Sheerness Dockyard Church
Dockyard Church is a Grade II* listed building which dates from 1828, designed by George Ledwell Taylor, Surveyor of Buildings to the Navy. It stands at the entrance to the former Royal Dockyard on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent. The church, which has twice been badly damaged by fire in 1881 and again in 2001, is an architectural masterpiece and one of the most important buildings at risk in the south east of England.
The historical value of the church lies in its robust naval architecture; its relationship with the dockyard and the surrounding settlement that grew up around it, and its place at the heart of the community, where naval, military and civilians came together. The resurrected venue is expected to bring much-needed inward investment, business development and economic activity to an area that has suffered the effects of long-term deprivation.
The project for the repair and reuse of this landmark building has been commissioned by Sheerness Dockyard Preservation Trust. The renovation will safeguard the existing elements of the badly fire-damaged church and bring new purpose to the civic building by creating a business incubator hub for local young people, an exhibition area, a restaurant and an events space. The revitalised building will be operated by Kent Youth Support Trust, a charity working locally to help young people establish financial independence through entrepreneurship, by providing business incubation units and on-site advice and support.
The design philosophy has been developed in the last 12 months in consultation with trustees and the wider community in Sheerness. Externally the church will be restored to match the profiles of Ledwell Taylor’s design as completed in 1828, including reinstatement of the original roof, windows and doors.
Internally the existing fabric will be stabilised and conserved as found, preserving what is left of the 1881 interior and its structure of cast iron columns. New interventions include a café, meeting and seminar areas, co-working spaces, and business incubation units on the reinstated gallery floors, designed as 14 discrete flexible pavilions which can be removed without impacting on the original fabric of the building. The ground floor will include a display of the remarkable scale model of Sheerness dockyard made in the 1820s. The model is currently in the care of English Heritage but will be returned to Sheerness, providing a focal point for visitors and a means by which to tell the story of the dockyard and its place in Britain’s naval history.
Material selection will be guided by the principle of honesty of design, to harmonise with the retained existing fabric. The ground floor will be finished in polished concrete with expressed borders and pew pit locations incorporating original intact tiling. The gallery level floor will be finished in sawn timber. The structure of the new roof will be exposed to view and the existing internal elevations will be carefully conserved as found.
Swale Borough Council awarded planning approval in August 2018 and The National Lottery Heritage Fund grant was awarded on 13 December 2018. The scheme is expected to reopen to the public at the end of 2021.