St Mary Kippington | Our History
Welcome to St Mary, Kippington, Sevenoaks. We seek to be a bridge between God and our community, sharing the love of Jesus and growing in worship, welcome and witness.
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Our History

The early history of St Mary’s Church is inextricably linked with the Thompson family.


William James Thompson, a wealthy tea-importer and church warden for a number of years at the parish church of Sevenoaks (St Nicholas), acquired the Kippington estate in 1864.


Previous owners of the estate included the Austen family (of which the novelist Jane Austen was the most celebrated member).


It is difficult to believe now that at that time St Nicholas’ church had come under High Church influences. Mr Thompson, a man of evangelical convictions, became increasingly disenchanted with this trend and resolved to establish a new parish church on his own estate.

Williams James Thompson b.1817-d.1904
William James Thompson b.1817-d1904 (Elliot and Fry)
The Parish

The original intention was that the boundaries of the new parish would be most of the land enclosed by London Road (from Argyle Road), Brittains Lane and Oak Lane.


However, when Mr Thompson made application to the Church Commissioners to create the new parish, he discovered to his consternation that a large swathe of the land bordering London Road had already been transferred to Riverhead parish. This anomaly was not finally rectified until 2004 when the natural parish boundary along the London Road was established

The Iron Church

The first place of worship in the new parish was the temporary ‘Iron Church’ on a plot in Granville Road which was dedicated in April 1878.


Later the same year the foundation stone of the new St Mary’s Church was laid on a site in what is now Kippington Road.


The building was completed within two years and the consecration ceremony, at which the Archbishop of Canterbury, Archibald Campbell Tait, presided, took place in June 1880. Sevenoaks and the surrounding area was then in the diocese of Canterbury.


The Archbishop took as his text, “the fashion of this world passeth away” (1 Corinthians 7:31). The total cost of the new church was £12,500 and a further £2,500 was set aside as an endowment.

Foundation stone, laid in 1878
The Rev Percy Thompson

The clergy who presided over the parish in the early days included the Rev. Percy Thompson, fourth son of W J Thompson, who was vicar from 1895 – 1919. One of the innovations that the new vicar made was to arrange for the Holy Communion to be celebrated at 8.00am every Sunday, both at St Mary’s and at the ‘Iron Church’.


It was during Percy Thompson’s ministry that a robed choir was introduced and a choir vestry was built on the north side of the church. The dedication took place in 1897, the year of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. (This room is now known as the Centenary Room.)


St Mary seems to have been well attended from the start, with a seating capacity of about 450.


The parish magazines up to 1916 provide fascinating insights into parish life at the time with a wide variety of activities: Sunday School, Bible Classes (with separate sessions for men and women), Lads’ Brigade, Scouts, Girls’ Friendly Society, Mothers’ Meetings and Band of Hope.


Musical activities included a Drum and Fife Band and a Choral and Orchestral Society, as well as the Church Choir.

st mary church kippington sevenoaks j.salmon 1909 salmon
St Mary Church in 1909 (J.Salmon)
St Luke’s

The parish, as originally established, was bisected by the railway cutting which made communication difficult. A proposal to construct a pedestrian suspension bridge over the railway cutting was vetoed by the railway company.


The ‘Iron Church’ in Granville Road continued to open its doors for worship but, by the turn of the century, was in a bad state of repair. In January 1902 a plot of land in Eardley Road was offered which was large enough for a church and a parsonage house.


The first portion of a church, dedicated to St Luke, was consecrated in 1904 and the second portion in 1909. St Luke’s continued as the daughter church of St Mary’s until 1958 when it achieved partial autonomy as a ‘Conventional District’, leading to full independence as a separate parish in 1996.

The War Memorial

A war memorial was established to commemorate those who lost their lives in the First World War (1914-1918).


The following names are listed:

Thomas George Barnett

Frederick Harold Bourne

Leonard Brooker

Walter Chatfield

Frederick Herbert Clouting

George Coleman

Thomas Edward Colgate

Silas George Copper

Lionel Henry De Barri Crawshay

Wilfred Dennes

Frank Draper

Gordon Stewart Field

Joseph Henry Coldbook Fulton

Frederick Gibson

Maurice Hemmant

Walter William Hodder

Arnold Jarvis

James Ernest Millis

Ernest Edward Mitchell

Askew William Palmer

George Harold Pinchin

Henry Arthur Poland

Victor Reginald Record

Cecil Charles Theobald

Sidney Herbert Theobald

Frederick Holland Vicat

Horatio John Vicat

Edwin James Wilkins

The Parish Centre

By the end of the 1950s there was a growing need at St Mary’s for a parish hall on a convenient site. Up to 1939 the church grounds on the north side of the church extended only two feet beyond the Centenary Room wall.


About a quarter of an acre was added in 1939 and a further half acre was added later, making it possible for the first Parish Centre to be constructed in the 1960s.


Unfortunately by the end of the century this building was showing signs of terminal decay and an appeal was launched to build a new Parish Centre with improved facilities.


With the help of a few specific grants and a good number of generous donations, both large and small, the money was raised, and the splendid new Parish Centre was opened for use and dedicated by the Bishop of Tonbridge, Dr Brian Castle, in October 2004.

St Mary Kippington Centre, opened for use in 2004
1878 Rt Revd Charles Alford (previously Bishop of Victoria, Hong Kong)
1880 Revd Prebendary George Tate
1895 Revd Canon Henry Thompson
1919 Revd Canon Charles Cooke
1922 Revd Clement Yates
1942 Venerable William Gray (also Archdeacon of Tonbridge)
1952 Revd Canon Jack Thornhill
1964 Revd ‘Barlow’ Beckerleg
1976 Revd Canon John Lowe
1997 Revd Stephen Jones
2009 Revd Canon David Kitley

Recent Developments

Church Lighting

In 2010 the existing electrical installation at St Mary’s was deemed unsatisfactory and potentially dangerous. Temporary safety measures had to be put in place so that the existing installation could be used on a temporary basis before rewiring was carried out.


The new lighting installation, designed by CES, aimed to increase ambient light levels throughout the nave, aisles and chancel areas and to provide directional lighting for the pulpit and lectern as well as to the west end for the font and open corner. The design incorporated up-lighting to nave and chancel specifically to highlight architectural features such as the carved stone roundels. The pendant lights were rewired with new brass lamp holders and glass shades.

One of the roundels illuminated in 2010

The next major project which the church had to undertake was the restoration of much of the stonework in the tower and other external areas. The work was carried out in 2013.

Read more about the architecture and features of St Mary

See The Church of St Mary Kippington Sevenoaks: A Short Guide, compiled and illustrated by Keith and Diana Atkinson.


Hugh Wyatt Standen, Kippington in Kent – its History and its Churches (Private publication, 1958)

Diana Atkinson, Sevenoaks People and Faith (Sevenoaks Historical Society, 2004), pp. 78-81