1880s Chatham Dockyard’s extended and new basins are built to help with the increased ship building and repair activity. The workforce expands, resulting in a need for new housing. New workers’ houses are built in this area of North Gillingham. Known as New Brompton, the area is at this time part of the parish of Saint Mark.
1889 Rev R Morris, vicar of Saint Mark’s, arranges for services to be held on Sunday and Thursday evenings for the people in this area. These services, conducted by a Lay Reader, Mr John T Rogers, are held in a small room at 74 Medway Road.
1890 Mr Rogers is joined by Rev Henry Baker, a Mission Priest. Their task – to establish a Mission Church here. From the outset, the Catholic tradition within the Church of England is followed, a tradition the Saint Luke’s congregation maintains to this day.
1890 Christmas Day – Holy Communion is celebrated.
1891 The congregation has now outgrown the small mission room, so larger premises are needed. On 7 June 1891, a large tent is hired for services and pitched where the present church now stands, at that time open ground. Four months later, the tent blows down! So it’s back to the mission room. Clearly, a more permanent building is required.
1892 A new Mission Church is dedicated by the Archdeacon of Rochester (this building – somewhat altered – is now used as the church hall). At least two services are held each Sunday and a choir and Sunday School are established.
1903 By now over 400 children attend the Sunday School. The mission is a success! In April Rev William Tozer is appointed priest in charge and there are plans to build a permanent church. J E K & J P Cutts are chosen as architects and the local firm of West Brothers are to be the contractors.
1908 21 March – Building begins, attended by John Harmer, Bishop of Rochester.
1908 9 May – the foundation stone is laid, with great ceremony (this stone can be seen outside today, set into the east wall of the church in Sidney Road).
1909 3 February – The new church, costing £3,525 (nearly £300,000 in today’s terms), is ready for use, though not quite complete. It’s dedicated to Saint Luke and consecrated by the Bishop of Rochester. The Bishop celebrates the first service of Holy Communion at Saint Luke’s.
1919 The east window in the Lady Chapel is given as a thank-offering for peace by the Guild of Willing Workers.
1920s The west end of the church is completed. The new architect W D Caroe (who renovated the Archbishop of Canterbury’s official residence in Canterbury) makes some changes to the original plans, probably due to the rising ground at that end of the building. The church and the hall (the original mission building) are still not joined. The sanctuary at the east end of the church is re-ordered and beautified by the second vicar, Canon William Lutyens. He calls on the expertise of his famous brother, the architect Sir Edwin Lutyens (designer of the Cenotaph in London and many of the public buildings in New Delhi including the Indian Parliament building, the former Viceroy’s Palace and their Supreme Court complex). The original screen behind the High Altar is moved and becomes a war memorial to those who died in The Great War. The Blessed Sacrament Chapel is created behind the High Altar. Pictures and images are added to the church at this time, many of which are still to be seen.
1959 Saint Luke’s Jubilee year. The church and the hall are joined and the single-storey enclosed porch is created. However, owing to the lie of the land, it’s now necessary to climb up steps to enter the porch and then to climb down steps to gain access to the church!
1960 Our wooden statue of Saint Luke is commissioned from Oberammergau whilst people from the Parish are on a pilgrimage there with their priest, the much-loved Fr Harry Potts.
1997 The pipe organ is sold because of high repair costs. In its place the All Souls Chapel is created, incorporating the War Memorials. An electronic organ is installed, later replaced by the present Johannus Opus 4 instrument now situated in the south aisle.
2007 Following the departure of the priest-in-charge, the parish enters a period of great uncertainty, with a tiny, dwindling congregation and threats of closure. Swift action by the churchwardens and others, together with much prayer, results in something of a revival over the next three years, with financial recovery and growing numbers.
2009 Against all odds, the Centenary of the church is celebrated with a well-attended Mass. On Advent Sunday the restored North Porch is dedicated and re-opened for use, allowing level access from the street to the church once more.
2010 After long deliberations, a new non-stipendiary priest-in-charge is appointed. Fr Paul Matthias is licensed and installed on 17 July. The parish’s work and witness can continue!
2011 Some sadness and disruption is caused by the departure to the Church of Rome of several former members…..but there’s much to be thankful for, as new people arrive and as finances continue to improve. The Sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion are faithfully celebrated, prayer is offered daily, the Word of God is preached and the Gospel message lived out in the lives of our congregation.
2012 A year of ups and downs, with people coming and going, though with an increasing sense of the Holy Spirit working among us, sometimes in a very quiet and unobtrusive way.
2013 Some exciting developments, with a new pre-school , the King William Nursery, beginning to use our hall each weekday. We establish strong links with the residents of a new sheltered housing development in the parish and monthly Mass is said there for those who can’t get out and about easily.
2014 The hall gets a fresh coat of paint as do the toilets, kitchen and entrance lobby. New storage and office space is created and the hall looks ready for business. The ‘book shop’ is refreshed and creates more interest.
2015 Repairs are done to some flat roofing and gutters. Toilet facilities have been freshened up and some walls re-painted in the church and hall. We look forward to ordering new catering quality kitchen units, making it easier to prepare food for events and small family parties.
2016 We continue to investigate plans for a Community Café in the church hall, which we have already run on a few occasions with some success so watch this space!
2016 Improvements are made to the way we heat our hall and the church itself to minimise heating hours and reduce the use of natural resources. There’s always an initial outlay with such ventures which we could do without of course, but one that will over time pay for itself.