Building » Sidcup – St Lawrence of Canterbury

Sidcup – St Lawrence of Canterbury

Main Road, Sidcup, Kent DA15

An early twentieth-century church by Edward Goldie, on a cruciform plan, with side aisles of 1930. Few original furnishings survive. The church is locally listed and is in a conservation area.

With the help of the mission priest at Chislehurst, the Sisters of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception of Briouze opened a convent in Sidcup in 1901. On 2 October 1902 they opened a convent school at Hatherley Road. A stable was converted into a chapel, where the first Mass was said on the feast of St Lawrence of Canterbury on 2 February 1902. In early 1903 the Diocese purchased with the help of Miss Roberts a plot on Main Road, followed by the houses at nos. 1 and 3 Hamilton Road the following year. In August 1903 the mission was entrusted to the Verona Fathers (Sons of the Sacred Heart). Work on the foundations for a new church started in 1904 and on 15 August 1906 the church was opened by Bishop Amigo. It was dedicated to St Lawrence of Canterbury, co-apostle of Kent and the second occupant of the See of Canterbury, as the first chapel was opened on his feast day. The architect was Edward Goldie (1856–1921), son of the architect George Goldie. However, only the main body of the church was completed, to which the aisles and sacristy were added later. The eastern arm was bricked off and used as the sacristy. The detached house beside the church, 109 Main Road, was built as a school for vocations to the African missions.

In 1911 the property and care of the parish were handed over to the Marist Fathers.

In May 1928 a small fire broke out in the space used as a sacristy – focusing the plans for completing the church. In 1930, the side aisles and the sacristy were added and the church was reopened by Bishop Amigo on 27 April 1930. The contractors were Messrs Frederick Smith of London. The organ was installed in 1940, followed by the pulpit and altar rails in 1942. A year later, the side altars were installed, dedicated to Our Lady and the Sacred Heart. A high altar was designed by Mr Palla, apparently because an Italian donation could not leave the country during the war and the altar was instead manufactured there. (The 1930 Handbook also published an alternative design of a simpler altar under a large baldacchino.)

In December 1947 the newly-acquired parish hall in Hatherley Road was opened. On 6 June 1956 the church was consecrated by Bishop Cowderoy. In 1957 a new school building was opened and the whole of 109 Main Road became the home of the Marist Community. From c.1959, the architects Walters & Kerr Bate were making plans for an extension of the church, proposing the (unexecuted) lengthening of the nave into a Latin Cross plan. In c1970 the sanctuary was reordered by Walters & Kerr Bate, who also installed the current narthex screen at that time. In 1981 they built a false floor in the sanctuary, above the mosaic floor. Another sanctuary reordering took place around 1983-4. In about 1986-7, Walters & Kerr Bate added the confessional at the southwest corner, by extending the lean-to roof outwards and giving the corner entrance a small porch.

In 1988 the Sisters in Hatherley Road left for France and their convent was demolished. At the same time, the parish hall was found to be no longer safe. A new Community Centre was built in the angle of south transept and sanctuary, on the site of a small hall which had been built there pre-1978. The Centre was opened on 21 February 1992 by Archbishop Bowen.

The sanctuary has been reordered at least three times, during which the original high altar was removed. The carved marble frontal has been incorporated into the current altar, and the tabernacle is now recessed into the southeast crossing pier. The side altars have also been removed, leaving the statues on simple pedestals in the side aisles. In photos of the consecration in 1956, the east wall of the sanctuary was painted with geometric patterns, the inscription ‘Et verbum caro factum est’ and a mandorla behind the crucifix. The arches behind the side altars were also painted. (In photos of 1930 the sanctuary was painted white.) The timber pulpit (removed in c.1970) was octagonal, set against the northeast crossing pier. The high altar had marble colonnettes flanking the frontal, a horizontal panel with a blind arcade behind the tabernacle, above which stood a tall canopied monstrance throne. (Four marble columns and part of the arcaded panel were reused for the Lady altar at Blackfen, together with two further freestanding marble columns. Walters & Kerr Bate were also working at Blackfen at the time.) The altar rails (also since removed) were a marble arcade. The current sanctuary furnishing and decoration are mostly modern and of little interest. Without the high altar or window at the east, the sanctuary appears bare and nondescript. In the last few years, the church has been re-roofed.


The church is facing north; however, this description uses conventional liturgical orientation.

The church was built in 1904-06 from designs by Edward Goldie. The lean-to side aisles and sacristy were added in 1930, with a further small addition at the southwest in 1986-87 by Walters & Kerr Bate. The church is built in stock brick, laid in English bond, with stone dressings and a tiled pitched roof. The plan is cruciform, approaching a Greek cross with slightly shorter transept arms. The crossing roof has four gables in the main directions.

The west facade has a shallow gabled porch with a semicircular tympanum showing the Good Shepherd and the inscription ‘St Lawrence’. Above is a niche with a statue of the Virgin, flanked by two blind arches and two round-arched windows. The gable is filled with chequerwork of brick and stone, with one round-arched window.

Inside, at the west end is a full-width narthex which contains the repository at the north end, a stair to the organ loft above, and a plaque commemorating the founding of the church in 1904. Several doors in the glazed timber screen (Walters & Kerr Bate, c. 1970) lead into nave and side aisles. The uppermost west window has a stained glass depiction of Christ with the Blessed Sacrament and the inscription ‘Charity’. The west arm with kingpost roof is two bays deep, with two windows per bay. The westernmost windows on both sides have depictions of St Patrick and St Gertrude

The north aisle has a large cast statue of the Sacred Heart on a plain pedestal. The south aisle has a matching large cast of the Virgin with the Child, beside the side porch and confessional room, whose door has a stained glass panel with a blessing hand (in memory of Rev. Fr. Geoffrey Graystone S.M., 1922–2010).

The crossing has a shallow dome with round-arched clerestory windows set into the four canted piers. The windows have stained glass panels of the twelve Apostles. The northeast pier has a door to the sacristy (previously the location of the pulpit). The southeast crossing pier has the tabernacle and a fine sanctuary lamp. The two one- bay transepts have two windows at the end walls, with blind arches to the east which were formerly the location of the side altars. The two-bay sanctuary has three such blind arches on each side. The centre arch on the north side has a door to the sacristy. The timber ceiling is flat and panelled. On the windowless east wall hangs a large carved crucifix. Two cupboards for aumbry and piscina flank the empty site of the former high altar. The sanctuary furnishings are modern and of timber. The altar incorporates the marble frontal of the former high altar, which is carved with angels on either side of a chalice and heart set into the Crown of Thorns. The Stations of the Cross are cast reliefs in pointed-arch frames. Nave and transepts are furnished with modern timber benches and chairs.

Heritage Details

Architect: Edward Goldie

Original Date: 1904

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed