Church Index

Our Lady of Pity and St Martin


Another Roman Catholic Chapel was built in Snargate Street in 1905/6 and was dedicated to Our Lady and St Martin by the Bishop of Southwark on 29th March 1906.The new church, at 123 Snargate Street, was just down the road from where Mass had been said nearly 100 years earlier at the start of the Dover mission.

It was hewn out of the cliff and built to resemble the style of the Roman catacombs; rather plain and without windows (although windows were added to the front).

The first incumbent was Fr. Kirwan, in 1906.  He was followed, later that year, by Fr. William Thompson, who handed over to Fr. M. G. Gifkins in 1911.  He retired in 1936 and died 4 years later.  Fr. R. E. Florance, curate of St Paul's, said mass here for the next four years.

The church closed in 1940 and the building remained empty before being sold in 1960.

The picture (left) shows the building today, only slightly altered.

(awaiting old picture)

  The original chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Pity was on a headland to the west of the town, known as Archcliffe Point.

"Great Street, which is a very short thoroughfare, filling the space between Bulwark Street and Beach Street, is on a rather higher level.  On the headland overlooking this spot, existed an ancient chapel dedicated to 'Our Lady of Pity.'  This chapel was supposed to have been erected in Mediaeval times by a Northern nobleman, who was saved from shipwreck near this place; and it was restored, in 1530, by Joachim de Vaux, the then French Ambassador to England, who had also had an escape from sea peril on the adjoining shore; and, after its restoration, it seems the Ambassador established in it a friar named John de Ponte.  This ecclesiastic was accused of giving information to the French, during the war in 1538, by burning lights in his chapel during the night.  This not only brought him into trouble with the Government, but also made him so unpopular with the Dover people that the arms of the King of France, placed over the chapel door, were defaced.  When Sir John Clark, the Master of the Maison Dieu, and the originator of Paradise harbour, died, this Friar applied to the King's Remembrancer for the place, but without success, for the appointment went to Sir John Thompson, rector of St. James's, who retaliated on his rival, breaking into his chapel, and reporting to the King that he found in the Mass book the Pope's name before the King's.  Eventually, the Mayor of Dover imprisoned John de Ponte for communicating intelligence to the French; and, during his incarceration, his chapel was desecrated.  It was then annexed by the Dover fishermen, and, in 1576, was totally destroyed by a tempest."  (JBJ, 1907)

"The Graves" - the area reputed to have been the burial place for the victims of the plague in 1666, may have been attached to this chapel.

The dedication to Our Lady of Pity was continued in 1960, when a new church was opened in the newly established Catholic parish of Buckland.  Three years later another new church, dedicated to St. Martin, was opened at Aycliffe.