the entrance to the church. 

The  altar  of  the  church  faces  west  but  for  the  purposes  of  this  description  all references to compass points will be on the basis of an eastward facing altar.  A plain redbrick building of nave and sanctuary under one roof, south chapel projection, shallow west porch and octagonal southwest tower, its roof with bracketed eaves. The style is round-arched, with single windows divided by buttresses and a stepped triplet in the west gable. Only the south chapel has a two-light segment-headed window. Attached to the tower is a sculpture, in shallow relief, of St John the Baptist, 1995 by Mother Concordia Scott.

 The interior has a slightly more overtly Classical feel, with the main transverse roof trusses  encased  to  form  round-arches  on  console  brackets.  Internal  buttresses support the trusses. Broad acanthus-like cornice. The sanctuary was re-ordered in1972. Marble-faced Communion rail, altar and tabernacle stand. Painted Stations of the Cross by Michael Leigh ARCA. The lower part of the tower forms the baptistery, with an octagonal marble font. A pieta has been placed on top of it. Three stained glass windows, from Groom Court, Hastings, possibly by Hardman, and older than the church. Chair, in the sanctuary, possibly later 17th century or a copy of that style.

Heritage Details

Architect: John D. Hicks

Original Date: 1955

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed