A brief description and history of the church building
The architect was John Bernard Mendham ARIBA who was later to be associated with the design of the post-war Coventry Cathedral. This is a Roman Catholic Church: the Christian Church of Pre-Reformation England, the Church of St Augustine, sent by Pope Gregory the Great in 596AD to convert the Anglo-Saxons; the Churc of St Thomas a Beckett, Archbishop pf Canterbury, martyred inside his Cathedral in 1170 AD.
For three hundred years after the sad and disruptive events of the Reformation Catholicism was severely persecuted, being virtually wiped out in the southern part of Britain. Catholics began to re-emerge in Rye harbour in the mid 19th century.
The Franciscan friars care for the parish today. The parish survives and is supported by a small but dedicated congregation.
A church, St Walburga, built in 1900, stood on the site of the present St Anthony of Padua. St Anthony of Padua was opened on 30th June 1929. It is unusual in having the appearance of a small Italian or Lombardic romanesque church. Viewed from the Marsh east of Rye, St Anthony’s adds to the effect of an Italian hill town. In the town the gabled front of the church is set back slightly from the other buildings in Watchbell Street, one of the principal streets of the town.
The frontage has a three-bay loggia on columns with elementary capitals. The east view has a half-dome, rising to a square and then an octagon with pyramid roof. The interior has a five-bay nave (again with columns rather than piers) with aisles and clerestory and an apsed sanctuary. The capitals have Tau crosses in circles and Greek crosses in lozenges. The yellow glass of the octagon fuses the sanctuary with golden light. The sanctuary is richly fitted out with marble steps, altar and altar rail. The tabernacle rises to a small baldachino. Stained glass in the sanctuary, north and sough, is signed Jones & Willis and may be from the earlier church. The rood cross was the gift of the author Radclyffe Hall.