HOLY FAMILY CHURCH - HOO  Saint Werburgh

Stoke Road.  Hoo.  Kent ME3 9BE

A  utilitarian   portal-framed   chapel   of   the   1950s,   built   by   parish initiative.

During the Post-War years, industrial developments on the Hoo Peninsula and the Isle of Grain led to an increase in population. A major oil refinery was built at Grain between 1948 and 1952, employing a large number of Irish labourers. The Southwark Travelling Mission established Mass Centres at Hoo and Grain, which later became part of the parish of Strood.

In 1957 Fr Corley, parish priest of Strood, rented a disused army hut at Grain which was converted to a church. At Hoo, the previously used village hall became too small. With the help of Irish parishioners, who worked at the oil refinery, a small chapel was built at Hoo St Werburgh. The foundation stone was blessed and laid on 30 June 1957 by Mgr Canon Bernard J. Cahill. The chapel opened in 1958. 

The chapel is facing northwest; however, this description uses conventional liturgical orientation.

The chapel was built in 1957-58, possibly without the involvement of an architect. It is of portal frame construction, externally clad in reconstituted stone. The interior has  yellow  brick  in  stretcher  bond,  with  purple  brick  in  English  bond  in  the sanctuary. The windows and doors are all of uPVC. The roof is covered with pantiles.

The plan is rectangular, with a narrower chancel, a small west porch, and a sacristy at the northeast. The west front has a large window above a timber porch. The foundation stone is near the entrance to the sacristy. The nave is four bays long, with a two-bay sanctuary. The nave is lit by horizontal window bands on the north and south sides. At the west end is a statue of St Werburgh, which was donated in 1991 by Noel and Patricia O’Shea. The easternmost bay has a door to the sacristy in the north wall. The Stations of the Cross are much reduced versions of the traditional scenes and depict only Christ’s head in relief, mounted on timber crosses.

On either side of the sanctuary arch are statues of St Joseph (north), and Our Lady and the Sacred Heart (south). The sanctuary has modern timber furniture and a crucifix at the east wall. The space is lit by two vertical side windows. A door in the north wall has been visibly blocked using matching purple bricks but too thick mortar joints. The space behind it is now used as the confessional which is accessible from the sacristy only.

Saint Werburgh, was the daughter of the Mercian King Wulphere and his wife Ermenild who was a princess from Kent.  She may have been born at Bury Bank near Stone.  Under the influence of her mother she learned the Christain faith from the Roman perspective and developed a pious and virtuous nature.  She was very beautiful and attracted many admirers but she refused them, declaring that she wished to be married to Christ.  She eventually managed to persuade her father to allow her to enter a convent.