Bleakwood Road, Walderslade, Chatham ME5
A functional design of 1970-71, of little architectural or historical significance.
In the 1950s a Mass Centre was established in a room in Bleakwood House, Walderslade, the residence of Dr Glynn. It was served by the parish priest of Chatham. In the mid-1950s, Dr Glynn returned to Ireland and sold his house and the grounds of several acres to Fr McKenna of Chatham for £6,000. In 1965 Bleakwood House and some land were sold for £16,500 to developers who built twelve houses, including the current presbytery. Until 1970 Bleakwood House was leased to the parish of Chatham at no cost. The remainder of the land later became the site of the current church and school. In 1967 Walderslade became an independent parish. The same year, Bleakwood House was sold back to the parish, as the developers decided not to proceed further with their scheme. St Thomas More School opened in 1969. Early in 1970 Bleakwood House was sold again for demolition.
In 1970 the local architectural firm of Francis Weal & Associates were approached to draw up plans for a new church. The builders were Flaherty Bros. The church, costing £21,000, was completed in August 1971 and was opened by Canon Thomas Hill of Chatham. It was originally a multi-purpose building, with sliding doors to separate the sanctuary from the nave when the latter was in use as a hall. In 2010 a new, purpose-built hall was erected by Lawrence Mineham of Ubique Architects. It is planned to move the altar and benches from St Peter’s chapel at Twydall (to be closed at the end of June 2011) to Walderslade.
The church is facing northwest. This description uses the conventional liturgical orientation.
The church was built in 1970-1 by Francis Weal & Associates. It was extended in 2010 with a hall at the northwest by Ubique Architects. The church is a simple steel- framed building with concrete blocks. The plan is rectangular with the sacristy projecting at the northeast, and storage rooms at the southwest. The square hall has been added at the northwest corner; its butterfly roof provides some architectural interest. The main facade is plain, with some vertical window bands and a canopy over the main entrance. Most elevations have some timber cladding below the eaves; this is continued in the elevations of the hall.
The narthex has an entrance to the hall, as well as the lavatories and a kitchen. The nave is divided into five bays by the roof trusses. The sliding doors which were used to divide the sanctuary from the multi-purpose nave are still in situ. The sanctuary ceiling is timber panelled. To the left of the sanctuary are statues of Our Lady and the Sacred Heart. The sanctuary is lit by two skylights over the altar and two narrow side windows at the east. The sanctuary furniture is modern and of timber. The altar is of mahogany and marble. A crucifix is suspended from the skylights. The tabernacle is at the southeast, near a statue of St Joseph. The Stations are rectangular carved panels.
Architect: Francis Weal & Associates
Original Date: 1970
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed