Wesleyan Church

The Wesleyan Garrison Church in Prospect Row was opened in November 1892. At that time, it was the only Wesleyan Church in Britain that the Government subsidised. The Admiralty donated the site for the new church, and the War Department contributed towards the cost of construction. In return, the new church had to reserve a proportion of its seating for soldiers and sailors.

The Wesleyan military chaplain, the Reverend James Fletcher, felt that the Wesleyan chapel in Manor Street was inadequate for the needs of servicemen. He lobbied the Government, which resulted in a new church being built in Prospect Row, which could accommodate 600 to 700 worshippers.

The church, designed by A W Smith of Maidstone and built by L Seagar of Sittingbourne, was described as being of the “Perpendicular English Gothic” style. It was constructed of Kentish ragstone with bath stone dressings. A tower 75 feet high stood at the north-west corner, complete with four finials and a lightning conductor at each corner. Provision was made for a four-face clock.

The floor was from six to eight feet above ground level and entrances were approached by short flights of steps and a terrace. The pews were placed concentrically from the rostrum so that all worshippers faced the minister. They were of pitch pine and deal. Above, a gallery ran round three sides of the building, supported by beams and iron columns. The windows of the church were glazed in green and white.

The church served its purpose until the Second World War despite the long-term decline in non-conformism. During the war, parts of the church complex were used as a British Restaurant and a bomb on Melville Barracks caused severe cracking to the south wall. Gradual deterioration set in and religious services finished in 1946, after compulsory church parades were abolished. 

The Methodist Conference surrendered the lease to the Admiralty in 1948. It was used as a store by the Royal Navy until 1958. It stood empty and derelict for a few years until it was demolished in 1962. 

Attached to the church were schoolrooms, the floor of which was six feet below ground level. Yet, all the windows were above ground. The main school room was 50 feet long by 83 feet wide and could accommodate between 300 to 400 scholars. A separate infants’ schoolroom was adjacent, behind a moveable partition. There were two additional classrooms.

Once the Garrison Wesleyan Church opened in 1892, the existing Manor Street building was sold to the Roman Catholics who dedicated it to St Paulinus. It remains a Catholic church.

 
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