History of the Church
A BRIEF HISTORY AND GUIDE
Compiled in 2012 with much material taken from “Brief History and Guide to the Parish Church of Saint Nicholas” prepared for the Church by Maurice J. Burren. Updated 2016
There are records mentioning a church in Strood in 1075 of Saxon or early Norman construction, annexed to the Parish of Frindsbury. The Strood church became the Parish Church of St Nicholas in 1190, a new church was built in 1193.
The present church was designed by Sir Robert Smirke in 1812 and was opened at 10.30am on 9th October 1814. There was a Children’s Corner at the east end, a Memorial Screen around the choir and chancel, which was dedicated on 11th November 1921, and a Lady Chapel which was dedicated in the early 1930’s. These were all removed in the restoration of 1983.
A Font was installed in 1860 and stood near the west arch. The present Font is near the east end of the church.
The carved wooden memorial boards to be found on the north wall were part of the War Memorial Screen, they are the work of Mrs Kay, the wife of the then vicar.
The mural on the east wall and roof of the Sanctuary were designed and painted by Miss H M Smetham in 1914.
The Aumbry was repositioned in the 1983 modernisation and the two angels which flank it are part of the Victorian Reredos.
The wooden cross and the two figures on the east wall originally surmounted the chancel screen.
The memorial plaque in the north east corner records the death of a young choirman from the Pocock family who died of a fever when with H M Stanley in his search for Dr Livingston.
The door in the north wall leads to the three vestries.
The largest of these opened in 1953 it is dedicated to the memory of Mrs H R Swain and her two sons. At the west end of the church, now in the lower hall, the archway of the Norman tower can be seen. When the present church was built the archway was plastered over but it was uncovered in 1860.
In 1898 the inside of the tower was destroyed by fire, which also destroyed the clock and the peel of bells. The present clock was bought for £135 from Smith & Co., and the tubular bells were purchased from Holy Trinity Church, Upper Chelsea for £261. They were placed in position in 1899 when the tower was repaired and the top redesigned. The clock now has an electric movement.
At the back of the hall is a Royal coat of arms and in the west porch there is a list of vicars dating from 1261. Until 1540, when the hospitals were suppressed during the reign of Henry VIII, the vicars were also Masters of the Hospital of Newark, which stood where Angel Corner now is. There is a plaque commemorating this on the wall of Barclay’s Bank.
Also in the west porch is a list of Benefactors of the Parish, these charities are now administered by the Strood Trustees.
The window in the south west corner was given by the Sunday school teachers and pupils.
The organ above the south porch was built by H Wedlake
and was installed in 1862. The organ has been modified and rebuilt a number of times, most recently in 1953 by J W Walker when a detached console was added. It was cleaned and restored in 1983.
In 1983 a major modernisation of the church was carried out. The church was roughly divided in half, creating a worship centre in the east end, upper and lower halls in the west. Each hall has a kitchen and toilets. The upper hall is used by a Pre-school. Both halls and the Swain vestry are available for Parish and community use in the evenings and weekends.
In 2011 the south porch was completely refurbished, with new front doors and new inner glass doors. The porch was blessed by The Rt Rev Dr Brian Castle, Bishop of Tonbridge, on 4th December 2011. The grounds have been much improved with seating and pathways. A new entrance to the car park has been made and there are additional disabled parking spaces next to the church.
A new sound system has been installed. From late 2015-early 2016 a new entrance to the church to improve access for those with limited mobility was made, the Swain Vestry was completely refurbished and, the Apse ceiling beautifully restored. These were blessed by the Bishop of Rochester, Rt Rev James Langstaff, on 22nd May 2016.
In June 2016 a system was installed to relay services into the Swain Vestry and enable WiFi in the church and halls.