When the South Eastern Railway came to Ashford in 1842 and the large Railway Works opened in 1847, Canon Alcock, the Vicar of Ashford, decided that a new church was needed in South Ashford. An appeal was launched in 1860. With local and nationwide help from the shareholders of the Railway, Christ Church was opened on May 1st 1867. It cost £4,219.1s.1d to build and seated around 600 persons.
The church was built by a local firm Steddy, Joy and Steddy, and the ground was given by the Lord of the Manor, Mr. G.Jemmett. We have roads surrounding the church called Francis, William, Bond and Jemmett. There is also a memorial to this gentleman in St. Mary’s Church, Ashford.
Christ Church was known as “The Railwayman’s Church”, with the pub opposite called “The Locomotive”. Originally a curate from the Parish Church of St. Mary’s Ashford was responsible for Christ Church, but in 1889 the church was consecrated. The first Priest-In-Charge was the Rev.A.W.Palmer.
The Parish Room was added before 1890 and a house for the Priest-In-Charge was completed. Mr. Marsh Pearson Piety, a coach builder in the works and a regular worshipper at Christ Church, met the expense out of his own pocket. In 1897, a new organ costing £308.10s was dedicated.
The new vestry was added in 1910 and over the years many improvements and alterations have been added. Furnishings and vestments were given by members of the congregation as commemorations, a tradition still kept today. The Railway made a yearly grant of £100 which ceased in 1937.
After the First World War, a memorial shrine was given by Mr. & Mrs. Kilher. A stained glass window depicting St. Francis and the Black Prince was donated by Mr. & Mrs. Jemmett and is called the Captain Jemmett Window. Another, perhaps unique, stained glass window placed in the chancel incorporates a steam engine and a few notes of music in memory of Railway employee, organist and choir master Mr. Frederick Winter.
Two notable occasions on record are the first wedding in 1924 and the choirboys strike of the same year.
Regular worship continued during the Second World War, with more names being added to the War Memorial, some whose names are still familiar in the parish. The parish hall was a First Aid Post during the Blitz. An air raid shelter, now the Vicar’s garage, stands at the entrance to the church car park, under which runs the remains of the pipework of a Second World War cleansing station.
In 1952, £1100 was raised to buy a house in Beaver Road for an assistant curate, Faith House. The first confirmation in Christ Church was performed by Archbishop Fisher in 1956. At this time, the area of South Ashford was expanding rapidly. Stanhope estate was built nearby to cope with the London overspill. A new church, seating 125 people, dedicated to St. Francis, was opened in 1958. The following year, on 22nd July 1959, Christ Church became a separate parish. The Revd. P. Goldsmid was the first vicar of Christ Church, as well as Priest-In-Charge of St. Francis. Another interesting stained glass window was added at this time designed by Mr. Leslie Knobbs, a New York architect. Money for this window was provided by him in memory of his sister, Miss Ruby Knobbs, a long time organist .
Our Centenary was celebrated in 1967 with a visit by Archbishop Ramsey, together with other events.
The Side Chapel
In the late 1970’s, a fine wooden and glass screen was erected to form an enclosed side chapel. Referred to as “the Goldfish Bowl”, it has served its purpose in conserving the heat for smaller congregations and PCC Meetings, when all the church need not be heated. This was used most efficiently during the fuel crisis.
In 1986, a platform and altar dais were installed in the nave together with a portable altar for use mainly at the 10am service.
The West Door
1994 saw the addition of a new west door, opening out onto the car park. The new door incorporated a glass porch inside the church, the doors of which are engraved with the Coats of Arms of the Diocese and the South Eastern Railway, continuing the church’s association with the railway, thus summing up 127 years of history.