Building » Swanley – Church of the Apostles

Swanley – Church of the Apostles

Sycamore Drive, Swanley, Kent, BR8

Originally a late Victorian Anglican hospital chapel, the building was bought for use as a Catholic church in 1964. In 1974 it was much extended at the east end. The church retains the original east and west windows, with stained glass attributed to Heaton, Butler & Bayne.

In 1917 Mass was said in Swanley at the home of Mr and Mrs Dudley, in Castle Road (now Bevan Place). The congregation was mainly Irish workers or Londoners coming to work on farms and market gardens in the area. Later Mass was said in the Memorial Hall until a permanent church was built. A donation from Canon Monk of Woolwich together with funds raised by the sale of church land near the Bull Hotel enabled the purchase of a site on London Road. There, a small wooden church dedicated to the Holy Apostles was built by Mr Cunningham. It was opened by Bishop Amigo on Easter Sunday 1930. It continued to be served from St Mary Cray.

In September 1959 Swanley became an independent parish, with Fr Patrick Flanagan the first parish priest. Until 1966 the presbytery was in The Croft on St Mary’s Estate. In 1963 the church burnt down and Mass was temporarily said at the Town Council offices. Shortly afterwards the redundant Anglican hospital chapel was acquired and converted. It was opened and blessed by Mgr J. J. Farrell, Dean and parish priest of Greenwich, on 23 December 1964. The salvaged furniture from the previous church was transferred following repair.

Kettlewell Hospital was one of three Victorian hospitals in Swanley, whose climate and fresh air were thought to be conducive to healing. The hospital opened in 1885 as a convalescent home for patients from St Bartholomew’s Hospital. It was named after the building’s donor, C. T. Kettlewell. The chapel was donated by Ebenezer Homan, a governor and almoner of St Bartholomew’s Hospital. Both the home and the chapel were opened on 13 July 1885 by the Prince of Wales, the president of St Bartholomew’s. The architect of the chapel, and probably also of the hospital, was Edward l’Anson, surveyor to St Bartholomew’s. In 1920 Alexandra Hospital for Children with Hip Disease (opened 1867) relocated to the site. Two years later, it amalgamated with the Kettlewell Home. In 1959 the site was closed.

The Catholic parish also acquired the former Nurses Home, a large neo-Georgian building, parts of which were converted to a presbytery (1966), a convent for the Sisters of Mercy (1969), and a parish centre (1971).The latter was extended to the rear by a social club in 1975. The parish primary school was opened on 22 April 1969, on a site between the church and the Nurses Home. The former Nurses Home and the chapel are now the only remaining buildings of the former Kettlewell Home.

In 1974, the church had become too small and an extension was built by A. J. H. Stalley, of Broadbent, Hastings, Reid & Todd. He extended the church eastwards, adding transepts, a sanctuary and a sacristy. The former east window was re-installed at the new east end. On 21 September 1984, the church was dedicated by Archbishop Bowen.


The church faces northeast; however, this description uses conventional liturgical orientation.

The church was built from designs by Edward l’Anson in 1885 as an Anglican chapel for the Kettlewell Hospital. It became a Catholic parish church in 1964. In 1974 it was extended by A. J. H. Stalley of Broadbent, Hastings, Reid & Todd. The church is built in rubble stone with ashlar dressings. The extension was built using  Bradstone walling blocks. At the west, is a small polygonal apse in pale brick. It is now used as a repository but might have been a baptistery, added in 1974 or later.

The original church was rectangular in plan, with a small south transept housing the organ and, originally, a small sacristy. At the west is an asymmetrical corridor at the west, which clearly connected the chapel to a long-demolished hospital building. The east  extension  provides  a  large  sanctuary  with  wide  north  and  south  transepts, another porch to the north, and a sacristy to the south. The west facade has two lancet windows, the lean-to former corridor (now narthex), and the windowless repository extension. The only other visible elevation is that to the north. Beside the northwest porch is a stone commemorating the opening of the chapel and hospital. Another, modern porch is located in the northeast angle between the original church and the 1974 extension.

The northwest porch leads into the corridor at the west, whose southern end has been converted to an accessible lavatory. Opposite the doorway into the church is the repository in a windowless extension, possibly intended as a baptistery. The nave has four bays and a timber arched-brace roof. The west windows of 1885 show St Bartholomew and St Luke and have been attributed to Heaton, Butler & Bayne. The Stations of the Cross are modern unframed reliefs carved in timber. The organ is placed at the northwest, with an organ chamber behind. Beyond the organ is the 1974 extension, with a much lower ceiling with two skylights. The north transept has another entrance from the northeast porch, a shrine with a statue  of  the  Virgin,  and  two  built-in  confessionals.  The  sanctuary  furniture  is modern and comprises an altar of rubble masonry with an ashlar mensa, a stone tabernacle stand, as well as a timber ambo and chair. A small crucifix is suspended above the altar. Behind the altar and in front of the east window the ceiling rises into a narrow gable which is higher than the flat roof. This curious feature seems to be due to the installation of the 1885 east window in the new east wall, where the window required more height. The upper part of the window – as seen from the nave and the transepts – is obscured by the low ceiling. The window depicts the Sermon on the Mount, Christ being surrounded by the sick, a prisoner and a mother with a child (attributed to Heaton, Butler & Bayne, 1885). It is dedicated to the memory of the sons of Ebenezer Homan: George Herne Homan (died 1878) and Francis Wilken Homan  (died  1880).  The  south  transept  has  a  modern  circular  stone  font,  the entrance to the sacristy, and a timber statue of the Sacred Heart.

Heritage Details

Architect: Edward l’Anson & Son

Original Date: 1885

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed