1842 – The Railway comes to Tonbridge
The railway came to Tonbridge in 1842. The south end of the town developed rapidly as a result and the population quickly outgrew the existing parish church, St Peter and St Paul.
1848 – Church land purchased
In 1848 the vicar, Sir Charles Hardinge, paid £200 to buy the site for St Stephen’s.
1848-1853 Church build
The church was built by a local firm called Punnett and completed in 1853. Members of the Punnett family are buried in vaults beneath the church, which you can see outside by the south wall.
St Stephen’s was designed by the popular Victorian architect, Ewan Christian. He also designed St Saviour’s, Tonbridge and St John’s, Hildenborough and restored other Kent churches such as St Lawrence, Bidborough and St Nicholas’, Sevenoaks.
1851 – Building Consecrated
The Archbishop of Canterbury consecrated the building in October 1851
1866 – Spire & North Aisle
The spire was built shortly afterwards and the north aisle added in 1866. The interior was originally plain, with no organ or stained glass.
1910 – Painted Glass Installed
The east window painted glass we see today was designed by Morris & Co between 1910 and 1913
1887 – Tree planting
In 1887, chestnuts, cedars, and firs were planted in the graveyard in honour of Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee.
The last burial was two years later, after which the churchyard was closed. It holds some 2,500 bodies, many of them young children who died of smallpox and other diseases common in the 19th century.
1890 – St Eanswythe’s Mission
2006 – Church Renovations
20?? – St Eanswythe’s Mission becomes part of the Parish of St Stephen