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Chapel of the Good Shepherd at Maidstone Prison, Maidstone

Description: Chapel of the Good Shepherd at Maidstone Prison

Grade: II
Date Listed: 2 August 1974
English Heritage Building ID: 173255

OS Grid Reference: TQ7612056374
OS Grid Coordinates: 576120, 156374
Latitude/Longitude: 51.2793, 0.5238

Location: 9 B2012, Maidstone, Kent ME14 2AS

Locality: Maidstone
Local Authority: Maidstone Borough Council
County: Kent
Country: England
Postcode: ME14 2AS

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Listing Text

883/5/179G BOXLEY ROAD
02-AUG-74 (Southeast side)

DATES OF MAIN PHASES, NAME OF ARCHITECT: 1910: design by the Home Office. Built under the supervision of Thomas Davies, engineer at Maidstone Prison, assisted by Mr Edworthy.

MATERIALS: Concrete blockwork imitating both smooth ashlar and rock-faced stone. Some limestone dressings.

PLAN: Nave, chancel, N and S passage aisles, NE vestry, SE Lady chapel, W porch, small N porch, (the chapel is orientated S and all directions given here are liturgical).

EXTERIOR: The chapel is rectangular with a projecting chapel at the SE. The vestry is internal on the N side of the chancel. The nave is of eight-bays and has plain parapets below which is a modillion course. There is no external indication of the narrow aisles. Straddling the roof ridge are two ventilators with lead-covered bases and timber superstructures under tent-like cappings. The side windows are Gothic, of four lights with intersecting tracery in some windows and others with an uncusped circles in the head. The openings of the windows have distinctive glazing bars arranged in a fine mesh of lattice-work (most likely prefabricated cast-iron diamond lattices). The chancel is short, of two bays, and is placed under a flat roof behind a parapet which, with the vestry to the N and Lady chapel to the S, gives the E end a squared-off, blocky appearance. The centre part of the chancel breaks forward to house the altar and has a large, circular E window with octofoil, wooden cusping. The Lady chapel is of three bays with Y-tracery in the windows.

INTERIOR: The spacious interior has plastered and whitened walls. The nave is long and wide and is flanked by passage aisles on either side. The arcades have square piers with chamfered corners, and moulded capitals and bases. The arches have shallow mouldings and no hoods. Half arches rise from corbels to span the aisles. Over the nave is an arch-braced roof of pitch pine springing from corbels in the valleys of the arcades: it is divided into four tiers with diagonally boarded panels. The aisle roofs are flat. The floor of the nave and aisles is laid with red and natural-coloured square concrete paving. At the E end the chancel is raised above the nave being approached by a double flight of nine steps and a moulded arch with semi-circular responds. In the side walls of the chancel are pairs of pointed, blind arches. The arch to the recess framing the altar also has a moulded arch and a pair of detached shafts to the responds. The Lady chapel has cream-painted walls, a flat ceiling and two tall blind arches at its E end.

PRINCIPAL FIXTURES: Many of the pews remain and have shaped ends with elbows. The pulpit is of wood and its polygonal sides have traceried panels. There is stained glass in the E windows and also in the windows of the Lady chapel.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: The chapel is in a central position among the buildings of Maidstone Prison, a number of which are separately listed at Grade II.

HISTORY: Maidstone Prison dates back to the early 19th century and was built on an approximately 15-acre site in the N part of the town. Prisoners started to be housed here from late 1818 when they were brought from the old Bridewell in King Street. The new prison officially opened in 1819. The need for a new chapel was felt after the prison started to take in star class prisoners from 1909 and the existing facilities which accommodated both men and women, were found to be insufficient. So the present chapel was erected in 1910, designed within the Home Office, and using convict labour for the construction. The main body of the building was for male prisoners, the smaller Lady chapel for female ones, and was intended to seat 650. It was consecrated on 28 July 1911 by the archbishop of Canterbury. As was usual at that time for a Christian place of worship, it employed the Gothic style, in this case with motifs that may generally be assigned to the 13th century. What made the building quite innovative, however, was the mode of construction, concrete blocks. There is a long and well-documented history of the use of poured concrete for the construction of buildings in the 19th century and there were also experiments with the use of blockwork. However, the late Edwardian period seems to have seen a renewed interest in the use of cast concrete blocks and the chapel at Maidstone Prison is a relatively early example of this mode of construction. Even the window tracery is of concrete, as is evident from reinforcing bars exposed (as at 2009) by spalling concrete. In the early 21st century the condition of the building means that the W window has been boarded over due to concerns about its possible collapse. The chapel is now used for multi-faith activities.

Kent Messenger, 5 August 1911.

The chapel of the Good Shepherd at Maidstone Prison is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* It is of special interest as a Gothic Revival prison chapel dating from 1910 which uses (for its time) an unusual constructional technique in the form of concrete blocks simulating stonework.
* It demonstrates the concern of the Home Office to provide a suitable place of worship for the inmates of its prison at Maidstone and how use of the medieval Gothic style continued to exert a powerful influence on the minds of those providing places of worship in the early 20th century.

This text is a legacy record and has not been updated since the building was originally listed. Details of the building may have changed in the intervening time. You should not rely on this listing as an accurate description of the building.

Source: English Heritage

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.