Building » Margate – St Austin and St Gregory

Margate – St Austin and St Gregory

Victoria Road, Margate CT9

The church is of historical significance as one of the earliest centres of the 19th-century Catholic revival in Kent.  The founding connection with the Gillow family is interesting and unexpected. The tower is something of a local landmark, and in its design bears some similarities to that for Pugin & Pugin’s church at Walmer (qv). In other respects the architectural claims of the building are fairly modest, and there have been repeated alterations.

The Catholic church in Margate 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 Brian 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.

A school adjoining the church was built and opened in 1863 and a Lady Chapel and west tower were added in 1869. 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, may be his. (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 the property was given to the Benedictines and 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 architect for these changes has not been established, but the design of the tower has a strong resemblance to Pugin & Pugin’s tower at Walmer (qv).

The original presbytery, which had been at the east end of the church was removed to make way for a new sanctuary, which was opened in 1890. A new presbytery fronting Charlotte Place was completed in 1894 and a wide new south aisle, which became the Sacred Heart chapel, was added to the church in 1895.

Various internal changes including the new 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 presbytery was added immediately adjacent to the old one. In 1966 the Benedictines handed over the parish to the Diocese and 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 are clearly 19th  century and 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.

Heritage Details


Original Date: 1887

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed