Completion of the Church

The story of the completion of the church up to 1958 is given in great detail in H.W. Standen’s Kippington in Kent, so it will be retold here in outline up to that point and then carried on until the present day.The proposal to complete the church by building the two remaining western bays of the nave to Lee’s design was first put forward in 1936, by H.W. Standen. He saw it as a way of commemorating the work of the Rev. H. Percy Thompson, who had resigned as vicar in 1919 but had not died until 1935. However, as Standen records, ‘the idea fell flat’, and it was not raised again until 1943. By that time Archdeacon W.J. Gray had become vicar. He discontinued the practice of his predecessors of ministering equally at both churches, and left St Luke’s as almost entirely the curate’s responsibility. A well-conceived appeal was mounted, to raise £3000, half of it by the time the war ended. That was no more than the estimated cost of completion back in 1908, but given the considerable deflation that had taken place during the 1930s, this figure was perhaps not as unrealistic as it now sounds. In 1949 the Rev. Oscar Stanway was appointed curate. He committed himself fairly exclusively to St Luke’s. Now began a sequence of events which at least in Mr Stanway’s mind were linked together. In March 1950 the long-discussed rationalization of the boundary between the church and the garden of No. 28 Eardley Road, immediately to the east, was carried into effect, thus providing vehicular access to the north side of the church. The following year a further piece of ground on that side was acquired, enabling the construction in 1954-5 of a parsonage there for Mr Stanway and his successors. Its architect was Frederick R. Pite, of the local firm of Cable & Pite, and himself from 1954 acting church warden. Meanwhile, in September 1953, St Luke’s had been licensed for marriages. By 1957 the congregation of St Luke’s felt so independent from their mother church that it was decided to apply to the Church Commissioners for parochial status. This was rejected for several reasons: the church had no endowment, the church building was incomplete, and the proposed parish, being that part of St Mary’s Kippington east of the railway, was considered too small to be viable. Nevertheless the Bishop of Rochester proposed, with the consent of the vicar of St Mary’s, that the Conventional District of St Luke should be formed, with its own churchwardens and church council and financial independence. On 11 April 1958 Mr Stanway was inducted as minister of the Conventional District.Plans were already afoot to remedy one of the deficiencies noted by the Church Commissioners, the non-completion of the church building. In June 1957 the cost of executing the rest of the original design was calculated again – at £10,000. Although the building fund by 1955 had stood at £4000, and had presumably increased somewhat since that date, it was decided to commission a new and cheaper design. Once again F.R.Pite was asked to act as architect. What he proposed was not only estimated to cost the manageable sum of £6000 (plus a further £1000 for furnishing, heating and lighting) but also provided for the needs of the congregation more effectively than the original design would have done. Pite’s drawings are dated October 1957, a faculty was granted in May 1958 and the final part of the completed church was consecrated in April 1959. The contractor was Stanley Berwick. The new part provided a spacious entrance porch, far more convenient than the cramped doorway west of the south transept which had acted as the principal way in. The main internal space was a single broad bay, much lower than the existing bays of the nave and ceiled with a plain white plastered groin vault. This allowed not only more seating but also generous circulation space at the back of the church. The font was re-sited here centrally, lit from a broad tripartite window in the west wall. The stained glass roundel of the Dove of the Spirit descending, by Lawrence Lee, was inserted in 1980. To the north, separate from the body of the church, was a new choir vestry. Much of the new furniture was provided through the generosity of the church warden, Mr J.A. Taylor, and his family. This included the pews in the nave, installed in December 1958, a new lectern and the second minister’s reading desk at the south-west corner of the chancel. All these items were designed and made by a local cabinet-maker, Ian Audsley. The simple font cover was made by Mr Stanway, and the processional cross also belongs to this time. Altogether, the new building and new fittings of the late 1950s contribute almost as much to the character of the church interior as a whole as does the early 20th century work.