London Road, Southborough, Kent TN4
Whilst of quite distinctive form, this is an architecturally unexceptional early 1970s church, in a group with hall and presbytery which is identified by the local authority as a negative feature in the conservation area.
A Mass centre was established at the Royal Victoria Hall, the first Mass celebrated on 6 May 1950. In 1952 the former St Thomas’ Vicarage was purchased from the Church of England, together with the former Sunday school. The latter was used as St Dunstan’s Chapel, whilst the vicarage, which had been converted to flats, housed, from 1955, a resident priest-in-charge. Ambitious plans for a new church were drawn up in the mid-1960s but were refused planning permission and shelved. The architects, as yet unrecorded, were paid off and Jack Aylward was commissioned for phase 1, the church hall, on the corner of Vale Road, built 1968-9. The old vicarage and Sunday school buildings were demolished in 1972 and phase 2, the building of the new church, took place in 1972-3, to designs by Woodroffe, Buchanan & Coulter. Phase 3, the presbytery, was constructed in 1979 to designs by T. Houlihan & Associates.
The church is a tent-like structure of brick with an immense tiled roof rising from walls of little more than 1 metre in height on the London Road side, but higher behind as the slope of the land allows for a hall below the church. The gable ends are partly obscured by the adjoining hall and presbytery, whilst the long walls have a single-pointed dormer window, the sill a little below eaves level. There are two vertical slot windows at the north end but otherwise no side windows. The roof is of M-form and bands of patent glazing are incorporated into the concealed inner slopes.
The effect of the lighting arrangements results in a somewhat unsatisfactory interior. The areas with the patent glazing are flooded with light whilst the area between, which has a flat ceiling, is quite dark. The walls are faced with pale buff bricks, whilst between the laminated timber beams the underside of the roofs is faced with stained softwood boarding. Pews and many other furnishings date from the time of the church, whilst the altar and possibly the two ambos date from 1984. The triangular window behind the altar has stained glass of 1996 by Michael Coles.
Architect: Woodroffe, Buchanan & Coulter
Original Date: 1973
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed