A memorial to Rear Admiral Beaufort, Hydrographer of the Navy, who invented the scale for measuring wind speed.
St. Andrews Church was built to serve Gravesend’s waterside community. In the mid 19th century, the river Thames just off Gravesend was alive with vessels of all shapes and sizes waiting to load cargoes, or passengers and emigrants heading for Australia, New Zealand and the Americas. Smaller boats supplied the everyday needs of the larger ships, and the crews of these boats lived with their families and livestock on board a collection of hulks and old barges moored just offshore. The priest of the local Holy Trinity Church, Rev C E R Robinson, looked upon these people as his parishioners and began visiting them. He also extended his services to the emigrants who lived on board their ship, often in appalling conditions, and often for weeks before they sailed. Over 600 baptisms are recorded for emigrants wanting to be blessed before their departure.
It soon became necessary to have a headquarters for the mission and the former public house, the Spread Eagle, was taken over. Services were held in the bar and classes taught in a small adjoining hut. Rev Robinson wrote to a London church newspaper asking for donations to help build a mission hall, and the daughter of Rear Admiral Francis Beaufort KBE responded.
Donations were received from other townsfolk including Charles Dickens. On St Peter's day 1870 the foundation stone was laid and the church was finished and consecrated on St Andrew's Day in 1871. Inside, the ceiling is constructed to resemble an up-turned boat, Memorials include one to Sir John Franklin's ill-fated Arctic exhibition on board the Erebus and Terror which set out from Gravesend.
The primary missionary purpose of the church was transferred to Tilbury when the docks were built, but services continued until 1971 despite ongoing problems with damp. The Diocese of Rochester decided to close the church because of the cost of repairs, but it was rescued and purchased by Gravesham Borough Council in 1975 and transformed into an Arts Centre.
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