Guildhall Street, Folkestone, Kent CT20
A striking and inventive church by Leonard Stokes, one of the most original Catholic architects of the late Victorian and Edwardian period. Despite ruthless simplification in a 1970s reordering, the interior has retained something of its original character. The attached presbytery is contemporary and also by Stokes, and both make a positive contribution to the local conservation area.
Mass was said at Folkestone in a private house in the early 1850s until a church was built in Martello Road later in the decade. This building, dedicated to St Aloysius, was rebuilt in 1869 to the designs of C.A. Buckler, sold after the building of the present church and eventually demolished. Fr Francis Dennan was appointed priest in 1886 and carried forward proposals to build a new church on a site which had been purchased in the 1870s. Fr Dennan had intended F. A. Walters to be the architect but the diocese preferred Leonard Stokes, who designed both the church and the adjacent presbytery. The church was designed to ensure maximum visibility of the high altar for 500 worshippers. Walters apparently designed the parish hall which lies behind the church. After some altercation with the local authority, which insisted that the frontage of the church be set back by three feet, the new building was opened in July 1889.
Between 1973 and 1975 the church was reordered under the supervision of the architect J. J. Frame ‘who has specialised in similar church restorations in Gibraltar and Malta’. On New Year’s Day 2001 an arsonist set fire to the church, which was badly damaged and smoke-blackened. It has now been restored.
For the exterior, see list description below. The interior is a single large unaisled space under a boat-shaped timber ceiling with decorative painting on the ribs. At the west end is a gallery between the two inset stair towers with a broad pointed traceried window above filled with good original stained glass. The side walls have plain plastered walls (originally with painted decoration), plain buttresses between the windows and a timber panelled dado. The aisle windows have tinted glass. There is no structural chancel. At the east end of the south side is an elaborate timber organ gallery. The east end is a powerful and idiosyncratic composition with a tall pointed moulded stone arch overall with a narrower central arch to a shallow altar recess divided by stone uprights from steeper arches over the two side altars.
The original high altar survives but the reredos and the rest of the decoration at the east end was greatly simplified in the re-ordering, when a new forward altar was introduced and the oak pulpit was made into two reading desks. The original brass communion rails survive. The nave is seated with the original timber benches.
List description (church and presbytery)
1889, Leonard Stokes architect. Perpendicular Gothic style. Built of red brick with stone dressings and tiled roof. Facade to road has 7-light Perpendicular window flanked by squat square towers. These have numerous stone offsets and are crowned by battlements that are carried across the central gable. Porches at base of towers. At sides brick buttresses with mullioned windows between. 0ctagonal copper covered bellcote on left hand tower. Presbytery attached of 3 storeys and basement. Door with basket arch, to left. To right a 3-light mullion window with basket arches to lights. Above mullion window with square heads.
Architect: Leonard Stokes
Original Date: 1889
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Grade II