In 1897 the Catholic Church in England celebrated the 1300th anniversary of the arrival of Saint Augustine and his monks at Ebbsfleet, near Ramsgate. Soon afterwards it permanently commemorated the event by starting to build a new church in the expanding eastern part of Ramsgate.
The church was dedicated to Saint Ethelbert and Saint Gertrude. King Ethelbert was mainly responsible for the success under God of St Augustine’s mission so it was appropriate in this part of Kent that the church was dedicated to him. Saint Gertrude was a Benedictine nun living in Germany in the thirteenth century whose mystical writings gained her the title ‘Saint Gertrude the Great’.
The architect was Peter Paul Pugin, youngest child of Augustus Welby Pugin, the famous Victorian Gothic revivalist architect who lived in The Grange, Ramsgate. The builders were W.W. Martin & Sons who still trade from their premises just along the road from the church. Miss Frances Ellis was the principal benefactor as she was for many churches in the dioceses of Southwark and Westminster. On 17th August 1902 the church was opened.
A Mass to celebrate the centenary was celebrated on 19th May 2002. Abbot Laurence O’Keeffe O.S.B of Saint Augustine’s Abbey, Ramsgate, was the chief celebrant. St Ethelbert’s award-winning school choir led the singing. The large attendance included Robert Pugin, grandson of the architect, who designed the Order of Service for the Mass, and John Martin, grandson of the builder.
In 2008 there was considerable consultation about the future of Ramsgate as a Catholic area in a time of increasing difficulty. On 1st January 2009, Saint Ethelbert’s Church became the main church for all the Catholics of Ramsgate when the new overall parish came into being. The monks of Saint Augustine’s Abbey relinquished both parish work and the beautiful little church of Saint Augustine on the west cliff (which has become the Shrine of St Augustine). In February 2009, the parish of Minster was integrated into the Ramsgate parish and the whole area was renamed Saint Ethelbert and Saint Gertrude, Ramsgate and Minster.