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.
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.