St Thomas of Canterbury Church, Canterbury

St Thomas' Church
St Thomas of Canterbury Church

North side of church
St Thomas' Church
Location in Canterbury
Coordinates: 51°16′42″N 1°04′59″E / 51.278339°N 1.083128°E / 51.278339; 1.083128
OS grid reference TR 15125 57759
Location Canterbury, Kent
Country United Kingdom
Denomination Roman Catholic
Founded 1859
Dedication Thomas Becket
Relics held Thomas Becket
Óscar Romero
Status Parish church
Functional status Active
Architect(s) John Green Hall
Style Gothic Revival
Years built 1874 to 1875
Deanery Canterbury[1]
Diocese Southwark
Province Southwark

St Thomas of Canterbury Church is a Roman Catholic Parish church in Canterbury, Kent, England. It was built from 1874 to 1875 in the Gothic Revival style. It is situated on the corner of Burgate and Canterbury Lane, west of Lower Bridge Street, opposite the grounds of Canterbury Cathedral in the centre of the city. It is the only Roman Catholic church in Canterbury, built on the site of a medieval chapel and contains relics of Thomas Becket.[1][2]


St Mary Magdalene chapel, demolished in 1871 to make space for the church


After the English Reformation, the Catholic community in Canterbury survived through the Hales baronets. Sir Thomas Hales, 2nd Baronet helped Catholics after the 1688 Revolution. They had Masses said for them at their chapel in Hales Place. Masses were said at the chapel until 1923. It was then sold by the Jesuits in 1928.[3]


In 1859, a mission was started in the city. It was founded when a Mary Ann Wood gave 59 Burgate Street, the current presbytery, for the use of a Catholic priest. The land around the house was later purchased for the construction of a church and school. The land included a medieval chapel dedicated to St Mary Magdalene. In 1871, the chapel was demolished, but its tower remains standing.[2]


In 1874, building work on the church started. It was designed by John Green Hall, a local architect. The design of the church was influenced by E. W. Pugin who died in 1875 and worked at Hales Place in the 1860s. The high altar and lady chapel altar were designed by A. E. Purdie. On 13 April 1875, the church was opened. The preaching at the Mass was done by the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Henry Manning.[2]


In June 1942, the buildings around church were damaged in The Blitz. In 1953, relics and the Stations of the Cross were donated to the church. They had previously come from Westminster Cathedral. They were donated by Cardinal Bernard Griffin after the Eric Gill stations of the cross were installed in the cathedral. In the early 1960s, when the parish priest was Canon de Laubenque, extensions and reordering were done to the church. The north side of the church was extended with a modern flat-roofed two storeys high, structure. A Martyrs Chapel was built on the south side. It contains the relics of St Thomas of Canterbury. In 1989, the sanctuary was re-ordered. The architect was Richard Fulbrook. In 1997, a mosaic was installed in the north aisle. It depicts St Augustine of Canterbury.[2]


In the Martyrs Chapel in the church there is a reliquary over the altar. It contains a piece of Becket’s vestment and a piece of a bone from his body. In the late 19th century, these were given to the church by Mary Hales, of the Hales baronets. The relics came from Gubbio in Umbria, where, since the 1220s, they had been held. In 1953, the Prior of Chevetogne Abbey, called Fr Thomas Becquet, a descendant of family of the martyr, gave a piece of Becket’s finger to the church. Either side of the reliquary are statues of St John Fisher and St Thomas More. The chapel has a stained glass window showing the martyrdom of St Thomas Becket, St Gregory the Great and St Augustine of Canterbury.[2]

There a reliquary set into the wall to the left of the windows. It contains parts of the Mass vestments of Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador. In 1997, these were given to the church. On west wall of the Martyrs' Chapel is a statue of St John Stone.[2]


There are five Sunday Masses at the church, they are at: 6:00pm on Saturday and 8:00am, 9:30am, 11:00am and 6:00pm on Sunday. There is a Syro-Malabar Rite Mass every fourth Sunday of the month at 3:00pm.[4]

See also


  1. 1 2 Deaneries from Archdiocese of Southwark, retrieved 29 January 2016
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Canterbury - St Thomas of Canterbury from English Heritage, retrieved 29 January 2016
  3. History from, retrieved 29 January 2016
  4., retrieved 29 January 2016
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