St Mark's Church, Tunbridge Wells

Jesus said, I will never turn away anyone who comes to me


Its history

1864 Church PictureThe vicinity around Broadwater Down was originally part of Waterdown Forest.  By 1860, the area had become a heather covered ridge and gradually gave way to an estate of family houses.  This led the 4th Earl of Abergavenny, the Rev’d William Nevill, to commission the building of St Mark's Church.  The foundation stone was laid by Caroline Countess of Abergavenny on 20th October 1864 and the building was completed in 1866. The first service was held on 21st August that year.  

The church is cruciform, with an apsidal chancel, a semi octagonal apse and a nave of four bays.  It includes a slender church spire which is 132 feet tall.  The architect was Mr R. L. Romieu, who drew on his French Huguenot ancestry for inspiration.  He appears to have been influenced by the churches of Lombardy and this can be seen in the string line resting on the arches of the north and south walls and in the unusual slope of the corbels. 

The church was built from extremely durable sandstone permeated with iron that was quarried on the Abergavenny’s Eridge estate.

The Baptistry and the Choir Vestry were added in 1903.  This work was superintended by Mr Romieu’s son and built by the son of the original builder, Mr Mansfield. 

The Church Hall was added in 1968 and the Church Office in 1986.

When it was built, St Mark’s was the only Tunbridge Wells parish located in Sussex.  Later, a change to the county boundary meant that it was the only Kent church located in the Chichester Diocese.  The parish was moved into the Rochester Diocese in 1991.

Inside the church

Several of the windows were made by Clayton & Bell, one of the most prolific workshops of English stained glass in the latter half of the 19th century.  These include the great west window in the Baptistry which depicts Zacharias, St John the Baptist, the Blessed Virgin Mary and St Elizabeth.  

The three windows on the south side of the church (now partly obscured by the Church Hall) and two of the windows in the north aisle were designed by Heaton, Butler and Bayne, another leading firm of Gothic Revival stained glass manufacturers.  The south aisle windows depict the translation of Elijah, Faith and Charity and St James and St George. 

The transept windows were given by friends, neighbours and tenants of the 4th Earl in his memory.  The north transept windows represent the four evangelists and the south transept windows represent the four major prophets.  The transept windows, as well as those in the sanctuary are believed to be by Michael and Arthur O’Connor, who won first prize at the Great Exhibition of 1851.

The windows at the east end of the Sanctuary depict the life of Christ in eight panels.  These are also by 'O'Connor London'.

The carved reredos shows the Entry into Jerusalem and the Way of the Cross.  It has been enriched with mosaics and has rural paintings to the sides.

The nave pillars are made of local stone and include outstanding carvings.  They depict plants, products and artisans from the Eridge Estate.  The pulpit and the font are made of carved Caen stone.

The organ, which was also a gift from the 4th Earl, was built by Messrs Walker.  It was increased from two to three manuals in 1906 and rebuilt in 1978 by Rushworth and Dreaper.  It has 31 stops and 1,560 pipes.