Map of Kenton from 1936
It would seem that the Church has been present in Kenton for a very long time. In the year 1324 a Chancery Chapel was founded in a place called Kynton, our modern Kenton: an event in which the distant future was foreshadowed, for the chapel was dedicated in honour of Saint Mary the Virgin. The Instrument of Foundation bears the date at Kynton on Wednesday next after the Feast of Saint Barnaby (i.e. St Barnabas) the Apostle, anno 1324. It was confirmed by the Prior and Chapter of Canterbury on 1 July in the following year.
When the Chantry was demolished is not known, and no trace of it has been found in any part of Kenton, although it may be presumed that the district known as Priestmead is somewhere near the site. The Chantry would have been a Chapel-of-Ease to the Parish Church, Saint Mary’s Harrow-on-the-Hill. From Victorian times, and indeed right up to the time of the opening of Saint Leonard’s Mission in 1927, there was a Kenton Sunday School, staffed mainly by lay-readers from the Parish Church on the Hill, the clergy going down to Kenton only on the first Sunday of the month. Among those laymen the names of Mr Willie Moss and Mr W.H.Oram have survived the generations, the former serving in the Sunday Schools for 25 years.
View of St Marys
A correspondent, writing in 1927, remarked that for those who knew only the Kenton of that day with its tremendous traffic (what would he say of today?) and its well-paved and lighted streets, it was hard to realise what going down to Kenton meant only a few years earlier. The old lane was frequently flooded in the winter under two feet of water, and it was impossible to get through to take services. At any time of the year, the only vehicles to be met on the road were the milk cart going to and from the farm, and sometimes a solitary carriage or cart going to the Grange, or Kenton Lodge. One difficulty to overcome was the pond in front of the Plough Inn; too much to the left put you in the ditch and too much to the right put you in the pond; but pond and ditch were filled in in 1919.
Then there were the fogs; it is said that a curate starting from Saint Mary’s on the Hill one day in 1923 took three quarters of an hour to get to the top of Gayton Road. He found it impossible to go any further, and it took him nearly as long to return to the Hill. It is to be hoped that his Vicar was not too cross with him!