Victoria Road, Margate CT9
Of historical significance as one of the earliest centres of the nineteenth-century Catholic revival in Kent. The founding connection with the Gillow family is interesting and unexpected. The church was long in the care of the Ramsgate Benedictines, who considerably enlarged and enriched the building, employing E. W. Pugin and Pugin & Pugin. The church has high townscape value in the Margate Conservation Area.
The church has a long and complicated building history. The site was apparently purchased in 1793 by Richard Gillow (1733-1811), an architect member of the well-known Lancashire family of architects and furniture makers, who had presumably come to then-fashionable Margate for the sea bathing, and a small chapel was built on the site from public subscription in 1803-04. According to Bryan Little (Catholic Churches Since 1623, p.60), this ‘neat and convenient chapel’ so offended A. W. Pugin’s sensibilities that he would kneel on the gallery steps so as not to see the main worshipping space.
The mission was served by Benedictines from Ramsgate, who carried out a series of alterations and additions from the 1860s onwards. It is not obvious that any of the 1803 building survives, but some of its fabric may do so, overlaid by and embedded within the later additions. The first addition was a school adjoining the church, which opened in 1863. A Lady Chapel followed in 1866; The Tablet reported (22 December 1866):
‘The Catholics who visited this seaside resort during the past summer expressed themselves agreeably surprised at the transformation of what was a poor dilapidated building into a pretty and attractive church. Since then, love for our Lord’s House has added handsome donations in the form of a costly reredos, together with an exquisite tabernacle and rich altar curtains, all of chaste Gothic design and able workmanship. On the 12th inst. his Lordship the Bishop of the diocese inaugurated and blessed another ornamental addition in the small oratory, recently erected on the south side of the church, and dedicated to oar Lady Star of the Sea […]’
The gazetteer of E. W. Pugin’s works on the Pugin Society website includes alterations and repairs to the church by E. W. Pugin in 1866; the tower, with its pyramidal top reminiscent of that at St Augustine’s Ramsgate, which was added about the same time may also have been his design. (The diocesan archives also hold a design for a monument in the church dated 1861 by E. W. Pugin). However, the tower was to prove short-lived; in 1887 under the supervision of Fr Sigebert Saunders the church was enlarged towards the road with a new and taller tower on the north side of the nave. The design has a strong resemblance to Pugin & Pugin’s tower at Walmer (qv), and it was those architects who removed the original presbytery to make way for a new sanctuary in 1890. On 4 October 1890 The Tablet reported:
‘On Sunday last the Bishop of Southwark assisted Pontifically at the High Mass and inaugurated the spacious sanctuary that has been acquired by throwing the former presbytery into the church. This addition gives nearly a hundred sittings for the faithful […] The designs for the alterations, and for a very handsome stone screen now separating the Lady Chapel from the body of the church, were supplied by Messrs. Pugin and Pugin. A very convenient site adjoining the church has been secured for a new presbytery, and the task now remains in Father Sigebert’s hands of building it’.
Fr Saunders’ further improvements included a large chapel dedicated to St Joseph, added in 1891 and separated from the chancel by ‘a massive glazed screen’ (The Tablet, 22 August 1891), the new presbytery fronting Charlotte Place, completed in 1892 (The Tablet, 8 October 1892), and the Sacred Heart chapel/south aisle, seating 150, completed in 1894 (The Tablet, 4 August 1894). In 1894 the bishop donated the church to the Ramsgate Benedictines.
Various internal changes including a stone sanctuary screen were made in the 1930s under Dom Aelred Waterhouse. In 1949 the northwest porch was altered, placing the entrance door on the side rather than opening directly onto the street. In 1964 a new or enlarged presbytery was added immediately adjacent to the old one. In 1966 the Benedictines handed over the parish to the diocese. Soon afterwards the south aisle was divided off to form a sacristy and parish hall (the old school/hall on the north sides of the church had been sold in 1963 and has now been redeveloped with housing). The old presbytery was later converted to provide a parish office and a small meeting room.
The church is tightly enclosed on three sides and only the west end and the west part of the south elevation is readily visible. It is in the Gothic style but there is little unity of design. On plan, the building comprises a nave with a northwest tower and porch and north and south aisles of unequal width. The visible external walls are of yellow brick with blue brick dressings, the windows are of timber and the roof covering is of slate. The west end fronting Victoria Road is in three parts; to the left is a single-storey flat-roofed brick porch, next to it is a square brick tower of four stages with a variety of small window openings. To the right of the tower is the west end wall of the nave with a narrow two-light window at upper level under a gablet and an embattled brick parapet which continues onto the south elevation of the nave, which has a single wide pointed window and a small chapel projection under a lean-to roof. Beyond the chapel is the west end wall of the wide south aisle with two wide timber windows with four-centred heads under a stepped embattled parapet.
The interior walls are plastered and painted and there is a new wood floor. The nave has a timber west gallery and there is also a gallery at the west end of the north aisle. The nave has an open tie-beam and king-post roof. The two sides of the nave are treated differently. The north side has a gallery above two low arched bays, then two tall pointed chamfered arches on an octagonal stone pier with small clerestory lights above, then a lower pointed arch with a screen opening into the northeast Lady Chapel. The south side has a small devotional chapel at the west end, then three bays of pointed chamfered arches, now filled with a modern partly-glazed screen. There is no chancel arch but the nave is divided from the sanctuary by a traceried stone screen. The sanctuary has two narrow stone pointed arches on the south side, also filled and partly glazed, with a three-light traceried window on the north side and a larger three-light traceried window in the east wall. The fittings are mostly simple, with the exception of the high altar and the Lady Chapel altar with its elaborate reredos, which may date from the 1860s. The stained glass in the east window is by John Trinick RA and was donated by the singer John McCormack.
Amended by AHP 05.02.2021
Architect: E. W. Pugin; Pugin & Pugin (additions)
Original Date: 1803
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed