History of the building

Laying the foundations

The foundation stone of the present building was laid by the late Lord Cornwallis, one of the ‘trustees of the living’, on 21st October 1896 in the presence of a very large number of people. There were over 50 robed clergy present and a choir conducted by the organist of St. Faith’s.

Less than a year later the building was completed. On 10th September 1897 the church was consecrated by Dr Eden, Bishop of Dover. Among the special preachers at the services in connection with the dedication were:

  • Rev. N. Dimock (Vicar of St. Paul’s, 1876-1887)
  • Canon H. Collis (Vicar of St. Philip’s (and father of Rev. W.H.Collis)
  • Rev. Dr. Powell (Vicar of St. Paul’s, Maidstone)
  • Bishop Ormsby of British Honduras.

Mrs. W.H. Collis commenced ringing the bell for the first service, which was held at 11:30am.

The first child to be baptised in the new church was the third son of the vicar and Mrs. Collis and the ceremony took place on the day after the consecration. Canon H. Collis officiated and the infant received the names Eric William.

Towards the Church Building Fund, which amounted to £7,650 Messrs Fremlin Brothers gave generously, but of course, many of the fittings and appointments of the church were given privately and so it is impossible to state the overall cost. Mrs. Whatman of Vinters gave the site.

The church was designed by Mr. W. Howard Seth-Smith, son-in-law of the late Col. H.B. Urmston, whose name, together with that of the late Mr. R.J. Fremlin, will always be associated with the early history of St. Luke’s parish. The contractors were Messrs G.E. Wallis and Sons Ltd.

Building materials

The church is built of Kentish Ragstone from Vinters Quarries. The windows, weatherings, copings and other dressings, as well as the internal stonework are of Monks Park Stone. The roof is covered with Broseley tiles. There is a small turret about 60 feet high which has the figure of a dove on the top. The dove faces due east while the church itself faces nearly north-east.

The turret is covered with oak shingles and has one bell, which was specially cast by Messrs Warner of London. In 1901, the bell, which had previously been fixed, was rehung and made to swing, in order that the voice of the bell would have more carrying power. The general design of the church is of the Francois Premier period of architecture, and one cannot fail to notice the bright and cheerful appearance throughout.

The length of the nave is 75 feet, the width 52 feet and the height 40 feet. The roof is of pitch pine. The chancel is 29 feet long. The pews were of Columbian Pine. The architect and craftsmen took great interest in their work. There are words of scripture carved in the stonework and woodwork in various places.

Decoration, Memorials and Artwork

Over the entrance can be seen the words ‘Watch and Pray’.

Over the entrance into the church from the Foyer can be seen the words ‘Alpha and Omega’ and over the organ screen ‘Emmanuel’, over the organ ‘Alleluia’ and opposite at the back of the choir stalls ‘Jesus’.

In the centre of the chancel arch may be seen the monogram SL (St. Luke’s) and on either side a sheaf and representations of trees.
The east side of the arch shows the opening of the church, 1897, in spaced figures with the monogram in the centre.
On the head of each of the main pillars are carved cherub heads, Roses of Sharon and other beautiful adornments.
Over the arches are fruit, flowers and wild creatures of the Bible. Mr. Aumonier did all the stone carving in the chancel and some of the carving of the nave. Other stone carving in the body of the church was by Mr. Gilbert Searle. The columns are unusual as they are placed in pairs. They are massive with sheets of lead between the sections. The heads are decorated with carved Acanthus leaves and other types of foliage, dolphins and birds.
The nave was paved with wood blocks and the chancel with Rust’s blue-green mosaic. The stone of the chancel steps came from the Forest of Dean.

The fittings of the chancel are teak. The Reredos is beautifully carved and in the centre panel are the words
As often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup ye do show the Lord’s death until He come’.
As you look directly at the panels – the one on the immediate left shows the Apostles Creed and the one immediately on the right shows the Lord’s Prayer. Over each of these panels is a dove.
On the far left and right are the Ten Commandments. All the lettering is in gold.

The Holy Table is also of carved teak, and along the front is inscribed ‘This do in remembrance of Me’. The Reredos and the Holy Table were made and carved by Messrs Jones and Willis.
The carving of the choir and clergy stalls is all different – no two patterns are the same yet all are in harmony. These stalls were the work of Messrs White, Allom & Co. They were moved by permission early in 2002 to open up the view to the Reredos. The Communion rails are teak supported by wrought iron standards and shields.

Near the organ is a tablet in memory of Captain H. Urmston of the Punjab Infantry Frontier Force who lost his life in the N.W. Frontier in 1888 while defending his friend.
There was a memorial in the form of the Mothers’ Union Banner (which was replaced by a new one in about 1988) in memory of Mrs. R. J. Fremlin, who was a great worker in St. Luke’s. She presented the Reredos, the Holy Table and the Communion rails to the church.
The cross on the Holy Table was purchased by subscription and dedicated on 3rd February 1932. In the centre it has the Agnus Dei, and also bears the Symbols of the Four Evangelists – an angel with the face of a man for St. Matthew; the Lion of St. Mark; the Ox of St. Luke and the Eagle of St. John. These bring in mind the vision of St. John at Patmos when he saw ‘four beasts and in the midst a Lamb as it had to be slain’.

The lectern is of a beautiful carved eagle. This was carved by Mr. Lawrence Turner

The present carved teak pulpit, and the brass tablet in the Memorial Chapel are in memory of Mr. R. J. Fremlin who ‘went home’ in 1910. They were dedicated on 5th April 1911 by the Archdeacon of Maidstone. The church architect prepared the design and the carving was the work of Mr. E. J. Bottle of Harrietsham. Immediately below the panelling is carved ‘The Seed of the Word of God’, while on the flat top of the cornice are the words ‘they that turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars forever and ever’, a fitting promise for the faithful messenger. The Portland Stone base was made and inscribed by Messrs G. Whitcombe & Son Ltd. The carving on the table was done by Mr. E. J. Bottle, and the engraving by Mr. R. G. Godden, both of whom were responsible for the tablet to Mrs. Fremlin, also in the Memorial Chapel.

On the south wall of the chancel (opposite the organ) is a mural painting. The words at the top and bottom of the picture are ‘The Fruits of Righteousness are sown in Peace’ and ‘The leaves of the Tree were for the healing of the Nations’. The artist, Mr. Ivor Hitchens, RA, describes his work as showing:

The River of Water of Life springing from the central pool; overshadowed by The Holy Spirit – symbolised by the Dove. The stream winding through the forests of earth life.
Kingfishers flying along the stream – messengers of the Holy Spirit. The deer, an old symbol of humanity – “As the deer panteth after the water brooks” etc.
At the back of the pool, a bush with fruit, the forbidden fruit, of the Garden of Eden. There are flowers, shrubs and various trees including “The Tree of Life also in the midst of the garden”, and “A river went out of Eden to water the garden”.’

The ceiling of the chancel is decorated with the moon and stars represented as occupying the same position as they did on the night of the Armistice on 11th November 1918.

Memorial to the Great War (World War I) and to those who fell in the Second World War

Messrs Seth-Smith & Munro also designed the War Memorial tablet on the wall of the north aisle. It is of teak and was made and carved by Mr. E. J. Bottle. Inscribed in gold are the names of 37 men of the parish who sacrificed their lives in the 1914-18 War. At a Dedication Service on 30th June 1920, the tablet was unveiled by Major G. D. Lister, Officer Commanding, Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment. All the memorials were dedicated by The Rt. Rev. Bishop Taylor Smith, CVO, DD, Chaplain General of HM Forces, who preached from Psalm 72:18 and 19.

In 2002 the names of those who fell in World War II were added to this memorial. On 13th October 2002 this new war memorial was dedicated at the 11am service in the presence of the Mayor of Maidstone and the Archdeacon of Maidstone.