Deepdene Road, Welling, Kent DA16
A small steel-framed Gothic church of 1935, by E. J. Walters.
Following discussions between Fr Daniel McCarthy of Plumstead and Bishop Amigo, a church was built on Welling Corner in 1923. Like neighbouring areas, Welling was growing rapidly due to housing developments in the 1920s. The first church was a chapel-of-ease and cost £2,688. Building work started in May 1923 and the first Mass was held on Christmas Day the same year. The official opening took place on St Stephen’s Day. By 1929, the debt was paid off and Welling was canonically erected as a parish with Fr Clifford Nevatt as the first parish priest. The parish junior and infant schools opened in 1933, run by the Daughters of Jesus.
The first church soon became too small and in 1934 a new site along the railway was acquired for £1,560. In 1934-5 a parish hall was erected on the site for £2,150. In December 1935 the new church of St Stephen opened. The cost of the church was £3,375. In April 1936 the new junior school opened, followed by the new senior school in September. The architect of church, hall and schools was Edward John Walters. Originally the ceiling of the church was lower. The octagonal timber pulpit was moved from the old to the new church (since removed). In 1939 Walters prepared designs for a pinnacled canopy and bracket for the monstrance over the plain high altar.
During the war Fr Nevatt bought a damaged organ and part of an organ loft with stair from a bombed London church. With the help of parishioners, these were repaired and installed at St Stephen’s. The ceiling was found to be too low and the panels removed, exposing the steel girders. A bomb fell on the playground and damaged the school buildings.
In the 1950s two extensions were built at the southeast and northeast corners of the church, and tip-up seats were fitted at the aisle ends of each bench, in order to increase seating capacity. The schools also became overcrowded, which was relieved by the building of a new primary (on the old site) and a new secondary school (in Bexleyheath). The second parish priest, Fr Jeremiah McCarthy made structural alterations to the sanctuary, undertook the post-Vatican II reordering, improved the heating and lighting, and restored the ceiling by hiding the girders again under panels.
The church was built in 1935 to designs by E. J. Walters, who also designed the adjacent parish hall and the former school buildings. There are two extensions of the 1950s. The church is steel-framed, with pebbledashed brick elevations and a pitched roof. The plan is longitudinal, of an unaisled nave, with a narrower sanctuary flanked by side chapels. The latter appear to be part of the 1950s extensions, which consist of community rooms to the northeast, and to the southeast of a sacristy and a chapel perpendicular to the main axis.
The west facade has a lean-to narthex with a gabled doorway set against the gabled west wall. The porch has the ChiRho monogram above the doorway and two small flanking windows, all under a continuous hood mould. On either side are two-light windows. The main gable has a three-light window with two small, slightly lower windows on either side. The main elements of decoration are the painted bargeboards and the ChiRho panel. Like all elevations, the facade is pebbledashed.
The west doorway leads into a small lobby with a modern suspended ceiling. Ancillary spaces on either side are only accessible from the nave. They include a repository on the south side, and a disused side porch to the north. The west end of the nave has a one-bay organ loft (reused from a bombed London church). In addition to this bay, there are five bays, each with a three-light window. Only the easternmost bay has clerestory windows on each side. In order to give as much height as possible, the ceiling panels tightly fold around each steel A-frame truss. The south wall of the nave has a double-arched shallow niche with a shrine to Our Lady of Lourdes, in memory of Alison Gordon (died 1998). Further east is a built-in Reconciliation Room. The Stations of the Cross are circular and of ceramic.
To the right of the sanctuary is a timber statue of St Joseph, dedicated to the memory of Canon Jeremiah McCarthy (died 1973). The two-bay sanctuary has two small three-light clerestory windows in each bay. It has a centrally-placed crucifix and modern timber furnishings. Beside the crucifix hangs a modern painting of St Stephen. The south wall of the sanctuary is glazed towards the Blessed Sacrament Chapel which is used for weekday services. This large chapel is perpendicular to the nave, with the altar just south of the sanctuary. The five-bay chapel is accessed through a glazed sliding door to the nave and an external door at the south. Over the modern timber altar hangs a sculpture of the Risen Christ. At the northeast corner is the tabernacle stand in front of timber panelling. On the north side of the sanctuary is a small Lady Chapel with a statue of the Virgin with Child on a small altar, lit by a two-light window. A door nearby leads into an extension comprising two meeting rooms and an accessible toilet.
Architect: E. J. Walters
Original Date: 1935
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed