Our Church Building
The Church by the Sea
Our pastoral district covers the Easternmost part of Whitstable - from Bennells Avenue in Tankerton to Swalecliffe Bends. The village of Swalecliffe is on the seaward side of the railway line and Chestfield is in the Southern part of the district, reaching into the ancient Forest of Blean as far as the Dog's Trust just outside of Radfall. Swalecliffe has a popular holiday park and the attractive Long Rock coastline - part of the Thanet Coast Site of Special Scientific Interest. Chestfield is a mainly residential area with a golf course and thatched barn pub.
St John's church community is warm and welcoming and works closely with local groups such as the Swalecliffe Free (Baptist) Church and the 6th Whitstable Scout Group.
St John's was designed by Robert Wheeler of Brenchley, a noted Victorian architect, and built by Cephus Foad of Whitstable. It's a small attractive building, surrounded by trees and within sight of the sea. The church is on the footprint of a much earlier Norman building, which it was designed to resemble. Traces of an even earlier, possibly Saxon, structure were discovered during rebuilding work carried out in 1876.
The exterior is of local grey ragstone with a patterned russet and grey tiled roof and slender tile-hung bell tower at the West end. The internal walls are of homely red brick, with warm wooden pews and a large ornate pulpit and font. The original oil lamps remain (adapted for electricity) and supplemented by floodlights set into the fine wooden-beamed ceiling. The plain glass windows give the interior a light and airy feel.
You may have noticed the absence of bell-ringing at St John's in recent times. Sadly the bell and couplings were in poor condition and have now been removed for restoration. They will be rehung in due course, together with a new bell rope.
One of the most challenging problems we face concerns the foundations of the building and the clay soil, a combination of which causes the church to move! A watchful eye also has to be kept on the surrounding trees and in recent months we have had to reduce and remove some to comply with our Architects' report.
On the north wall of the church is the brass tablet War Memorial to the 20 brave men of the parish who gave their lives in the First World War.
In 2014 and 2018 commemorative exhibitions were held to mark the beginning and ending of the Great War and research is ongoing to find out as much as possible about the men named on the Memorial. They are Thomas W Beer, George H Brooks, James Clark, Jesse Croucher, Maurice Fletcher, James Fryer, Percy Goldring, Walter T Hayward, Percy Jell, Egerton Judd, Ernest A Keen, Raglan Keen, Norman A Kennedy, Henry Matthews, Horace Moore, Horace B Pellett, George W Silk (Snr), George W Silk (Jnr), William Thundow and James Tinley. If you can help with any information we would love to hear from you.
Thanks to donations in memory of a former St John's churchwarden our refurbished inner doors were reinstalled in June 2021.
The work was carried out by a local furniture restorer. The two large wooden panels have been replaced with toughened glass, the doors have been stained and the the original door furniture has been re-used.
When the wooden panels were removed the names of the men who must have worked on the original doors were found, written by hand, with the date 1874. We are planning to record and research the names and create a remembrance plaque.