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History of St. Paul's Church

St. Paul's Church has been the Church of England presence in the village since 1849 - indeed it could be argued since 1822. The building started its life as a small Episcopal Chapel built by the Earl of Darnley. The present St Paul's was a Chapel-of-Ease until 1888, when it became a parish church. At one time there were other churches in the village but they have all closed. Sandgate over time has developed until now it is part of Folkestone, although still retaining the air of a village.

A Short History and Guide of St Paul's Sandgate

written by the Rev. A. H. Gibson M.B.E. B.D. around 1968

(with additions by RJH 1997 & 2005)

 
Built in 1849 to replace an earlier chapel, the parish church of Sandgate is an example of Victorian Gothic style with later improvement and decoration. The first "Sandgate Episcopal Chapel" was built by the Earl of Darnley at his own expense on a plot of land from the adjoining parkland estate of Enbrook which he had purchased. It was consecrated on May 28th, 1822 and was a square building in Georgian Classical style with a cupola. It may be seen on prints of Sandgate made a few years later.

 

The small village of Sandgate developed rapidly when the railway reached Folkestone in 1843, and a larger church was needed. The earlier building was demolished in 1848 to make way for the present church which was completed in 1849.

 

The architect, S. S. Teulon, achieved distinction in designing Victorian churches and St. Paul's is one of his earlier works. It had two-decker seating with galleries and could accommodate 890. The four cross-gables of polychrome brickwork with stone dressings dominate the front elevation. The omission of a spire was probably to keep down the cost.

 

Sandgate Church was a Chapel-of-Ease until 1888, when it became a parish church. Perhaps St. Paul was chosen as its patron in memory of his sea-voyages in the service of Christ. Inhabitants of Sandgate look out to sea daily at the passing ships and on more than one occasion helped shipwrecked sailors in Victorian times.

 

The galleries were removed in 1915, reducing the seating to 450 but giving the church a more graceful interior. The War Memorial porch, designed by C. W. Oldrid-Scott, was added in 1919, and this architect deserves credit for further improvements carried out from 1923 to 1934. The most striking of these was the extension of the east end to make a larger sanctuary and chancel, the choir stalls being enclosed with a low screen of carved oak. A barrel-vault ceiling improved the nave.

 

Robert Anning-Bell designed the reredos painting of the Nativity, with the window above (1923) from which angels look down on the infant Christ. Perhaps the shepherds in modern boots represent present-day pilgrims who may yet find in the Bethlehem scene a timeless image of the Christian faith.

 

Anning-Bell also designed the west window (1926) on the theme of the Song of Mary (Magnificat). The ceiling decoration was the work of Charles Powell (1927/36). Shields carry the symbols: IHS.(Jesus), XP (Christ), SP (St. Paul). Above are the symbols of Christ's Suffering and Victory, set between the vine and the pomegranate emblems of eternal life and resurrection.

 

In the symbolism of Gothic church architecture the raised chancel with its choir represents Heaven. The emblems on the chancel ceiling signify the main themes of Christian worship and thanksgiving: God who is Alpha and Omega. First and Last, Jesus Christ. the Lamb of God and the Flower (Rose) on the stem of Humanity, the Sacrament in which Christ meets us today, the Dove as the emblem of Peace which the Holy Spirit brings. The sanctuary ceiling over the altar is azure with stars, reminding us that the Divine Presence extends through the Universe.

 

The chancel also contains a 17th century painting by Guercius entitled "St. John at Patmos", and a memorial window (by T. A. Dixon, 1953) to St. Paul. In the Children's Corner is a Victorian window of the Good Samaritan and another window by Dixon of Christ and St. Francis. The bronze angel figure in the Children's Corner was made and presented by Kenelm Armytage (1963) who also gave the churchyard sundial ("Life's Journey". 1964). The north aisle has an unusual floral window by Leonard Walker (1935) and two windows by Wallace Wood Christ the Healer (1 958) and St. Paul (1968). The oil-painting is a copy of Murillo's Madonna and Child.

 

The fine organ, by Brownes' of Canterbury, was the gift of the Master family. It is not possible to include all the gifts and benefactions which have contributed to make St. Paul's not only a helpful place of worship but a centre where young and old meet at a variety of Services year by year.

 

During the early 1970's as a result of a legacy the church was equipped with the New English Bible and in 1984 in memory of Jim Baden-Fuller, a Churchwarden for over 25 years, we were given a supply of the ASB in his memory. In 1988 we installed the first stage of our modern heating system which was extended with overhead heaters a year or so later. In 1994 a sound re-enforcement system was added. The West window has over the years taken the brunt of the south-westerly gales so in 1997 it was removed and re-set after replacing the stonework. Similar work on the East Window took place in 2002/3.

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