A hundred and forty years ago, as we should expect there were people living in the village to whom the Church of England Service was dear, and the nearest church, the mother church of St Lawrence was 2 miles away. This was no great distance for those who had conveyances, or when the weather was favourable, but it was a long way for feeble folk or in inclement weather. It was felt desirable that a church should be built, and largely as the outcome of conversations between Archbishop Tate and Mr W.J. Bartlett of Manston Grove, the plans were drawn up.
The Foundation Stone of St Catherine’s Church was laid on 18 July 1873 by the Dean of Canterbury. The church was built and paid for by local subscription and the generosity of local people. Previous to the stone laying, a glass bottle containing a copy of the Thanet Advertiser dated 12 July 1873, a copy of the Kent Coast Times dated 17 July 1873, a copy of the days proceedings and several coins of the realm were deposited in a cavity in the stone beneath the foundation stone. It was hoped that the Church would be completed in the following October, but in fact the Kent Argus states “MANSTON – The new Church recently erected in this village was opened for divine service on Sunday last (31 May 1874). A service was held in the morning and afternoon by the Rev. J.G. Walter and the church on each occasion was well filled.” The Rev. George Sicklemore was a local landowner, and served as a Margate Magistrate shortly before his death in 1880. He also purchased land for the school next door which is now the Village Hall. It is interesting to note that his funeral on 24 February relied on straw being laid between the Vicarage which was then in Nethercourt Park, up Nethercourt Hill to St Lawrence Church. In 1884 his widow, Catherine, legally conveyed the land and buildings to the Church Commissioners free of charge on condition that they would be used for religious purposes only.
The church was redecorated in 1890 and the present day pulpit installed replacing a wooden desk. In 1904 the three beautiful stained glass windows were installed and dedicated, having been purchased by public subscription.
The present day organ was installed in 1912 and there is a brass plate inscribed “To the Glory of God and in comemoration of the reign of Edward VII. This organ is erected through the efforts of many who love this church and through the genorosity of Andrew Carnegie and other subscribers, Sept 20 1912.”
A stained glass window was purchased by Ernest Philpott, a local farmer, in memory of his wife also Catherine who played the church organ. They lived in Ferndale in Preston Road, and she died on 13 December 1924 whilst playing the piano, after wrapping Christmas presents. On 19 March 1928 St Lawrence Vestry minutes record Mr Philpott seeking permission to instal the window in the church. A photograph of the window which would exactly fit circular window over the door was submitted to the Archdeacon and a faculty (permission) was obtained for the installation of the window on 5 July 1929. However in spite of the window depicting St Cecilia having been purchased and approved, the window over the door remains clear. There remains a mystery to this day as to what became of the stained glass window.
During 1958 the church building was deteriorating badly and a report was made to the Diocese of Canterbury for funds to save it. A few hundred pounds were made available and local people spent time and money in restoring it to its former glory.
Picture of Rev. G.W. Sicklemore courtesy of Wendy Scott, from a painting by J.M. Davis of Canterbury about 1838, which was given to Louise Ann Sicklemore by her Mother & Father.