Building » Deal – St Thomas of Canterbury

Deal – St Thomas of Canterbury

Blenheim Road, Deal, Kent CT14

An interesting neo-Norman brick church of the 1880s by F A Walters, one of the more prolific and original Catholic architects working in the Diocese in the decades either side of 1900.  The interior is a simple and effective space with elaborate sanctuary fittings.

The revival of Catholicism in Deal was boosted when Miss Catharine Boys, a convert, in the late 1840s was instrumental in acquiring an existing hall for occasional use as a chapel.  Fr James Scratton was entrusted with the Deal Mission in 1869 and it was through his auspices that the present site in Blenheim Road was purchased at the end of 1884. Designs for a new church and presbytery were prepared by F A Walters. Work started on the new church in January 1885 and the building was opened in December of that year.  In 1895 the original Rood beam across the church was taken down because it was considered unsafe, but the Rood itself and the figures of Our Lady and St John remain in the church. The building was damaged in the war and all the original windows were lost.  In the 1920s under Fr Wonnacot a new west porch was added and a new stone pulpit, altar rails, Lady altar and screen were installed inside the church, a new organ was acquired and the whole of the interior was elaborately redecorated. This also appears to be the work of F A Walters (& Son). The decoration has since been painted out.

The church is designed in Walters’s version of the Norman style.  The plan comprises an aisleless nave with a small west porch, southwest tower, north and south transepts and an apsidal sanctuary.  The facing material is red brick laid in Flemish bond with moulded red brick ornaments and steeply-pitched tiled roofs.  The west gable wall is spanned  by a  broad  round  arch.    Under  the  arch  at  ground  floor  level  is  a  low projecting  brick  porch  with  a  stone  front  to  the  street  with  a  shafted  Norman doorway.  Above the porch are two long round-headed windows and between them is a statue of St Thomas.  To the left of the gable is a tall square chimney with two tiers of arches at the head.  To the right of the gable is the short brick tower with corner buttresses, paired windows under a wide arch on each face of the bell stage, a brick corbel table and a pyramidal roof.   The nave side walls are of four bays divided by pilaster buttresses with a single round-headed window in each bay.  The east end of the nave is marked by a small bellcote on the roof ridge. The transepts are slightly lower than the nave and have a single window in the side walls and a pair of windows in the gable end walls under a wide round arch.  The apsidal sanctuary has two pairs of windows on each side.

The interior is now a simple wide space with light painted walls and windows high in the walls with pilaster buttresses between them which extend upward to become broad roof ribs. There is a small former baptistery at the southwest end of the nave. Under  the  easternmost  of  the  nave  roof  ribs,  west  of  the  transepts,  there  was originally a Rood beam, which was taken down in the 1890s for safety reasons. The Rood is now suspended from the ceiling and the attendant figures of Our Lady and St John are mounted on the walls. The north transept has a sacristy below with an organ gallery above; the south transept contains the Lady Chapel. The apsidal sanctuary is filled by a splendid painted baldacchino over the high altar with a painted and gilded timber reredos.  Most of the windows are clear glazed, with the exception of those in the Lady Chapel. Besides the high altar and its ornaments, the fittings of interest include the stone pulpit and altar rail installed in the 1920s, the Lady Chapel screen of the same date. Most of the timber pews appear to be original, and the general standard of finish is high.

Heritage Details

Architect: F A Walters

Original Date: 1885

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed