Transforming the communities of Essex & East London through Christ’s presence

New lease of life for historic St Catherine’s

29th Sep 2015

A major development and restoration project at St Catherine’s church in East Tilbury is nearing completion.

The project will see this 12th century church transformed within seven months into a community hub suited to a flexible 21st century community, educational and performance venue while remaining a centre of worship.   

Previously the Grade 1 building had no drains, no water, no gas and the heating system did not work.  Effective heating has now been installed, numerous repairs have been undertaken, and the building has been repainted from end to end.  The pews have been removed and replaced with chairs.

The £350,000 project, funded largely from the Veolia North Thames (landfill tax) Trust, was launched in March 2015.

This week another phase gets under way: the £130,000 re-roofing of the church funded from the Listed Places of Worship Roof Scheme.

East Tilbury is the place where the Anglo-Saxon historian, St Bede recorded that St Cedd founded his monastery and church when he began his mission to the Kingdom of the East Saxons in the seventh century.   

The priest in charge, Canon Paul Robinson has said:

“St Catherine’s stands on the site where St Cedd built his church and monastery and began his ministry in 654 AD.   Since March this year, work has been going on to make this 12th Century building a 21st century church.

“Work on ancient and historic churches can be unpredictable. You don’t know what’s there till the work is in progress.   We found a vault we didn’t know we had with 10 coffins in it.  

“While building an extension for toilets, kitchen and storage, the contractors broke through a bricked-up doorway that was to become the connecting link between the new extension and the church, and discovered the carved arches of a previously unknown and very impressive 12th century West Door.  

“It was very badly decayed and weathered and initially we could not be sure it could be saved. The extra cost was not in our budget.  The Friends of Essex Churches made a grant of £7,000 which has met the substantial extra cost involved and this outstanding feature has been saved and restored.

“We have kept a video and photographic record of all that has been done and the number of things revealed about the history of the place.  I have written an article for the Thurrock History Society journal about the discoveries.”

  • St Catherine’s church will be hosting an Open Afternoon on Sunday October 25 from 2.00 pm – 5.00 pm when visitors will be able to view the improvements. All will be welcome.

PICTURE: View into the church through the newly discovered West Door.