Building » Maidstone – St Francis

Maidstone – St Francis

Week Street, Maidstone, Kent ME14

A composite building of three distinct phases (1880s, 1950s, 1990s), all very much in the style of their respective time. The external appearance has been greatly marred by the demolition of the spire, the application of cement render and the utilitarian additions of the 1950s. The interior retains more of the original character, and some furnishings of note. The presbytery is a fine Georgian town house, listed grade II*.

Henry William Wilberforce (1807-73), son of the philanthropist William Wilberforce, was appointed Anglican vicar of East Farleigh in 1843. In 1850 he became a Catholic and the following year bid for redundant assembly rooms in Maidstone for use as a church. This came to nothing and in 1858 Fr Emmanuele was appointed to establish a mission in Maidstone, following a gift of money for this purpose. He took lodgings at 15 Upper Week Street and began to say Mass there. In 1860 Grove House (the present presbytery) was purchased and in 1861 a school was built next door which was used for Mass until 1880 when finally a church was erected to designs by the London architect C. G. Wray. The design included a prominent southwest spire (the original design is illustrated in Bryan Little, plate 18a). The chancel was added slightly later due to funding shortage. In 1902 a new presbytery was built in front of Grove House. This burnt down in 1926, was demolished, and Grove House restored as a presbytery in 1929. In 1954-5 the church was more than doubled in size with the addition of aisles designed by John W. Poltock & Associates. In 1970 the southwest spire was taken down and sometime around the 1990s a western narthex was added. In 1993 the sanctuary was reordered.


The nave, sanctuary and base of a southwest tower are all that remain of Wray’s church of 1880. This church was of brick with stone bands but is now all cement rendered. The four-light west window is a handsome design with Decorated Gothic tracery. The clerestory windows, barely visible externally, are of unusual design, square with a quatrefoil and trefoils in the tracery. The canted sanctuary has single light windows with trefoil-headed lights with a quatrefoil over. Wray’s church is hidden behind the substantial aisles of utilitarian, even factory-like design, brick with tall  rectangular windows over tiled panels and with flat roofs. They are of exceptionally deep plan. Wray’s southwest steeple was retained but the spire was removed in 1970 as being unsafe and the remaining tower was given a pyramid roof. A west extension was built, probably in the 1990s, comprising two polygonal pavilions and a glazed corridor link between. There are thus three very stylistically and visually separate elements.

Internally the narthex reads as an independent building but within the church the 1880 church and 1955 extensions are again dramatically different. However, only internally can the Wray church be appreciated as the nave, nave arcades, sanctuary and side chapel all remain, together with the  nineteenth-century roofs. There is a strong sense of looking from a nineteenth-century church through the nineteenth-century arcades into the somewhat alien 1955 aisles. The industrial aesthetic of the latter is especially obvious in the flat metal roofing and open metal beams. Despite the great depth in plan the large windows ensure that the interior is not dark. The pews throughout date from 1955. The sanctuary was  reordered  in 1993 by Richard Hurley and Noel Brady, architects. The sanctuary furnishings were designed by Angela Godfrey, Frances Loyen and Denis Stanley. There are several stained glass windows including three dating from circa 1918 by John Hardman & Co. These are in the apse north (St Anne), apse south (St Catherine), and south chapel south (Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary). Other windows in the apse date from 1902 and may be by Mayer & Co of Munich and London. There is an attractive depiction of the Annunciation and God the Father in the south chapel east window, the only stained glass to date from 1883. The artist has not been identified. Perhaps the most interesting furnishings in the church are the St Francis (in the narthex) and the large framed Stations of the Cross, all worked in leather. These were executed over a number of years from 1955 by Enid Edwards ARCA who was a colleague of the architect John Poltock, on the staff of Rochester School of Art.

Heritage Details

Architect: C. G. Wray, John W Poltock & Associates

Original Date: 1880

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed