Holy Trinity Church in Maxwell Road was consecrated in 1848. It was paid for by Canon William Conway of St Margaret’s Church, Rochester and his sister Martha. A parish hall dedicated to the Conways was added in 1889. Declines in both church attendance and Brompton’s population led to its closure in 1953 and demolition in 1958.
The Wesleyans and Roman Catholics had places of worship in Brompton long before the Anglicans. This was probably due to the close proximity of St Mary’s Parish Church in Chatham.
However, in 1848, Holy Trinity Church was erected on former War Department land. It was paid for by Canon William Conway, the Vicar of St Margaret’s Church in Rochester and his sister Martha. They were patrons of the living. This role eventually passed to “Hyndman’s Trustees”.
Holy Trinity’s architect was Samuel Daukes. It was built of Kentish rag stone with Bath stone dressings. Its spire, said the Chatham Observer in 1881 was, “a conspicuous landmark for miles around the county”. The spire contained one bell, and a clock was added in 1862 as a memorial to the late Prince Albert. In 1869, a stained glass window was installed at the chancel end of the nave in memory of Dr Henry Weekes of Mansion Row, who had died the year before. Holy Trinity could accommodate one thousand worshippers.
The Chatham Observer was impressed by the churchyard, calling it “a perfectly earthly Eden”. It had “no grim and gaol-like railings enclosing it”, just a low neat wall, giving uninterrupted views of the church.
The scandal explained below, together with the decline in religious observance after the First World War and in Brompton’s population after the Second, led to Brompton losing its parish status in the late 1940s. Holy Trinity struggled on, the last marriages and baptisms there taking place in 1953. Plans to dismantle the building and move it to Twydall came to nothing, and Holy Trinity was demolished in 1958.
For the first fifty-three years of its life, the Vicar of Holy Trinity was Canon Daniel Cooke. Under its third vicar, the Rev Herbert Martin, the church underwent a crisis from which it never fully recovered.
Martin was named as co-respondent in a divorce case in 1908. This issue was partially resolved, albeit publically, in 1909. However, a cold war developed between the vicar and Bishop Harmer of Rochester which was to last for thirteen years. The details of this conflict was fully reported in the local and national press, involving as it did private detectives, threats of blackmail, libel cases and so on. Most of the congregation boycotted the church during this period. Meanwhile the building deteriorated alarmingly, as no diocesan money was spent on repairs and hardly anybody attended to pay pew rent.
In 1912, the Daily Chronicle reported the crisis under the headline “A Church without a Congregation”, reporting that worshippers consisted solely of Martin and his family. There were no evening services during the winter as the gas had been cut off. There were holes in the roof, broken windows and mouldy prayer books.
Despite the pressure applied upon him to resign, Martin refused to budge. However, he was found guilty of molesting a female servant in 1919, and a church court sacked him. There was some recovery after this, and the church was repaired, but long-term damage had been done.