Maidstone Road, Ashford, Kent TN24
A large modern church of distinct form, fit for purpose and with an impressive internal volume, but architecturally not distinguished. It replaced a church of 1865 by E.W. Pugin, from which some of the furnishings have been re-used.
Ashford before the mid-19th century was a small market town but following the arrival of the railway in 1842 and, more importantly the establishment of the South Eastern Railway’s engineering works here in 1847, the town grew rapidly. In the mid-18th century Mass was said at Calehill House, home of the Darell family, near Little Chart, in a chapel dedicated to St Joseph. Fr James Darrell, a Jesuit, served the district from 1769 to 1775. By 1851 the population of Ashford had reached 5,000, double its size a few decades earlier. In 1859 land was purchased on the corner of North Street and Hardinge Road for the erection of a Catholic school and church, but nothing came of this and the land was subsequently sold and the site of the present church, on Barrow Hill acquired. A temporary chapel was erected in 1862 and a permanent church, to designs by E. W. Pugin, was opened on 22 August 1865. Despite extension in 1892 this remained a small church and, amidst local controversy, was demolished in 1990 to make way for the present, much larger building, for which the foundation stone was laid on 21 May 1990. The church opened on 28 April 1991.
The church is essentially square on plan with a dominant pyramidal roof and lead spirelet. On the east side there is a shallow sanctuary projection. The church probably has a steel frame, the low walls are brick-faced externally and the roof is covered with natural slates. The pyramid roof has an almost continuous band of patent glazing and an integral metal profile gutter. The walls have brick mullioned windows. Together with the church hall the complex forms an L-plan with the entrances on the inner face of the L. The church entrance is a rather gaunt open porch with brick sides which break through the eaves and finish in a triangular gable. This main entrance leads into a narthex from which there is a crying chapel to the right and other ancillary accommodation to right and left. A corridor on the left leads to the hall, toilets and kitchen. The 1892 foundation stone of the enlargement of the old church is re-set in the corridor wall. The narthex is divided from the main church by a full height timber and glass screen, with stained glass from the east window of the old church set into it. The church interior is large and lofty, its timber lined roof rising to the full height of the pyramid, an impressive space. The walls are plastered and painted but it is the immense roof which dominates, with its bands of patent glazing. The Victorian font has been re-used from the old church and the altar, tabernacle stand and ambo incorporate elements from the old church. Several wooden statues from the old church, carved in Belgium. To either side of the altar (somewhat hidden from view) are stained glass windows depicting The Holy Sacrament and The Word, 1997 by David Griffiths of Cathedral Studios, Canterbury.
Original Date: 1990
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed