Minnis Road, Birchington, Kent CT7
A 1950s building in an Italian Romanesque style, mostly built by voluntary labour. The original roof concealed behind parapets was replaced in the 1990s with an overall pantiled roof, to good effect.
Birchington formed part of Margate parish until 1908, when it was made a separate mission. In March of that year a plot of land with a cart shed on it was purchased and the shed was adapted to serve as a church; this continued in existence until the 1950s. In 1964 Fr Wilfrid Emery was appointed parish priest with an instruction to build a new church. Using local labour and assistance from the USAF units stationed at Manston, he gradually replaced the old building with a new and taller church on the same footprint in a Romanesque style, possibly to his own design. The sanctuary was finished in 1954, the nave in 1958 and the tower in 1960.
In 1969 a Diocesan Surveyor’s report found the church to be so poorly constructed that demolition was considered the best option. Nothing was done immediately. A new hall was built to the west of the church in 1973. In 1995 the northeast corner of the building was underpinned and the old asbestos-covered roof behind a parapet was replaced by a new pantiled roof with overhanging eaves under the supervision of the architect John Clague.
The church of Our Lady and St Benedict is in the Italian Romanesque style. The church comprises an aisleless nave and sanctuary under a continuous pitched roof with a squat pyramidal-roofed tower at the southwest corner. The walls are faced with render, with dressings and window reveals of red brick. The roof is covered in red pantiles.
The main entrance to the church is by a round-headed doorway in the east face of the tower, flanked by attached Doric columns and with mosaic decoration in the tympanum. The doors themselves are of bronze, designed by J. Francis Coote. The tower is of three storeys, with two pairs of round-headed windows on each face of the short second stage and a triplet of windows in each face of the top stage. The body of the church has rendered side walls divided into six bays east of the tower by thin red brick buttresses. On the south side each bay has a pair of round headed windows under a single round arch set high in the wall. The north side has a single window lighting the sanctuary. The east end wall is blind.
Internally, the nave is a long space with a flat ceiling lined to a height of ten feet with Japanese oak panelling and lit by the windows in the south wall. At the west end is a baptistery space, also oak-lined. A stone chancel arch spanning the full width of the nave opens to the panelled sanctuary which has a shallow arched recess in its east wall. The windows are all clear glazed. The floor is covered in carpet.
Architect: Original designer unknown, modern roof added by John Clague
Original Date: 1959
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed