St Augustine of Canterbury Belvedere

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Image of St Augustines Belvedere in Canterbury The date from which there has existed a building for worship on the present site is unknown, but certainly from 1884 onwards there stood on the site now occupied by the vicarage a corrugated iron church. It was just prior to the first world war that the people of Belvedere set about the task of trying to replace the tin tabernacle as it was sometimes called, with a more permanent and worthy building in which to gather for the worship of Almighty God. Work had already begun before the declaration of war in 1914, but in the face of great difficulties the work went ahead, and on the 26th June 1915 the Foundation Stone was laid by Mr. T.C. Dewey, who was the architect of the proposed new church. Tremendous efforts were made to raise the necessary money for the completion of the new project, and although the west end had to be finished in wood, on November the 4th, 1916 the new church was consecrated by the Lord Bishop of Rochester. The Revd. T. Clegg Whittle who had hitherto been priest in charge of the mission church was Instituted as the first Vicar.

In 1923, disaster hit the new church in the shape of a fire which necessitated is re-roofing. Due to the prompt action of the Vicar, together with a good deal of volunteer labour, the majority of the contents were saved undamaged. It was a great blow to the parish when in September 1932 Fr. Clegg Whittle announced that due to deteriorating health he would be retiring as from November of the same year. So ended a remarkable ministry of a total of twenty five years and it is undoubtedly true that without the inspiration of Fr. Clegg Whittle the new St. Augustine's might never have been built.


A new chapter began with the Institution of the Revd. J.H. Lawson as Vicar of the parish. He continued to build on the foundations already laid by Fr. Whittle and was responsible for the starting of various parochial organisations which included among them Scouts and Guides. It was Fr. Lawson who had the vicarage built to his own design as the permanent residence for the Vicar of the Parish. He also gave the Memorial Chapel in memory of his Mother. The outbreak of the second world war in 1939 took its toll of the parish in that many of its men folk were required to serve their country in the armed forces. A large underground shelter was built in the church grounds where local residents would seek shelter. Despite a number of near misses, St. Augustine's survived the war with very little damage. In 1947 Fr. Lawson, having tried since the end of the war to re-vitalise church life, moved to a parish in Epping.

Image of St Augustines Belvedere in CanterburyThe Revd. D.V. Reed was appointed to succeed Fr. Lawson as Vicar. His was an uphill task of trying to continue the previous vicar's efforts to bring new life to the church in this area of Belvedere after the effects of the war. During his incumbency Fr. Reed was asked to go and give some lectures in America, from which he returned a Doctor of Divinity; a fact that delighted the people of St. Augustine's. After a ministry of five years, Fr. Reed left Belvedere to become the Vicar of the Annunciation, Chislehurst. It was the wish of the congregation of St. Augustine's, that the Revd. W.P. Hockenhull, a curate of the parish at the time should succeed Fr. Reed as Vicar. This wish was granted by the Bishop and Fr. Hockenhull was duly Instituted. His great ambition was to see the Church of St. Augustine completed and the temporary wooden structure at the west end "give way to a permanent brick built facade. This dream was finally realised when on 21st January 1962 the new west end and porch were consecrated by the Rt. Revd. Wm. Stannard. The Dean of Rochester.

In 1953 Fr. Hockenhull was privileged to meet Her Majesty The Queen when she visited Belvedere to view the damage sustained by severe flooding. A considerable blow was dealt to the area as a whole and not least to the congregation of St. Augustine's when two large factories closed down and moved to premises elsewhere. After a period of failing health Fr. Hockenhull was admitted to hospital for, so it was thought, a fairly routine operation. It was to the deep distress of all who knew him, to learn of his death on Ascension Day, 23rd May 1974. Thereby ended another long and faithful ministry to the people of this area.

Yet another chapter in the annals of St. Augustine's began when on the 15th March 1975 after a long interregnum, the Revd. K. R. Cheeseman was Instituted as Vicar of the Parish by The Lord Bishop of Rochester.

No history, however brief, would be complete without mention of Fathers Sear, Donald, Smith and John who at various times have exercised a ministry as curates of the parish.

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