Button Lane, Bearsted, Kent ME15
A 1980s suburban church designed by a local firm of architects responsible for several churches in the area. Architecturally it is interesting for its plan, integrating church and presbytery into one building.
The historic village of Bearsted lies approximately three quarters of a mile north of St Peter’s church and the county town of Maidstone is just over two miles distant. Suburban expansion of Maidstone in the second half of the twentieth century has meant that Bearsted is now subsumed within the suburbs of the county town. Whilst the historic village retains its village character the area south of the A20 is very much of late twentieth-century suburban character, indistinguishable from other outer suburbs of the town. With this residential expansion came the need for a Catholic church. From January 1977 Mass was said at the King George Memorial Hall and the same year Bearsted and Harrietsham became a parish. Planning permission for a new church was granted in 1983 and St Peter’s was opened on 4 November 1984. Its architect was Robert Guthrie of Burns, Guthrie & Partners.
The church is built of brick, set low down and cut into the slope of the site. The roofs have concrete tiles and the upper parts of the walls are tile hung. The plan is unusual in that the body of the church is of rectangular plan with a big hipped, or half pyramid roof rising to a gable which rises only slightly above the offices etc and presbytery which occupy a twin-gabled building placed across the full width of the front of the church, two storeys of domestic character. The church gable wall is glazed as a clerestory. The forebuilding has domestic-style sash windows and large roof dormers on the presbytery side. It is unusual to have a presbytery so integrated into the design of the church building. The side walls of the church are of sawtooth plan with windows giving light towards the sanctuary, a projection with its own gabled roof and a counter-pitched dormer throwing light onto the altar.
A broad and gabled open porch leads into a generous narthex, with kitchen, lavatories and other facilities giving off. In the church the altar is placed against the south wall but for the purposes of this description any reference to compass points will assume the more conventional eastward facing altar. The interior space is dominated by the underside of the immense roof, timber-boarded in a natural wood finish and the glue-lam timber structural members. The walls are finished in white- painted brick, apart from the wall behind the altar which has a rough natural stone finish. The floor is stepped, as in a theatre, with the contemporary pews ranged on three sides, canted on plan, so that everyone gets a good view of the celebrant. Most of the furnishing and fittings are contemporary with the church. The windows to either side of the sanctuary have abstract designs in coloured glass by Keith & Judy Hill of Staplehurst (www.glassconservation.com).
Architect: Burns, Guthrie & Partners
Original Date: 1983
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed