Building » Hartley – Oratory of St Francis de Sales

Hartley – Oratory of St Francis de Sales

Church Road, Hartley, Kent DA3

A converted thatched timber barn, dating probably from the seventeenth century. It is one of two remaining buildings of the Middle Farm at Hartley, and is a picturesque and locally important vernacular survival. The building was converted to a church in 1913 and an extension was built in 1985.

The earliest surviving reference to buildings related to the Middle Farm, Hartley, dates from 1576. The main farm building, now Hartley’s oldest domestic building, has been dated to around 1550. Today, the farm building and the tithe barn are the only surviving structures from the Middle Farm (both are listed grade II).

In 1913 the barn was bought by Miss Beatrice Davies-Cooke, who converted it for use as a ‘country mission’ chapel. The floor of the barn was levelled and covered with concrete, and the projecting porch was turned into a shrine to the Our Lady. Small windows were inserted. An ancient stone font was brought to Hartley from Rotherwas, in Herefordshire, the former home of the Lubienski-Bodenham family (since removed). The sacristy used to communicate with a cottage occupied by a gardener-sacristan (demolished). Altar rails (since removed), a lamp and cassocks were given by local Protestant residents. Numerous statues were installed, including a Belgian statue of the Virgin Mary which became the centrepiece of the pilgrimage shrine to Our Lady of Hartley. The sanctuary furniture was made of black oak.

The first Mass was said on 17 April 1913 and the Bishop of Southwark blessed the new chapel on 21 September 1913. Geographically, the chapel was in the parish of Northfleet; however, priests were rarely available and Miss Davies-Cooke had to arrange for priests from all over the diocese to come to Hartley, mainly from religious orders. A school was built to the west of the farm, on the site of the farm’s former orchard. The first teachers were lay women until in 1940, when the Sisters of Mercy from the Channel Islands took over the running of the school.

In 1937 the Carmelite Friars were appointed to the mission and took up residence in the farmhouse, which had briefly been Miss Davies-Cooke’s home. In March 1980 the Carmelites left and the parish was handed over to the diocese. In 1985 an extension was added to the southeast side of the barn, comprising a parish meeting room, lavatories, sacristy and confessional. The enlarged church was dedicated on 18 October 1985. In 1990-3, the windows were filled with stained glass by Paul Quail.


The list description is very brief and predates the 1985 extension (see below).

The church, i.e. the barn’s remaining long side, is facing northwest, with the altar being placed in the corner facing west. For the sake of clarity this description will use the liturgical orientation, i.e. the altar at the east.

The church is housed in a seventeenth-century barn and an extension of 1985. The barn is a thatched timber building. The extension is built using concrete blocks with a timber roof structure. Its irregular shaped roof with two skylights is partly covered in timber tiles, partly in clay tiles. (The different materials of the two parts of the extension reflect their different uses – as part of the church and as a parish room.) The part of the extension with timber tiles adjoins the original barn, and has, like the barn, weatherboarding on its outer walls. It mediates between the barn and the outer part of the extension, whose walls are rendered using white roughcast.

The barn is rectangular in plan with a disused porch at its southeast side (this was possibly the original shrine). The outer wall on the northwest side has been removed, leaving the main posts in situ. The plan of the adjoining timber-tile roofed extension is an irregular pentagon. It houses additional seating, a confessional and a sacristy. The remaining part of the extension is also irregular in plan but has a long frontage to the street. It houses the narthex and the parish room with its kitchen.

The entrance to the church is located in the corner between the two parts of the extension. There is a small freestanding timber spire at the street corner. The narthex (with strips of coloured glass in screens and doors) leads to the parish room, the confessional, two lavatories, and into the church. Inside the entrance to the church is a statue of St Francis de Sales by La Statue Religieuse, Paris. Along the northwest side is the sacristy. On the wall to the sacristy are the Stations of the Cross, modern black and white woodcut reproductions mounted on square timber supports (signed JW). In the north corner is a shrine to Our Lady of Hartley with an ornately painted statue of the Virgin of Belgian origin, allegedly eighteenth century. A statue of St Joseph is set against one of the barn’s outer posts, whose feet have been encased in concrete. The barn itself is aisled, of three bays with a queen-post roof. The sanctuary furniture is of dark oak, comprising the altar, a lectern, a chair, the font, and a tabernacle shelf fixed to the wall. A modern timber crucifix is attached to a corner post. The northeast and southeast sides have fourteen small windows with stained glass by Paul Quail (1990-93), depicting the Seven Sacraments and Seven Miracles. Each panel is inscribed with a memorial dedication. At the southeast corner stands a small statue of the Infant of Prague, in memory of Michael Casey Pocock and Francis Anthony Pocock, who both served in the RAF and died in 1944. The church is furnished with a mixture of modern benches and chairs.

List description


Probably C17 aisled timber barn to Middle Farm now in use as a Roman Catholic Church.  Three  bays  with  a  Queen  post  roof.  Steeply  pitched  thatched  roof  with hipped central pentice. Modern windows and doors.

Heritage Details

Architect: Unknown

Original Date: 1650

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Grade II