St Margaret’s Church

The Early Story

In the days before the Sanatorium arrived at Benenden, the land around the small East End hamlet, was owned by Lord Cranbrook. In 1888, he celebrated his Golden Wedding by providing the East End residents with a new church. It was to be built next to the existing little schoolroom and the home of the schoolmistress.

Finished in 1892, it was licensed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Edward Benson and services held every Sunday, usually Evensong at 3 o’clock in the afternoon.

A record of services from 1905 – 1935 was found in the church and kept in the Museum archive.

A Record of Church Services in 1905

Things began to change in 1907 when the Sanatorium arrived and the church was open to patients. The school closed as children were able to travel to other local village schools and the ownership of the schoolroom and house was transferred to the Sanatorium.

By around 1912, Lord Rothermere owned most of the estate around the Sanatorium and by the 1920s he began to sell up. Hemsted (Manor House), became Benenden School and St Margaret’s became the property of the Parish Church.

The rather derelict church was now mainly attended by patients and staff. In the early 1930’s the Church Council entered into an agreement with the Hospital that they could have full use of the Church provided they bear the full cost of maintenance.

Refurbishment in 1961

Thanks to the members of the South East Telephone Area Branch, who presented plans for refurbishment to Conference in 1959, the Church underwent a dramatic internal facelift.

William Wheeler, Architect and Messrs. Woodgate of High Halden, Joiners, started their work on the Church. The financial contribution of Branches and members are remembered in the Church today. Carved plaques can be found around the church, each one remembering their gift. (Click on the image to read the notes).

The glass screen was installed in 1965, depicting the Patron Saint of the Church, St Margaret. The donations by branch members is remembered in each panel of the screen.

The new altar and furnishings were dedicated by the Bishop of Dover on Tuesday 17 October 1961.


2 thoughts on “St Margaret’s Church

  1. On a bit of a sad note I have a clear memory of entering St Margaret’s church for my stepdad’s funeral in 1989. He had received wonderful support and care from Benenden but sadly succumbed to cancer. My mum drew great comfort from being able to have the service at Benenden (since she lived in Essex and it was too expensive to take dad home for his funeral). Mum and I stayed with a lovely lady at Benenden the night dad died and we are eternally grateful for the care of all the staff at the hospital at that time. The little church gave us much comfort. Happily Benenden were able to diagnose and treat Mum successfully for a condition she had and she lived to be 90, dying just last year.. Such a beautiful little church.


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