Northwood Road, Whitstable, Kent CT5
A red brick Edwardian church of modest architectural interest, but some historical interest in that it was built to serve both a convent and an industrial school, with large transepts for the separate communities.
Whitstable is an old fishing community which developed towards the east in the later nineteenth century as a small resort known as Tankerton. The Catholics of Whitstable and Tankerton were served by the Passionists from Herne Bay until 1890 and then from Canterbury. In 1899 the Sisters of Mercy purchased a site in Tankerton for an industrial school and convent. Land was also purchased for a church, and a small iron building was erected at the junction of Northwood Road and Castle Road in 1899. The convent and St Vincent’s Schools opened in 1905 and a new church was built on the land between them, with a nave to serve the laity and a transept each for the convent and school. The architect was Thomas Porter of Seasalter (1836-1921).
Whitstable achieved parochial status in 1928 and soon afterwards a presbytery was built. At some date, perhaps in the 1930s, side aisles and a new forebuilding were added to the church. The Sisters of Mercy built their own chapel in 1951. St Vincent’s finally closed in 1986 and is now a conference centre. A flat-roofed 1960s former school classroom block behind the church was converted to serve as a parish centre.
The church of Our Lady Immaculate is in a simple brick Gothic style. On plan the church comprises a relatively short nave with aisles, unusually large transepts and a short sanctuary. The walls are faced with red brick laid in stretcher bond, the pitched roofs are covered in red tiles with dormer windows to the nave and a small bellcote over the crossing. The west front is raised above street level and is reached by a flight of steps and a ramp between two flat-roofed forebuildings. The gabled west front has a central pointed doorway with a chamfered arch and a relief of Our Lady in the tympanum. Above the entrance is a window of four stepped lancet lights under a hoodmould. Behind the forebuildings on either side of the nave are wide flat-roofed aisles, their elevations tightly enclosed by other buildings or hedges and not readily visible. The transepts are also largely enclosed but have windowless side walls and triple lancets in their end gables. The sanctuary has two lancet lights in the east wall.
The interior is plastered and whitened. The floors are of parquet, with a red and black tiled central aisle. The nave has north and south arcades of four pointed arches cut through the solid wall, a west organ platform (in the place of the original organ gallery) and an open timber roof. The aisles have flat beamed ceilings and broad rectangular windows. At the east end of the nave a tall pointed chancel arch opens into the sanctuary. There is no proper crossing; instead both transepts open into the main body of the church by two pointed arches, one each side of the chancel arch. The transepts and sanctuary also have open timber roofs. Below the two arches in the east wall is the original high altar and reredos with figures of St Catherine of Siena and St Ignatius Loyola and a large figure of Our Lady in a canopied niche between the windows. The sanctuary has been reordered, the seating is moveable benches.
Architect: Thomas Porter
Original Date: 1908
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed