Originally, Sittingbourne was a part of Milton Regis and little is known about the town until medieval times when pilgrims would pass through on the way to the shrine of St. Thomas á Becket at Canterbury.
A collection of historic photographs of the church have been collected and digitised by Kent Photo Archives, and these can be viewed via their website www.kentphotoarchive.com.
St. Michael’s (as St. Michael the Archangel) was listed in September 1951 as a Grade II* building. It is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* The significant extent of surviving medieval fabric
* Architectural details of interest including: carved stone heads to the exterior and interior, a C15 font and tomb, and good stained glass (particularly the Victorian east window of the Last Supper and a memorial window to the First World War in the south transept).
A transcript of the architecture of St. Michael’s can be found in Britain’s Listed Buildings and can be viewed via their website by clicking here. (Listed building text is © Crown Copyright.)
Also known as St. Michael the Archangel, St. Michael’s church is the town’s original (and for many centuries only) church.
It was a manorial church created for service to Goodneston, Bayford and Chilton Manors. Typically Norman in its method and construction style theory is that it may have replaced an earlier wooden Saxon structure. However, there is no remaining evidence (in any form) of this.
The church was appropriated to the Benedictine Nunnery of Clerkenwell and remained a part of its revenue until the Dissolution of Monastries when St. Michael’s became Crown property. Elizabeth I granted it to Archbishop Parker and the church became part of the archbishopric.
The original 11th century church consisted of only the nave and chancel. This was doubled in length in the 13th century. In the 14th century the side aisles and the Lady Chapel were added. Also in the 13th century, construction of the tower commenced. However, this was not finished until the 15th century, at which time the cross-aisle was extended and a rood loft was constructed. In the 17th century the 5 bells were recast to make 6.
In July 1762 the church was undergoing repairs to roof lead-work and workmen left a fire unattended. The roof of the church caught fire over the south aisle. The fire was devastating leaving the roof totally destroyed, the main body of the church gutted, timber beams which added structural integrity were totally destroyed, walls were left unstable and many tombstones (both internal and external) were destroyed by falling timber.
It was decided to rebuild the church, however, due to the extent of the damage it was left in a ruined state for many years with issues over who would pay for repairs. The town people had to raise the money.
Improvements were made to the church in the 1860s when a memorial stained-glass window was installed. Seats were fitted and the cross-aisle restored. Initial attempts to restore the roof nearly caused the building to collapse and a lack of foundations for the tower was discovered.
The number of bells was increased to 8 in the late 19th century and, to celebrate, in 1923 a peal of 5056 changes were rung.
In the early 19th century Parliament voted £1m towards the building of new churches and new churches began to be built in Sittingbourne.
St. Michael’s Bells
Please click here for full details about the bells of St. Michael’s.
Originally, St. Mary’s was within the parish of Milton Regis but it has long been considered one of Sittingbourne’s churches.
It was built due to an increase in population in this part of the parish but has no churchyard or open space, is constructed of red brick and is situated between two houses. However, despite blending into its surroundings on the outside, it has an impressive interior and a lofty nave.
It was in the early 1900s that the Rev TT Lucius Morgan was appointed vicar of Holy Trinity Milton. Due to the vast size of the parish (which extended from the Swale in the north to the top part of Gore Court Road in the south), a building fund was started and a site in Park Road purchased. Work began in 1901.
Original plans, drawn up by architect Richard Philip Day, were to have a south aisle and a tower (at the west end) but the estimate of the cost involved (£2,222) far exceeded available funds. Consequently, the decision was made to build only the chancel and nave. During the building works it was discovered that, unless the Lady Chapel and vestry were added, substantial flying buttresses would be a necessary requirement to prevent the high chancel arch from collapsing. This resulted in a loan from Martin’s Bank being acquired for this extra work.
The church was consecrated on Saturday 25th January 1902 and the first curate in charge was Rev S B Ritso, until 1908. He was succeeded by Rev R de B Saunderson.
After the first world war, when Kemsley papermill and village were built, it became increasingly more difficult for a vicar and curate to oversee the parish so St. Mary’s became a separate parish with its own vicar Rev H J King. This was formalised in 1925.
He served the parish well until retirement in 1935 when the Rev T H Jacques was appointed. At this time the parish hall in Ufton Lane needed serious attention and so was sold and the present hall and boiler room was built at the end of the church. This was designed by Mr Reg Kift and built by builders Wraight Ltd. It was officially opened by the Bishop of Dover Rt Rev Rose in 1937.
Iron railings and a gate were added to the front of the church in Park Road and a gate added at the back of the church in Unity Street. However, this fence was later removed to help the war effort. At the outbreak of war, Rev Jacques volunteered and became an army chaplain leaving the running of the parish to the curate in charge Rev Alan Webb. In 1944, whilst still serving the army, Rev Jacques resigned and Rev Webb left the parish. Rev W McN Bradshaw,therefore, joined the parish and started up Cub and Scout groups. Soon after he married and his wife started a Guide group.
As a result of the church hall being used so much toilet facilities were required. Money for this was raised by selling bricks and carol singing.
The church celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 1952 with a sermon from Dr G Fisher, Archbishop of Canterbury. In 1962 its Diamond Jubilee was celebrated with an address from Dr Michael Ramsey, Archbishop of Canterbury.
In latter years, the feeling was that there were many churches close together and declining congregations giving rise to the discussion of whether or not so many were needed. St. Mary’s faced closure. It was amalgamated with St. Michael’s in 2000 to form a Joint Benefice. In March 2012, this Joint Benefice officially became The Parish of St. Mary’s and St. Michael’s (a Parish may have more than one church).
The parish of St. Mary’s and St. Michael’s is also part of the Team Ministry (called The Benefice of Sittingbourne with Bobbing) with Holy Trinity, Dover Street and St. Bartholomew Bobbing. The Team Rector is Rev Mike Resch, who is also Area Dean and vicar of Holy Trinity and Bobbing.
More information can be found in Sittingbourne, A History by John Clancy.
If you would like a more detailed history, please contact us or come and visit our church.