St Raphael’s church in Kingston, southwest London, has celebrated its first ever consecration to mark the end of a restoration project spanning nearly 10 years.
Alexander Raphael first founded the church as a family chapel in 1848. After his death, his nephew Edward opened it as the first Catholic church in Kingston, but it was never consecrated.
Fr Vincent Flynn, parish priest and chaplain to Kingston University, said: “The consecration of a church is the most solemn and important event in the history of any parish. The ceremony marks the end of many years of hard work and planning by so many people.”
The restoration cost the parish about £3 million and took nearly 10 years to complete, partly due to planning difficulties with the local authority. Michael Pearce, the manager of St Raphael’s, said that Fr Flynn had been focal to finishing the project. “It has been his vision and complete trust in the parish’s ability to complete the task that has seen this project through,” he said.
He added: “The money was raised mainly by the sale of the old presbytery and parish hall, both of which were situated some distance from the church. This was supplemented by many fundraising activities in the parish.”
The project involved the restoration of the exterior stonework as well as the interior of the Church. A new accommodation was constructed for the clergy including a small car park, as well as a new parish centre, the “Alexander House”, named after the founder of the church.
Fr Flynn said: “Our beautifully restored church, for the glory and worship of Almighty God and to the honour of our holy patron St Raphael, will be a lasting testament to future generations.”
It was bought by the diocese after the Second World War. There had been plans to build a new church in its place in the 1960s, but these were dropped when the old church was Grade II* listed. Designed by the Victorian architect Charles Parker, it is regarded as one of the finest examples of Victorian Italianate architecture in the country.