Well, if you're like me, not alot, until now that is. I've recently had the pleasure of unlimited photographic access to our church, and had the privilege of reading the St. Lukes parish magazines from 1890, when it was first published, up until 1905, with many more volumes to peruse yet. I found such amazing snippets as Queen Victorias golden jubilee, the Great war, the presentation of the oak pulpit, and the introduction of the education act of 1902. All this and more, even I was shocked at the stories of missionaries being attacked by cannibals in Africa, and the quote of £26 to surround the church with iron railings. It would be nice to share a little of this history with those of you who are interested, and the plan is to do a series of articles to display in the church. I feel I must forewarn you I am no writer or publisher, so mistakes will occur, as indeed they occur in life, but I'm sure the Lord will guide my hand, and forgive any mistakes I might make. Any information from the elders of St. Lukes would be gratefully received, particularly in relation to the old organ, and the second world war years! So, here goes, a brief history of St. Lukes Church, its parish, and a little about its people. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I'm enjoying writing it.
Construction of St. Luke’s was officially started when the foundation stone was laid by the then Archbishop of Canterbury on November 24 1875, the now badly eroded stone is still visible to the right as you exit the main doors, and is very difficult to read. According to the information in the parish magazine, the church itself cost £8000 pounds, which today would be the equivalent of over half a million pounds.. My interest in the church building started when I noticed that the original drawings showed a tower, and other seemingly unfinished areas such as the side door porch, and the unfinished stonework inside.
There is in the basement of St. Lukes a door that has been fashioned out of an original noticeboard appealing for funds to go towards the first phase of the construction of the church, which is wonderful to see if you should get the chance. Much of the early years of St. Lukes is unavailable, as the parish magazine wasn't started until January 1890, and by this time, the church and parish had been running for 14 years and much had been achieved.
Amongst the achievements of St. Lukes was the building and running of not only the church itself, but also the old vicarage, two schools, the mission church at Northwood, a mission hall, and a "Coffee Tavern" in Alexandra road. There were also a temperance society, a penny bank, and three Sunday schools. Just out of interest, the fees for the St. Lukes day school were 4d for the morning class and 3d for the afternoon class, and yes, that is old pennies, not pence ! It's also quite amusing to read that any child who attends 400 days school without missing any shall be rewarded with a prize of 2/6d, yep, half a crown, which to you youngsters now is 12.5p! Oh how you were spoilt!
The vicar at this time was a J. Bradford Whiting, who wrote regularly for the parish magazine, and I just love his way of writing, including one issue where the congregation are giving thanks that one of their church members has been granted the privilege of "preaching the gospel to the Heathen" amongst the then Ramsgate population that was approaching almost 4000.
It seems that by September of 1890, finances to finish the building work on the church and other projects were falling behind. With liabilities of over £500, the tower and porches were put on hold, and money was diverted to the schools, and other more important projects. It appears that Ramsgate at this time was not a particularly wealthy area, with constant references to the heathen who were building cottages at an alarming rate, and the many summer services offering prayers that the congregation may find suitable lodgers for the season, thus assuring a comfortable winter when the lodgers appear to depart.
I've also scanned a page from the parish magazine from September 1893 which is interesting as it shows that some pews had to be paid for, and frequently the vicar reminds the congregation who can afford it not to use the free pews. Of the 1,100 seats, 600 were free all year round, and a further 200 more in the chancel were free in the holidays when the boys from South Eastern college were away.
I see also that there was a big issue at St. Lukes with regard to the "Vendors of fish" and "Newspaper boys" disturbing the hours of "Public worship" with the vicar sending a petition to parliament asking for the complete closure of Vendors and public houses on Sunday, adding, "Newspapers are on a different footing, there is positively no excuse at all for the loud outcry of the newspaper boys. It is a great intrusion on our rights as citizens to have these unwelcome sounds depriving us of our rest and peace". I guess he wouldn't be too happy with the knowledge that one day St. Lukes would be more or less on the flight path for Manston !
St. Lukes congregation grew steadily, and by 1896, there were five services every Sunday, and whereas there were 11 people present at St. Lukes first service in 1876, they now had 303 names on the communicants roll. Over 1,050 baptisms and 290 marriages were performed, a parish library with over 1,000 books was available, and over 500 girls and infants attended the St. Lukes day schools. In fact in 1894, it was necessary, owing to the growing number of children in the area to build a new girls school, and to purchase land to build more classrooms on existing schools.
So that's about as far as I've managed to get into my little trip through history to date. So much more to read and learn. I hope that some have found this as interesting as I have, and hope also that some of you can offer more information.