An Eye Witness in 1842

This is how an eye-witness reported on the opening of the new Church of St. Mary of the Crays, Kent on 11th May, 1842:

“This church, of which the above is a correct representation, is dedicated to God, under the especial patronage of Mary the Virgin, and was opened for Divine service on Wednesday, the 11th instant. The sacred edifice is of the early or severe style of architecture, and is built in the form of a cross. It is about seventy feet in length and twenty in width, and is entered on its north side by a neat and pretty porch.

Behind the altar there is a screen, from which extend, on both sides of the altar, dark crimson curtains, which heighten the effect produced by the gilding of the tabernacle and candlesticks. In the centre compartments of the window, which is a good imitation of stained glass, there appears a cross, illuminating by its rays the world beneath. Exactly opposite the altar stands the Baptistry, which is paved with variegated tiles, and lighted by a window which displays in a scroll the command given by our Lord “to teach and baptise all nations.” There is a small gallery for the organ and choir, and a low circular pulpit, which is entered by a staircase in the north transept; the other transept is occupied by the stairs which lead to the two sacristies.

The utmost simplicity pervades every part of the edifice, which is totally devoid of ornament, except within the sanctuary. The whole church, although of the most unpretending character, was, by many of its visitors, declared to present a very beautiful and truly Catholic appearance. St. Mary’s stands on a very commodious situation, and is visible from a considerable distance in every direction.

The church having been blessed at an early hour on the 11th instant, a solemn Pontifical High Mass was sung by the Right Rev. Vicar Apostolic of the district, assisted by the Revs. H. Lea, W. Hall, and Edward MacStay; the pastor of the congregation, the Rev. Augustine Applegarth, being master of the ceremonies. Mr. Nixon presided at the organ; Mr. Leffler and the singers of St. George’s Fields chapel formed a most delightful and efficient choir. Twelve priests in surplices and stole knelt around the sanctuary, and the chapel was filled with a very numerous and highly respectable congregation. The sermon was preached by the Rev. Peter Butler, of Trinity church, Bermondsey, who, in an able and argumentative discourse, shewed the utter impossibility of any error being taught by the church, she having received an express promise that her Divine Founder would be always with her, and that the Holy Ghost should ever guide her into all truth. The preacher was pleased to notice with warm approbation the neat appearance of the chapel, and at the conclusion of his discourse was kind enough himself to receive the contributions, which were very handsome. The hymn of praise, the Te Deum, was then sung, and the affecting ceremonies were closed by the Benediction of the Holy Sacrament.

His Lordship and attendants, with the Clergy and upwards of sixty of the visitors, partook of refreshments in the house of Mr. Applegarth, the father of the pastor of the place. The weather was most propitious, it being one of those bright days which renders May, with its flowers, the most charming season of the year. After strolling through the gardens the visitors returned to their various homes, exhibiting no outward symptoms of regret at having paid a visit to the new church of St. Mary.”