About Our Church – St. Simon Stock
Ashford town grew rapidly in the Post-War period and continues as a major growth town in Kent, set to double in size by 2030. In the 1950s housing estates sprang up in south Ashford around Brookfield, as part of London County Council overspill. Mass was said in a prefabricated building in Woolreads Road.
In 1960 the church hall was built and served as a Mass centre. It was designed by Archard & Partners and illustrated in the Catholic Building Review the following year. St Simon’s School opened in 1972 and the parish of St Simon Stock was established in 1987. Designs for the new church are dated 1989 by Stocks Design Build. Douglas Harvey-Browne, a chartered surveyor of Chatham was appointed by the diocese as project manager. According to Fr Richard Harvey, parish priest at the time, he worked closely with the in-house architect at Stocks to arrive at the design which was apparently inspired by the church of San Clemente, in RomeAn L-plan building of church and presbytery, both accessed from a shared lobby. Steel framed with concrete block infill, faced in brick and with a concrete overlapping Roman tile roof. The entrance lobby is set in the angle of the L and a covered walkway runs along the internal elevations of the L creating a cloister-like effect, with a round- arched arcade on reconstituted stone columns of rudimentary design without entasis and the capitals and bases of a simple square abacus and torus moulding. The colonnade is taken across the corner on the diagonal and here a Venetian form of opening is used, set beneath a broad gable. This L represents the welcoming arms of Christ, according to Fr Harvey. Elsewhere the exterior is characterised by large areas of unrelieved brickwork with round-arched windows set low down (in the church) and in two tiers (presbytery). They are linked, at ground floor level, by a continuous soldier course of yellow bricks.
The interior is largely plain, with a canted ceiling; somewhat oppressive with the windows set so low down. There is a west gallery (incomplete, with only ladder access) and rooms below with glazed walls. The one note of ornament is the marble reredos, brought from the upper chapel of the convent of the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart, Foxgrove Road, Beckenham. Attractive reliefs of angels of adoration to either side in Carrara marble. The Risen Christ over the altar is of more contemporary design but also came from the convent in Beckenham. There were originally Stations of the Cross in the same style but these have been removed and replaced by more traditional-looking Stations.